1101 - 1792 : seven centuries of monastic life

1101 - 1792 : seven centuries of monastic life

We have inherited one of the largest monastic cities from the Middle Ages. The Abbey of Fontevraud, in the heart of the Loire Valley World Heritage site, is impressive both in its size and by the strength of its history. Located on the border of three provinces (Anjou, Touraine and Poitou), it evolved over the centuries in constant confrontation with contemporary society and its challenges, be they religious, political or social.

Founded in 1101 by Robert d’Arbrissel, itinerant priest and significant personality of the period, the Abbey of Fontevraud brought together a religious community of men and women, under the authority of an abbess, in accordance with the wishes of its founder.

They created an ‘ideal in the exaltation of faith’, where men and women, rich and poor, noble and outcasts came together in a community dedicated to God, praying and working in silence, abstinence and poverty.

The Abbey became a real monastic city, consisting of four priories, three reserved for nuns and one for monks, sited near the others but outside the perimeter. This vast monastery complex built over 34 acres was established at the junction of the estates of Eleanor of Aquitaine - who lived her later years and was buried here, and Henry II, her second husband and King of England. The Fontevraud order quickly built up its wealth, power and influence by creating many priories in Europe.

Located on the hill to the east of the abbey, a trail in honour of the founder of Fontevraud offers a remarkable view of the Abbey in its setting.

The foundation of Fontevraud in the 12th century is an exalted and inspiring story, through faith and radical choices this man was in confrontation with the mindset of his time.

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