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Aerial view of the AbbeyThe Royal Abbey of Fontevraud is a contradiction: it is a brand new XIIth century edifice! It was originally built in 1101 as the headquarters of the monastic order of Fontrevaud. It is the largest set of monastic buildings in France. It suffered greatly after the revolution in 1789 and was turned into a prison. The Church was divided into four floors of cells, and many of the buildings were left to go to ruin. Recent restoration have given us a rebuilt structure, all clean and white.

Fontrevaud was unique in that it harbored four separate communities, each with its own Church, dormitory, refectory, and kitchen. There were priests and lay brothers, contemplative nuns, lay sisters and lepers. The whole order was ruled by an Abbess, often one of royal birth. At one time there were 123 dependant houses in France, England and Spain.

fontevraud08.jpg (136195 bytes) fontevraud01.jpg (69524 bytes) The large building is visible across the fields as one approaches.
fontevraud02.jpg (84899 bytes) fontevraud05.jpg (95254 bytes) The nave is clean, white stone. It looks brand new (and it probably is!)
fontevraud04.jpg (101546 bytes) fontevraud03.jpg (117931 bytes) One spot of color are the royal tombs of Henry II of England (who got his start as Count of Anjou) and his wife Eleanor of Acquitaine (right) and Richard the Lion-hearted with his sister-in-law Isabella of Angoulème. Now go rent The Lion in Winter.
fontevraud07.jpg (83825 bytes) fontevraud12.jpg (60349 bytes)fontevraud06.jpg (61703 bytes)
fontevraud11.jpg (100079 bytes) fontevraud10.jpg (81968 bytes) The Abbess who created the chapter house, Louise de Bourbon, left her mark.
fontevraud09.jpg (141475 bytes) fontevraud14.jpg (93670 bytes) In fact, many of the Abbesses had themselves painted in to the scenes from the life of Christ that adorn the chapter house.
fontevraud13.jpg (75331 bytes) The kitchen is remarkable in that it is the only surviving Romanesque kitchen. The kitchens were always separate buildings for fear of fire. This one was all stone, including the roof. It was joined to the refectory (dining hall) at a much later date.

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