Fontevraud Abbey, Pays de la Loire

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Fontevraud Abbey, one of the best known abbey complexes in France, is 13 kilometres south-east of Saumur, in the Loire Valley and also within the Natural Regional Park of Loire-Anjou-Touraine.

Especially well known because both French and English monarchs are buried here, the abbey was first established in 1099. Unusually it had both a nunnery and a monastery, and was under the command of an abbess (which explains why you can see pictures of many of the abbesses in the abbey). The idea was apparently a great success and several other abbeys were established on the same basis.

By the time the French Revolution forced the closure of the abbeys, Fontevraud was the most powerful abbey in France. It was transformed into a prison by Napoleon in 1804 and remained one until its closure in 1963 (although the last prisoner apparently didn’t leave until 1985!)

Exploring Fontevraud Abbey

The abbey is one of the largest monastic complexes in Europe. The buildings, while dating in origins from the 12th century, have been frequently altered over the centuries with changes and renovations continuing right up to the 20th century.

Abbey church at FontevraudThe most important building of the complex is the abbey church itself, a large space with a great deal of character and interest despite its size. The abbey church also contains the tombstone effigies of Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard the Lionheart who are buried here.

Don't miss the carved doorway that passes through to the chapterhouse, with some of the most detailed carvings to be seen. The beautiful chapterhouse itself has an attractive arched stone ceiling and decorative wall paintings.

Next to the church in Fontevraud Abbey is the central interior cloister surrounded by stone columns and arches (although while I‘m usually a great enthusiast of cloisters this one is a little too large and bare compared to other cloisters we have visited in France, perhaps a consquence of the original 12th century roman syle cloisters having been entirely rebuilt in the 16th century).

At the other end of the cloisters I particularly liked the lovely 'Snow White' style building which is the Romanesque kitchens and has lovely turretted rooves.

Because of the importance of the building it is now inscribed as a French National Monument.

The abbey is also now home to a wide range of other cultural activities and exhibitions, and is a centre for medieval archaeology.

Attractions nearby

In the Loire Valley near Fontevraud Abbey there is a great deal to see with the castles at Saumur, Chinon and Rivau among the most popular.

When you have seen enough historical monuments there is also a great deal of attractive scenery to enjoy, and several picturesque villages. Among these there are three villages close to Fontevraud that are listed among the 'most beautiful villages in France: Montsoreau, Crissay-sur-Manse and Candes-Saint-Martin.

You can find more local travel ideas in the Maine-et-Loire guide and the Pays de la Loire guide.

See also:

Photos of Fontevraud Abbey

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Map of Fontevraud Abbey and places to visit

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Address: Fontevraud l'Abbaye, Saumur, Maine-et-Loire, Pays de la Loire, 49590, France || GPS: latitude 47.183, longitude 0.0505

Plan your visit to Fontevraud Abbey, Pays de la Loire

Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby

  • Abbaye Notre Dame de Fontevraud (Fontevraud Abbey): religious monument
  • Montsoreau: most beautiful village (4km)
  • Collegiale Church (Candes-Saint-Martin): religious monument (4km)
  • Candes-Saint-Martin: most beautiful village (4km)
  • Loire-Anjou-Touraine: regional natural parc (7km)
  • Saumur: secteur sauvegarde (13km)
  • Chinon: secteur sauvegarde (15km)
  • Montreuil-Bellay: recommended detour (16km)
  • Aquarium de Loudun: aquarium (19km)
  • Loudun: recommended detour (19km)
  • Les jardins du château du Rivau: remarkable garden (24km)
  • Parc zoologique de Doué-la-Fontaine: zoo or wildlife park (26km)