Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Fontevraud Abbey was not far from Saumur and Chinon, between the two but farther south. It was another "must see" destination while in the Loire. Why? As well as the folklore of Jeanne d'Arc, the history of King Henry II of England, Richard the Lionheart and then later, Eleanor of Aquitaine have enthralled me, more since returning from the Abbey and France generally.
Our travelling companion in our four visits to France is becoming a little tattered.

Before the visit we only knew what we had read from our trusty DK Eyewitness Travel book of France - I have to say that after four trips to France to date, it has become quite ragged but it is still a close friend on our bedside table. The pages are covered in highlighter pen marks of various fluro colors to denote the places we have travelled and want to visit.

The Loire with heaps of highlighted memory destinations.

The Abbey was first founded by Robert of Arbrissel in 1100 as a monastery for both Monks and Nuns. Being a man ahead of his time and possibly the first French male feminist (is there any such thing?), he declared that the Abbey would be lead by a Nun, always! The first was Petronille de Chemille.
The Abbey was a refuge for poor women in need of care along with prostitutes, lepers and the aged. When we arrived we were amazed by the surrounding walls that hid the buildings within the grounds. We drove down a small road by the walls into a valley over an ancient stone bridge before returning to find a closer parking spot. Walking through the gates of Fontevraud Abbey, we looked upon these amazing structures built from as far back as 900 years ago.

The first stop is through the more modern souvenir shop where we paid our entrance fee (well worth every Euro). Walking down the pathway to the Abbey in the afternoon sunlight, we were surprised once again that there were very few other people about.
On entering the open expanse of the Abbey we were feeling rather small. As we walked further in we could see four effigies before us. Eleanor of Aquitaine with King Henry II of England effigy's lay beside Richard the Lionheart beside his sister Joan. Although their effigies are on view to see, it is believed that their remains within the Abbey are unknown, if in fact they are anywhere within the Abbey.

The walls hiding the view of Fontevraud Abbey.

Richard the Lionheart's effigy.

Eleanor of Aquitaine alongside King Henry II

King Henry II

Richard the Lionheart

The unusual and very different structure with the spires is
thought to be the kitchens of the Abbey.

The gathering outside the Abbey's kitchens were the most people we saw on our visit.
Sue looks up towards the ventilated chimneys of the kitchens.
 During Napoleon's time until 1963 the Abbey became a prison. Since then the French Government financed its restoration to where it has become one of the most visited sites of the Loire. We certainly are pleased to have taken the opportunity to spend a few hours absorbing the history of "Abbaye de Fontevraud".

While on this first trip to the Loire we visited the Chateaux of Chenonceau, Villandry and dÚsse but more about them next Wednesday.


  1. The abbey is beautiful and it looks like the restoration has been very well done. Great photos. Diane

  2. It's a great destination for anyone traveling in the Loire region. It's a bit far from us, but still worth a day trip.

  3. It's a truly fabulous place to visit. The little town is nice too - that's where we had lunch the day of the "old lady putting her handbag on the till keyboard and bringing the whole restaurant to a standstill" incident so I am unlikely to forget the place !!
    Luckily it's near enough for us to visit often when we're chez nous.

  4. As usual Sim-ses, a great read. Luvin the new background to Leon. Very chic :)

  5. Thanks Diane but I'm afraid that our little Canon point and shoot we had in 2008 does not do justice to the great photo opportunities throughout France.

  6. Walt - come on, you're American, we're Australian. We are used to long distance driving. Maybe you are more French these days. Yes its true about the Loire - no wonder kings and nobles decided to have the odd holiday home there.

  7. Jean - that's a memory. Our travels are full of those little incidents. Did you blog that experience?

  8. Darren - yes I started playing around with the different choices. I'm trying to come to grips with Blogger after about three years.

  9. Thanks Nadege - its always good to hear from you.
    Hope all is well on the West Coast.


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