Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Abbaye de Fontenay - a Day Trip from Dijon

Although not religious, the history of religion does interest us. The Abbey of Fontenay is located within a forest not far from Dijon and was on our list of Day Trips. On arriving at the car park of the Abbey we were absorbed by the feeling of peace - we seemed to once again have the place to ourselves except from a few other tourists, maybe no more that half a dozen. We parked along side a vivid pink Fiat Bambino and while wandering the grounds of the Abbey we came across the owners but more later and how we recognised them as the owners of the Bambino.

While parking the car we were greeted by this cheeky Fiat Bambino that had travelled from Italy for a  Fiat Rally in France.

The entrance to Abbaye de Fontenay.

The austere church within the grounds.

And within. Note the group of people at the far end.

Abbaye de Fontenay became a UNESCO heritage listed site in 1981. It was founded by Saint Bernard in 1118 and is claimed to be one of the oldest Cistercian Monastries in Europe. During the revolution it was sold off and became a paper mill. Some of the old buildings from the paper mills still survive however restoration to bring back the Abbey to its original state began in 1906 and continues to this day as it reaches  900 years of existence. The gardens and buildings seem perfect and invite you to slow down, sit and take in the tranquility of the place. Having driven 80 kilometres from Dijon it was well worth it.

The setter enjoys a wander throughout the Abbey's Cloister.

From memory, the Monk's dormitory.

We entered via the main building and towards the Abbey Church. Plain in its appearance, the late morning light bounced off the stone walls and added contrasting shadows to the textures of the stone and carvings.
The church is connected to the Monks dormitory and one could imagine how cold it must have been in winter in such an open huge long room. From their dormitory was the cloisters where we took some time to  take in the beauty and as we did we came across another couple with their Irish Setter. We would meet them later, well the setter really.
Leading out of the Cloisters we walked through the Chapter house to the huge herb garden to meet up with another couple whom I guessed may have owned the vivid pink Fiat Bambino. How you might ask.
Well "She" who owned the car was dressed in vivid pink as well and being the forward person that I am, inquired, "Do you own the pink Bambino?".  The answer naturally was yes and so we struck up a conversation with this Italian couple who were on a Fiat Rally with people from all over Europe. Both her and her husband were typically outgoing Italians and we walked and talked with them as we strolled to a building that was the Monks forge. This where I imagine they would produce implements required to work within the gardens and on the buildings. Its possible that this building may have been used during the property's time as a paper mill.

We were both most impressed by the Abbey's building where the forge was housed.
Many of the original equipment still on view.

This hammer head is linked a huge water powered wheel - Note the next two photos.

Beside this building was a huge rectangle pond filled with many fish and this is where we came across Setter we had previous met at the Cloister. He (or she) was having a great time in the pond chasing the fish but not quite catching one. No one seemed to mind and eventually he became bored, jumped from the pond and shook the water from his soaked coat. Funny how these sort of memories stick in your mind.

The Setter is called from the pond by its owner.

Peace returns to the pond - in the far background can be seen the circular Dovecote adjoining the kennels where the hunting dogs belonging to the Dukes of Burgundy were housed.
To the forefront of the Dovecote is the Abbot's lodgings and beside the pond was a visitor's hostel for weary travellers.
So Abbaye de Fontenay will be remembered by us for a fish chasing setter, a vivid pink Fiat Bambino and its eccentric dressed Italian owner.


  1. We are also not religious people, but the architecture, history and artistic qualities in the churches and abbeys make them excellent subjects for writing about. This looks like another place I need to visit. As always great photos and I love the Bambino. Diane

  2. Diane,
    France certainly has its fair share of churches as does Italy. There will be a few more posts on the area around Dijon yet to come. With only a few more Wednesdays before we leave for Paris, it will soon be "Everyday in France".


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