History alone would make the Abbaye de Fontevraud an absorbing destination, but the sweeping site on a Loire Valley hillside is also architecturally stunning, and in recent years has been redeveloped as a thriving cultural, artistic and educational hub. A day spent wandering the grounds and exploring the buildings' many-layered stories promises to be uniquely memorable.
Founded by a radical preacher as a women's only religious commune in 1101, the Abbaye de Fontevraud was run by a series of noble abbesses and played major social and political functions. With the French Revolution in the late 18th century, the religious orders were dissolved; by 1804, the abbey was being used as a notorious prison, with some former monks engaged as jailers. One famous inmate was author Jean Genet, whose time there as a troubled youth featured in his novel 'Miracle of the Rose'. This era drew to a close in the 60s and 70s and in 1975 the Ministry of Culture and Pays de Loire region joined forces to open up the site to the public.
Today the site encompasses the abbey (whose soaring nave is the resting place of Plantagenet kings and queens including Richard the Lionheart and Eleanor of Aquitane), courtyards, cloisters, medieval kitchen, parks, formal and botanical gardens, former royal residences, artistic installations, restaurant and a set of beehives. From mid-2014, you'll be able to stay on site in a luxury hotel; how times have changed.
|Venue name:||Abbaye de Fontevraud|
|Opening hours:||Jan 24-Feb 28 Tue-Sun 10am-5pm; Mar 1-Jun 30 daily 9.30am-6.30pm; Jul 1-Aug 31 daily 9.30am-7pm; Sep 1-Oct 31 9.30am-6.30pm; Nov 1-Dec 31 Tue-Sun 10am-5pm|