Founded in 1101 on the outskirts of the provinces of Anjou, Poitou and Touraine, the Abbaye royale de Fontevraud is the largest French monastic city inherited from the Middle Ages. Much of its power is derived from its association with the Plantagenets and, more particularly, with Eleanor of Aquitaine, emblematic figure of a decidedly mysterious site. Indeed, the queen – first of France, and then England – was viscerally attached to the city; after the death of her husband, Henry II, she made the abbey the place of residence from which she directed the affairs of the kingdom. Today, she is buried in the heart of the abbey alongside her husband and their son Richard the Lionhearted. To a greater extent than any other site, Fontevraud is recognized today as the prime necropolis of the dynasty that reigned in England from 1154 until 1485.
From the very outset, the abbey was conceived in the words of its founder, Robert d’Arbrissel – an itinerant preacher, defender of the poor, and demanding reformer – as a “highly singular foundation”. It differs from other religious establishments insofar as it was always directed by abbesses, 36 of whom succeeded one another. That much said, the history of Fontevraud is hardly limited to religious vocations. Favored by kings, over the course of seven centuries it hosted numerous nobles with royal blood up until when the French Revolution entailed the departure of all the monks and nuns.
In 1804, Napoleon I began to transform Fontevraud into a prison, one of the harshest in France, a function it maintained until 1963. At first, children and women as well as men were detained on the premises, in which economic activity included the manufacture of buttons, gloves, chairs, netting and blankets for the army; tissue production was prominent. Even though the prison officially shut its doors in 1963, it was only in 1985 that the last prisoners left the site, after having taken part in a wide-ranging restoration project.
Officially classified as early as 1840 an historic monument, the Abbaye royale de Fontevraud is one of the first French structures to be included as such. Since 2000, the 35-acre site is also known, along with the Loire valley, as a UNESCO World Heritage site, thereby fulfilling its founder’s ambition to render the abbey an Ideal City. Day in and day out, it welcomes visitors, artists in residence and congress attendees. And its history is far from over; sooner rather than later, a museum of modern art will be exhibiting works included in the Martine & Léon Cligman donation. Having become a cité in the literal sense of the term, the Abbey also features a “bistronomic” restaurant and snack bar, a starred gastronomic restaurant and a hotel**** in the heart of a vibrant site suitable for many kinds of scenic and artistic creation.
- Free individual visits
- Guided individual tours
- Average duration of the individual visit : 2h
- Groups welcome from 20 people up to 20 people
- Free group tours
- Guided group tours
- Guided group tours on request
- Group educational visits
- Average duration of the group visit : 2h30
- Pets are accepted
- Parlées : French, German, English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch
- Audio : German, English, Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch
- Specific themed events
- Temporary exhibitions
Full adult price : € 12.00
- Credit card
- Cheques and postal orders
- Holiday vouchers
- SNCF train station at 16 km
Services and equipments
- Interactive terminal
- Picnic area
- Bar cafeteria tea room
- Equipped conference room