Traveling through France is like going to a history class. There’s always something interesting to visit, discover or learn about.
Once you head towards the countryside, the possibilities are endless. From old historical villages to palaces and other monuments, there are plenty of reasons worth stopping for.
During our extensive travels in France, we had the chance to visit one of the finest and best-preserved French monuments, the Cistercian Abbey of Fontenay.
Let us tell you a bit more about it.
How we found out about the Abbey of Fontenay
We found out about the Abbey of Fontenay while looking for things to visit during our most recent road trip in France. We like history and monuments, and what led us to it was the fact that the Abbey is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Abbey was inscribed as World Heritage in 1981. A curious thing about it is that it’s the only such place in private hands. And in good hands, by the looks of things!
Lots of these great places are often overlooked. Resorting to searching for World Heritage sites is one of our main tools to find interesting things to do while planning our trips. And if they’re part of the list, they must have something worthwhile about them, right?
Why visit the Abbey of Fontenay
At almost 900 years old, the Abbey of Fontenay is located in the Burgundy region of France and still retains all of the original Romanesque style buildings in an exceptional state of preservation, except one that was destroyed. It is said to be the oldest in the world.
The Abbey’s setting, on a nice looking forest valley, just adds to the reasons for a visit.
A bit of history. It was used by monks for centuries and later converted for industrial purposes. On the 19th century, it went into private hands. The same family has been running the Abbey for generations now and major restoration works took place at the beginning of the 20th century.
Not all the buildings are open to the public, but the main ones such as the Church, the Dormitory and the Forge are. Don’t forget the gardens, which were beautifully maintained when we visited.
The Abbey Church is probably the highlight of the estate and the first building we went to. Simple yet with interesting details, like the altar or the statue of the Virgin holding a child.
The dormitory (in the upper floor), the cloisters and other rooms are connected to the Church. We visited these and then headed to formal gardens at the back.
Sitting by the river, the Forge is one of the very first ironworks in Europe.
We found the Abbey of Fontenay to be a quite remarkable place to visit and it only takes a couple of hours to fully explore it.
For up to date information, visit the official site at abbayedefontenay.com.
Bonus photo! Travelling in the French country allows for moments like this.
Have you been to the Abbey of Fontenay and the French countryside?