Fontevraud Abbey Tourist Attractions
The little town of Fontevraud or Fontevrault (pop. 1,189), famed for its abbey, lies half-way between Chinon and Saumur a few kilometers south of the Loire.The great abbey of Fontevraud was founded in 1099 by a preacher named Robert d'Arbrissel. It was occupied by monks and nuns who lived under the strict rule of the Benedictine order. The abbey was dissolved during the French Revolution, and from 1804 to 1963 served as a prison. It is now a conference center.The church dates from the first half of the 12th C. It contains the tombs of members of the Plantagenet house (which favored the Benedictine order), in particular of Henry II of England, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard Coeur-de-Lion - fine examples of 13th C sculpture.On the south side of the church is the Cloître Ste-Marie, off which opens the Chapterhouse; both were rebuilt in the 16th century in typical Renaissance style. Adjoining is the Cloître St-Benoît, which is open on one side; it was partly restored in the late 17th and early 18th C. The best known of the conventual buildings is perhaps the kitchen, with its striking conical roof. Round the octagonal interior are five apses (before the refectory adjoining the kitchen was built there were eight), each with its own chimney hood, which join in the middle in a single large chimney. A low door (usually closed) leads into the rib-vaulted refectory.The village church of St-Michel (13th-15th C) has a fine high altar and contains art treasures from the abbey.The garden features a magnificent herb collection used in Medieval times for medicine, dyeing and other interesting purposes.