Abbey of Fontenay
France, Montbard

Fontenay Abbey is one of the oldest, most beautiful and best preserved Cistercian abbeys in the world. It is located in Burgundy, near the city of Montbard, on the territory of the commune of Marmagne, in a picturesque valley, in the middle of endless forest and green meadows.<br />Fontenay Abbey was founded in 1118 by Bernard of Clairvaux, abbot of the Clairvaux monastery. For the new abbey of the Cistercian Order, he chose a wooded area located northwest of Dijon. At first, Saint Bernard and the twelve monks who arrived with him from Clairvaux Abbey lived in a small monastery. Before starting construction of the monastery, the monks had to work hard to drain the marshy soil of the Fontenay valley.<br />The main buildings of Fontenay Abbey were built in the years 1130-1147. In 1139, with funds from Bishop Everard of Norwich, who fled persecution from England and was hiding in Fontaine, construction of the abbey church began. In 1147, it was solemnly consecrated by Pope Eugene III.<br />The heyday of Fontenay Abbey occurred in the 12th-13th centuries, during which time the monastery enjoyed the patronage of the Holy See and the kings of France. Thus, in 1170, Pope Alexander III granted the monastery the right to independently elect its abbot; in 1259, King Louis the Saint exempted the abbey from any taxes, and 10 years later Fontenay received the status of a royal abbey. At the peak of the monastery's peak, about 300 monks lived in it, and the abbey itself was very influential, rich and powerful.<br />Despite such patronage and protection, in 1359, during the Hundred Years' War, Fontenay Abbey was captured and plundered by the army English King Edward III. In 1450, a severe fire broke out in the monastery; in the 16th century, during the Wars of Religion between Catholics and Protestants, the monastery was again destroyed. In 1547, the Abbey of Fontenay lost the right to elect its abbot; now he was appointed by the king and could be replaced by a new one at any time at the request of the monarch. This dealt a crushing blow to the once powerful abbey. <br />By the beginning of the 17th century, only two dozen monks remained in the monastery, who lived in a regime of strict economy. In 1745, due to the impossibility of maintaining the monastery, the refectory was even dismantled. <br />In 1790, during the French Revolution, Fontenay Abbey was closed and nationalized, and the last eight monks left its walls. In 1791, Fontenay was sold to the industrialist Claude Hugo, who set up a paper factory on the territory of the abbey. In 1820, Fontenay was bought by the Montgolfier family, and in 1906, the former Cistercian abbey became the property of the Lyon banker Edouard Henard, who closed the factory and initiated restoration work to return the abbey to its original medieval appearance. Work was carried out until 1911, during which time the church, monastery, cloister (covered arcade galleries around the monastery courtyard), chapter hall, common hall (monks' hall), forge, guest house, dovecote and other buildings were restored. In 1960, the monastic hostel was restored, and in 1995, the chapel. In 1966, a magnificent garden was laid out on the territory of the abbey by the English landscape architect Peter Holmes. <br />Today, Fontenay Abbey is the private property of the Henard family, but it is open to visitors all year round, with more than 100,000 tourists from all over the world visiting each year. Concerts, performances, thematic and cultural events are held here, historical films are filmed and excursions are held.<br />Fontenay Abbey, declared a historical monument of France back in 1852, was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1981.

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