Abbaye De Fontenay Heritage BurgundyAbbaye De Fontenay Heritage Burgundy
©Abbaye De Fontenay Heritage Burgundy|Frederic DUPIN;
A must-see

3 Abbeys to discover

These three abbeys are an exceptional legacy left by the monks. Whether you’re a heritage lover or a parent wishing to pass on your heritage, a visit to these three sites is a must.

01. Fontenay Abbey

One of the first French monuments to be inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1981, the Abbey was one of the first French monuments to be included on this prestigious list, which distinguishes the exceptional value of both the Fontenay abbey complex and its natural surroundings.
A little history

Located between Auxerre and Dijon, Fontenay Abbey was founded in 1118 by Saint Bernard de Clairvaux, charismatic figure of the Cistercian reform. It is the oldest surviving Cistercian abbey in the world. After the French Revolution, which led to the departure of the monks, it became home to the Montgolfier brothers’ paper mill. Today, their descendants, the Aynard family, are responsible for the remarkable restoration and preservation of all the Romanesque-style buildings: the abbey church, monks’ dormitory, cloister, chapter house, monks’ hall and forge.


What a program!

The Abbey is open to visitors all year round. It welcomes over 100,000 visitors every year, who come to admire the beauty and purity of an architecture preserved for 900 years, and taste the calm of a deeply spiritual place.
The tour includes most of the conventual buildings, the gardens and the lapidary museum. It ends in the bookshop.


2. Cîteaux Abbey

Cîteaux Abbey: Cradle and head of the Cistercian Order.

Founded in 1098 by Robert de Molesmes, in what was then a “desert”, Cîteaux Abbey, cradle and head of the Cistercian Order, was to become, along with Cluny, one of the beacons of Christianity.

The Abbey of Cîteaux, the Abbey of the Cistels

It was in reaction to the Cluniac pomp and in order to return to the strict rules decreed by Saint-Benoit that Robert de Molesmes and his companions settled in a remote, marshy place where there are rushes and reeds, called “Cistels” in the Middle Ages.
From the hardships they encountered, these monks turned their strength, becoming farming monks, hydraulic engineers and winegrowing monks. The fledgling abbey soon created daughter abbeys (La Ferté, Pontigny, Bonnevaux and Clairvaux), which in turn spread to such an extent that by the middle of the 14th century, Cîteaux was at the head of an immense European network.


Cîteaux Abbey: a visit under the sign of spirituality

More than 900 years after its foundation, the abbey is still governed by the same demanding principles: asceticism, liturgical rigor, solitude and hard work for the 35 monks who make up its community. In 1998, a tour of certain historic buildings was opened to the public. This spiritual and cultural trail offers an insight into monastic life and the Cistercian tradition, with visits to the library, the copyists’ cloister and the Definitory, where an exhibition shows how, for centuries, the monks were true specialists in land planning.

3. Cluny Abbey

The Benedictine Abbey of Cluny had an exceptional influence on Europe.

Founded in 910, the Benedictine Abbey of Cluny had an exceptional influence on Europe, whether political, artistic or religious. Both city and abbey, Cluny, even without its great abbey church, bears witness to the greatness of the monastic reform movement of the Middle Ages.

A monastic empire

Between the 10th and 12th centuries, the Abbey of Cluny became the center of a European monastic empire whose authority would extend over 1100 priories and more than 10,000 monks. There’s a saying that goes: “Wherever the wind blows, the Abbot of Cluny is there”. For three centuries, from Bernon to Peter the Venerable, remarkable abbots established themselves as mediators and advisors to kings and the Pope, influencing politics and history.
The temporal power and spiritual authority of Cluny at its height enabled it to launch major projects such as the reconquest of Spain, the organization of great pilgrimages and to intervene in the field of the Arts.


Monk architects

The abbey extended its influence in the fields of music, painting and, above all, architecture, in the service of an unrivalled liturgy. With its high, barrel-vaulted naves, three-storey elevation and historiated capitals, Cluny created and disseminated the Cluniac style throughout Europe. In 1130, the Major Ecclesia was consecrated as “Cluny III”, a gigantic edifice with astonishingly harmonious volumes. With 5 naves, an ambulatory choir surrounded by 6 chapels, the church amazed visitors to the Middle Ages, who described it as a “walkway for angels”.

An interactive visit

The visit is a must, and it’s a blast! Augmented reality screens scattered around the abbey, the 3D film “Major Ecclesia”, allow visitors to visualize what has now disappeared; the “Clunyvision” device reveals the city center’s past.

By car or by bike

The discovery continues