Highlight of Romanesque art

Fontenay abbey is a Cistercian jewel in the crown of northern Burgundy. Its remarkable state of preservation is due to the remoteness of its leafy valley setting. A superb place to visit in order to refresh the spirit, the abbey has UNESCO World Heritage status and is often used as a location for films and concerts.

Between forest and marshes

Fontenay abbey was founded in 1118 by Saint Bernard in a marshy valley near Montbard.

Originally a dependant of Clairvaux abbey, Fontenay flourished up to the 16th century. Royal interference in the abbey's affairs (known as the commende) and the Wars of Religion led to its decline.

A fascinating place

The abbey became public property during the French Revolution and was sold to the Montgolfier family who used it as a paper mill. In 1906 Édouard Aynard, a son-in-law of the family, bought it once more in order to restore it. His descendants opened it to the public as a living museum of 12th century Cistercian monasticism.
  • The abbey church has all the sober harmony of Cistercian architecture, a reflection of monastic life.

  • The 15th century roof structure of the monks' dormitory looks like an upturned ship's hull

  • Be sure to walk around the Romanesque cloisters, one of very few to survive intact.

  • The forge, by the river, is one of the very earliest ironworks in Europe.

    The tranquillity of Fontenay's setting doesn't mean that tours are dull! During demonstrations you can see the forge hammer working just as it did in the 13th century.

Fontenay, a place of culture

The monastery buildings are set off by the new gardens. In summer the abbey stages concerts and plays. In 1990 Jean-Paul Rappeneau used it to film scenes from "Cyrano de Bergerac" and it was here that Philippe Monnier filmed "L'enfant des loups", based on the novel by Régine Desforges.

Did you know that the Abbey is the only UNESCO World Heritage site in private hands?

Fontenay abbey is a truly memorable stop on any trip through the Pays de l'Auxois, which would not be complete without also seeing Châteauneuf-en-Auxois, Alésia and Flavigny-sur-Ozerain.

Labels :

  • Patrimoine Mondial de l'UNESCO
  • Pays d'Art et d'Histoire - Auxois
Abbaye de Fontenay
RD32 - 21500 - MARMAGNE -
03 80 92 15 00
Horaires d'ouverture de l'Abbaye de Fontenay
  • La boutique de l'Abbaye propose des ouvrages de qualité sur la Bourgogne cistercienne et une abondante documentation sur les circuits régionaux.

    Du 11 novembre au 31 mars :
    - De 10 h à 12 h et de 14 h à 17 h
    Du 1er avril au 1er novembre :
    - De 10 h à 18 h

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