Abbey of Fontevraud. The medieval kingdom of women (book)
Fontevraud. A monastery different from the others.
I visited Fontevraud with my classmates when I was doing a post-graduate program of monument restoration in Paris . We practised in Saumur and one day our teachers brought us here.
The Royal Abbey of the Virgin Mary of Fontevraud is located in the village of Fontevraud-l’Abbaye, near Chinon, in Anjou, France.
The abbey was founded in 1101 by itinerant preacher Robert of Arbrissel. The institution flourished and became the centre of a new monastic order, the Order of Fontevraud.
This order comprised double monasteries. In these, the community consisted of men and women in separate sections of the monastery.
Initially, men and women lived together in the same premises.
However, the Church condemned widely this practice. So the community soon segregated according to gender.
The monks lived in small priories in the service of women and under their administration. All of them were under the authority of the Abbess of Fontevraud.
The convent of Fontevraud itself consisted of four separate communities. The same abbess managed all of them.
Robert wrote a short Rule for the community, based on the Rule of St. Benedict.
Unlike other monastic orders, the monks and nuns of the Order of Fontevraud followed the same rule.
According to Robert’s rule, the abbess should not be someone brought up in Fontevraud. On the contrary, she should have the experience of the world.
However, this last command was cancelled in 1201. At the time of Robert’s death in 1117, there were about 3,000 nuns in the community.
The first permanent buildings were built between 1110 and 1119.
Under royal patronage
The abbey was located within the territory that was under British sovereignty. So the Plantagenets, who then reigned in England, were major benefactors of the abbey. The widow of King Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, even made it her residence.
Herself, her husband Henry II, and their son, King Richard the Lionheart, were buried here.
The rest of the article, in this book
About the author
Hello! I am Denis, an architect based in Athens, Greece. I teach history of art and architecture in higher education. That’s one passion of mine. The other one is hiking, in and out of town. If you follow me, I’ll share my discoveries with you.
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