Abbeys and churches in the Vendée 15.10.2016

© P. Baudry, Nieul-sur-l’Autize
Vouvant © P. Baudry
P. Baudry © Fontenay-le-Comte
© P. Baudry, Nieul-sur-l’Autize
P. Baudry © Abbaye St-Pierre de Maillezais
© P. Baudry, Fontenay-le-Comte

The Vendée is renowned for its beaches, but it also has beautiful abbeys. 

The celebrated Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine was born in Nieul-sur-l'Autise in 1122 and the Abbaye Royale was founded in 1068. Its 12th century Romanesque cloister is the only one of its kind to have survived in its entirety in Western France. Today its interactive museum features an exhibition on monastic life. The state-of-the-art technology activates medieval instruments which begin to play as you walk by.

The Abbey of Maillezais , built in 1003, is on an island in the Gulf of Pictons. This Benedictine abbey played host to men of letters and artists, including François Rabelais and Agrippa d’Aubigné and is perhaps best viewed from a boat travelling through the Marais Poitevin.

At Vouvant , one of the 'Most Beautiful Villages of France, you can visit the Church of L’Église Notre Dame. The lovely Romanesque frontage featuring wonderful carvings opens into an interior with intricate sculptures and life-sized statues including the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist. A 'must-see' is the 'Tour Mélusine ' which, according to legend, was built by the fairy Mélusine in a single night. Vouvant is also known as a ‘village of artists’ and, as well as creative studios, there are many exhibitions celebrating known and up and coming artists.

Close-by is Mervent, in the heart of a forest, where you will find another ancient church housing a magnificent clock dating back to 1640. Families will want to check-out the local Natur'zoo and its population of over 200 species of animals.

The Eglise Notre Dame at Fontenay-le-Comte has a flamboyant Gothic doorway and a tower rising 82m and topped by a decorated a spire. While you are there, stop-by the Vendéen museum and learn more about the history of the town.

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