Majestic abbeys

Abbaye de Maillezais (Vendée)

Overlooking the Marais Poitevin marshland is a genuine marvel, founded in around the year 1000 and home to a young Rabelais during the Renaissance, who went there to learn for five years. It then became a cathedral with colossal dimensions, equipped with seven bell towers and illuminated by huge stained-glass windows. Its majestic ruins attest to this glorious past, which is recounted by shows and events throughout summer.

Abbaye de Melleray (Loire-Atlantique)

Founded in 1145 by the Trappist monks who left this site in 2016 to make way for the Chemin Neuf community, this abbey once excelled in the horticultural field. It still features the same sober Cistercian architecture alongside the refinement of the adjoining 18th century salons. You can attend services, stock up at the local product shop and even spend a night here in the guest facilities.

Abbaye Notre-Dame-du-Port-du-Salut (Mayenne)

It was here in Entrammes, on the banks of the Mayenne river, the famous Port Salut was invented! In the 19th century, monks found in this gooey, delicately-flavoured cheese a way to preserve the milk they produced. Although it is no longer made on site, the abbey is still home to monks who welcome visitors to their shop, their 13th-century abbey and their hotel, where such guests as the actor Michael Lonsdale sometimes come to enjoy the quiet atmosphere of the setting.

Abbaye de Solesmes (Sarthe)

Although this magnificent abbey founded in 1010 cannot be toured throughout, it is still possible during services to look around the abbatial church and its famous Saints de Solesmes, artistic masterpieces sculpted from stone. You can also take this opportunity to admire the Gregorian chants of the monks who still live here and are world-renowned for this speciality.

Abbaye de Fontevraud (Anjou)

Founded almost a thousand years ago near Saumur by the preacher Robert d'Arbrissel, Fontevraud became the most powerful abbey in France and one of Europe's largest monastic communities, run by the abbesses throughout the centuries. Although Napoleon later turned it into one of the most formidable prisons, the splendour of this 32-acre site has not been lost. The nave of the abbatial church is home to the recumbent statues of Henry II Plantagenet and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, as well as Richard The Lionheart and Isabelle of Angoulême.

Abbaye de Nieul-sur-l’Autise (Vendée)

Was Eleanor of Aquitaine really born in Nieul-sur-l'Autise, as some say? One thing's for sure: it was she who gave this complex, founded in 1068, the statues of a royal abbey. Incredibly well preserved, the monument most notably includes a remarkable abbey and the only Roman cloister in Western France to have survived the many trials of time. Interactive displays give visitors more information on the history of the place and life as a monk in the Medieval times.

Abbaye de l’Epau (Sarthe)

Located outside Le Mans, the Abbaye de l'Epau was built in the 13th century on the commission of Berengaria of Navarra, who became Queen of England. Her recumbent statue, before which Queen Elisabeth bowed in 1984, lies in the chapterhouse of this monument, which is a leading example of Cistercian architecture in France. A host of cultural events takes place there throughout the year.
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Be amazed by the architectural beauty of the abbeys dotted throughout the Pays de la Loire. In every department, these thousand-year-old religious buildings tell us a part of history by each retaining their own unique qualities. Here's a presentation in pictures.

Isn't it fascinating? Sacred places imbued with spirituality, designed by Man in the Middle Ages to allow for the ascendancy of the soul by moving as close as possible to God, the abbeys have the ability to captivate anyone who looks at or visits them. These grand old dames, some of which have survived throughout the centuries and despite the torments of time and the outrages perpetrated during the Revolution in particular, often have a spectacular and majestic quality, not to mention the fact that most of them are located on exceptional sites.

The Pays de la Loire region has around sixty of them, including the gems we show you here in pictures. Leading the pack is Fontevraud, of course, which is one of the most impressive complexes in Europe, as well as Maillezais and its breathtaking ruins, Notre-Dame-du-Port-Salut and its tranquillity, or Solesmes and its famous sculpted saints...

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