Le Cloître
Restaurant Le Fontevraud
Gisants des Plantagenêts
Hôtel Fontevraud - Photo D. Darrault

The mysteries of the Abbaye de Fontevraud

It's your turn to explore Europe's biggest abbey, the pride of the charming village of Fontevraud near Saumur. Exploring the place leaves you speechless and has plenty of surprises in store, with the monument carefully nurturing its secrets. We attempted to unearth them...

A strange black stone arrow

"Look, to your right!" We have barely arrived when the first mystery appears. A few dozen metres past the main entrance is a strange dark stone bulb with a roof decorated with little chimneys and sculpted fish scales. "It's a bit like Fontevraud's Eiffel Tower," smiles guide Zoé Wosniak. "We call it the Roman kitchen, but its 28-metre height, precious decoration and strange octagonal shape shed some doubt on its actual function... We think that it was in fact a 12th century smokehouse that allowed fish from the Loire to be preserved, but nothing's for sure – the building still retains some mystery."

A very mean queen!

Yet more proof that the old lady loved enigmas. Founded in 1101 on virgin territory by Robert d'Arbrissel, a travelling preacher, the Abbaye de Fontevraud was later under the protectorate for the Plantagenêts, kings of England. Today, their recumbent statues lie in the nave of the abbey church. "Some English tourists sometimes bow or leave flowers before those of Henry II and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine," explains Zoé. "Incidentally, look at her position here, do you notice something strange? She is placed higher up than her husband, whom she hated with a passion, and she's also holding a book! By having these statues made, she used this strategy for setting herself in stone as a superior, cultivated being..."

A strange black stone arrow

"Look, to your right!" We have barely arrived when the first mystery appears. A few dozen metres past the main entrance is a strange dark stone bulb with a roof decorated with little chimneys and sculpted fish scales. "It's a bit like Fontevraud's Eiffel Tower," smiles guide Zoé Wosniak. "We call it the Roman kitchen, but its 28-metre height, precious decoration and strange octagonal shape shed some doubt on its actual function... We think that it was in fact a 12th century smokehouse that allowed fish from the Loire to be preserved, but nothing's for sure – the building still retains some mystery."

A very mean queen!

Yet more proof that the old lady loved enigmas. Founded in 1101 on virgin territory by Robert d'Arbrissel, a travelling preacher, the Abbaye de Fontevraud was later under the protectorate for the Plantagenêts, kings of England. Today, their recumbent statues lie in the nave of the abbey church. "Some English tourists sometimes bow or leave flowers before those of Henry II and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine," explains Zoé. "Incidentally, look at her position here, do you notice something strange? She is placed higher up than her husband, whom she hated with a passion, and she's also holding a book! By having these statues made, she used this strategy for setting herself in stone as a superior, cultivated being..."

 

 

 

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