A little history of Fontenay abbey
This is the oldest and most preserved Cistercian abbey in France! Cistercian order was founded in 1098 by abbot saint Robert, of Molesmes.
His goal? To set Benedictine order on the straight and narrow path again. Then, Pontigny and Clairvaux abbeys were born, the famous “Citeaux’s daughters”.
Abbot of Clairvaux, Bernard, sent in 1119 several monks in a small valley in order to raise a monastery. They started to clear the land, clean up it... the place was a bit swampy!
Anyway that was why they called the abbey Fontenay ("fountain"), because of water! Monks raised a church, a mill, orchards and vegetables plot.
In the middle of the 12th century, they raised several buildings, extended the church and put up a forge.
The abbey was very powerful and rich: in the 14th century, 300 monks lived there!
But two centuries later, buildings started to go to ruins, because of a small stream which seeped into the soil... Monks had not enough money to pay this repairing.
And the French Revolution came... The abbey was sold and transformed into a paper mill.
It was restored in 1906 when a rich banker from Lyon owned it. Thanks to this man, we still can see the church (12th century), the cloister, the chapter room, the dormitory and the forge...