1120. A priest, Etienne de Vielzot, turned up in the middle of Corrèze (Central France). The place was desolated, although Etienne wasn’t discourage. He raised here a small shack where he prayed, in a complete solitude.
But soon, new friends arrived: they wanted to raise a Cistercian abbey here! The future Aubazines… and quickly the little community grew. Further, Etienne made miracles! Yeah, he multiplied breads and healed disabled persons...
Etienne died on March 8th 1159 in Bonnaigue abbey, near Aubazines. They brought back his body, followed by a huge crowd who came for a last miracle… In 1880, they opened his grave and found intact bones. One more miracle? They put them in a beautiful reliquary and a gorgeous grave, we still can see in the abbey...
Among the friends who came and helped Etienne for the construction of the abbey, we had… women! No way… the monk raised them their own convent: this was Coiroux abbey, next to Aubazines.
Until the French Revolution, women lived under Aubazine’s domination. So it gave the French expression Qui a fille à Coiroux a gendre à Aubazine, ″Who has a daughter in Coiroux, has a son-in-law in Aubazines″!
So, the abbey was founded in 1135, by saint Etienne. We can visit the Romanesque church (the biggest one in Limousin), with, inside… Etienne’s grave! We also visit the religious buildings, like the chapter room, the cloister, the kitchen…
Outside, don’t miss the ″Monks’ canal″: dug 800 years ago by Cistercian monks, it used to capture the river Coiroux, in order to irrigate the gardens and empty the ponds for the fishing-farms. Ingenious!
Sold during the Revolution, the abbey became a girl orphanage until 1965: do you know the famous Coco Chanel was a boarder? Today, the abbey belongs to the Greek church.
A real master piece! Made of limestone, it dates back to the 13th century. The sarcophagus has a house shape. We have a queue of characters led by saint Etienne, who walk through the arches, towards the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus, sitting at the bottom.
We see the abbot kneeling, then monks wearing hood or tunics, then domestics with animals. Look: the recumbent figure is damage! Do you know why? Because the pilgrims used to scratch the stone to make a decoction, supposed to cure all the diseases!
In the church too, don’t miss the stalls (18th c.) and the wooden liturgical closet, the oldest furniture in France! It dates back to the 12th century, made of oak.