If you’re looking to experience true French culture, then that’s exactly what you’ll get when you join us for one of our luxury cruises on the Burgundy Canal.
From the moment you step aboard the elegant, classic La Belle Epoque, you’ll feel yourself become immersed in the history of the region.
Although this luxury hotel barge will pass many sights along the way which you’ll have the opportunity to explore as part of our excursions, one of the most special places you’ll get to see on this trip will be Abbaye de Fontenay.
This is always such a popular excursion with our guests, and we’re confident you’re going to love it just as much.
Whether you’ve never heard of Abbaye de Fontenay or are just looking to give your knowledge a bit of a refresh before your luxury canal cruise, then don’t worry: in this post, we’re going to walk you through all there is to know (of course, we’ll keep the best bits a surprise for when you get there).
The History of Abbaye de Fontenay
Today, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Abbaye de Fontenay dates back to the year 1188 when it was founded as a Cistercian abbey by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux who built it in a traditional Romanesque style of architecture.
As one of the oldest Cistercian abbeys in Europe, it’s hardly surprising that over 100,000 people visit the Abbaye de Fontenay each year.
The main parts of the abbey, apart from the refectory remain completely intact, so as you walk through the grounds and the building itself, not only is there so much to see, but you really feel as though you’ve gone back in time.
As the French Revolution drew to a close, so did the activity at the Abbaye de Fontenay. However, although not used for its original purpose, the building was used as a paper mill until 1902.
In 1905, Abbaye de Fontenay underwent a massive restoration, and today the original structures still remain in place so you get a true glimpse into the history of the abbey and what it would have been like to experience it during its peak throughout the 12th and 13th centuries.
Even before you enter any of the main buildings, the grounds of the abbey itself are a sight to behold.
Located on the outskirts of Montbrand in the Burgundy region of France, Abbaye de Fontenay is set against the stunning backdrop of a charming wooded valley.
The gardens within the grounds of the abbey are, not only extensive, but meticulously maintained, and are surrounded by areas of shade provided by the trees, as well as the sound of streams nearby which allow plenty of space for a bit of quiet reflection during your visit.
At Abbaye de Fontenay, all of the main buildings remain intact apart from the refectory which was earlier demolished by the monks.
Each building offers something different and our guests love them all for different reasons. Here are just a few of the buildings you’ll see on your tour of Abbaye de Fontenay:
The Abbey Church played a central role in the daily lives of the monks and was one of the more frequently used buildings.
Built in the Romanesque style of architecture typical of the time period, the church is large and gives off a calm feeling due to the pink and white stone, as well as sturdy column arches used in its construction.
This would be the room where monks slept, lined along the floor on mattresses. Constructed using much of the same white and pink stone as the church, the Dormitory is a simple building with a striking feature in its roof that almost resembles an upturned ship.
The Cloisters at Abbaye de Fontenay were another of the main buildings used by the monks and is a truly magnificent piece of architecture.
Overlooking the gardens of Abbaye de Fontenay, the Cloisters feature beautiful stone arches and columns and create a sense of calm and peace.
Chapter Room and Common Room:
Located directly underneath the Dormitory are two more rooms that are linked by a doorway and stone arches. The Common Room was a general gathering place for the monks, while the Chapter Room was used for meetings and where they would discuss chapters of the Bible.
For the monks, the Infirmary provided an essential function, and this was the building used for them to grow their herbs for producing medicines.
Although the Infirmary of today is dated only back to the 18th century when it was restored, it was built on the site of the original 12th-century building.
During its time, the Forge was a place at the forefront of technology. It was Europe’s very first metallurgical factory, as well as the first place to use a hydraulic, which in turn created the fundamental principles of iron production across the European continent.
As you explore the Forge, you’ll see the equipment that was used during this time, with demonstrations held frequently to show what the process was like for the monks.
Other Buildings & Gardens
Of course, this list is just a small selection of the buildings and gardens you’ll see on your visit to Abbaye de Fontenay, but we don’t want to give it all away, as seeing it for yourself is truly an unforgettable experience that you’ll want to remember.
When you choose to experience an unforgettable visit to Abbaye de Fontenay, doing it aboard the luxury hotel barge, La Belle Epoque will make it even more memorable.
From the moment you step onboard, you’ll experience the highest levels of relaxation and quality.
Holding only a maximum of 12 passengers, La Belle Epoque is intended to provide an exclusive experience to a small selection of guests who are seeking privacy and relaxation during their trip.
Some of the best features of La Belle Epoque that you’ll experience are the spacious sundeck with pool, and en-suite facilities throughout the range of cabins, including junior suites and staterooms.
A classic, wood-panelled dining room where you can enjoy all your meals and drinks included while getting to know other guests and soaking up the atmosphere as we slowly cruise through French towns and villages along the way.
Plus, much more.
Ready to Experience it for Yourself?
Get in touch with one of our cruise experts today to learn more about our range of luxury hotel barge and canal cruise packages and book the experience of a lifetime.