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Fontevraud Abbey bridging History and Modern Art

In the picturesque Anjou region near the Loire River, the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud proudly celebrates its millennia-long history. This monumental 13-hectare complex masterfully blends ancient tradition with contemporary design. Within its ancient walls, discover a modern art museum and a stylish hotel nestled in the Saint-Lazare priory, showcasing a strong commitment to environmental sustainability. Nestled in the heart of the Loire Valley, a visit to Fontevraud is a journey through time—from serene priories and echoing cloisters to intimate chambers and the awe-inspiring abbey chapel. Fontevraud offers an immersive and captivating experience where centuries unfold in all their richness—an invitation to embark on a historical voyage with Hiddenist. 

Aerial view of the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud, erected a thousand years ago in Anjou

A Modern Art Museum in the millenary Abbaye de Fontevraud

Founded in the 11th century by Robert d'Arbrissel, in the village of Fontevraud-l'Abbaye, near Chinon, the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud was one of Europe’s largest and wealthiest monastic complexes of its time. Its most remarkable feature was its unique governance under an abbess, an uncommon practice in the 12th century. Protected by the Counts of Anjou and the House of Plantagenet, it still houses the burial site of the English king Henry II, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, and their son, King Richard the Lionheart, located beneath the nave of the abbey church.

Under the governance of Bourbon abbesses, the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud faced dissolution with significant sacrilege and violence during the French Revolution, later repurposed as a house of correction under Napoleon I until 1963. Since then, extensive restoration efforts have transformed Fontevraud into the stunning historical site we know today.

Today, this Unesco World Heritage site has become a vibrant center for cultural exchange in the Loire Valley, France. Since 2021, it has housed a Modern Art Museum located in the Fannerie building. This unique museum stems from the generous donation of nearly 900 works by collectors Martine and Léon Cligman. Over more than sixty years, Léon Cligman, a successful textile industrialist, and his wife, artist Martine Martine, curated an eclectic collection including paintings, drawings, sculptures, and antiquities from Africa, Oceania, Asia, and the Americas, totaling nearly 1,800 pieces.

A standout in the collection is Maurice Denis's work, a prominent figure in the Nabi movement. One of our favorites is On the Balcony of Silencio, capturing an intimate moment of contemplation—much like the peaceful ambiance experienced while exploring the abbey's serene grounds.

This unique historical setting fosters a fascinating dialogue between Modern Art and the medieval heritage of the royal abbey. The sensation of stepping back in time is equally intense upon entering the Saint-Lazare Priory, elegantly transformed into a hotel by the Jouin Manku Architecture Studio. Fontevraud has seamlessly integrated into the 21st century while preserving its deep historical roots.

Fontevraud L’Hotel, a singular and timeless experience

"We quietly slipped into the Saint-Lazare Priory, immersing ourselves in its history and its uniqueness. We tried to capture its essence, from its monastic simplicity to its prison austerity via the wisdom and philosophy of those who built and lived here." This is how French architects Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku describe their transformative work that brought Fontevraud L’Hotel to life in spring 2014. Renovating the former Saint-Lazare priory, these talented designers—renowned for projects like La Mamounia in Marrakech, Van Cleef & Arpels boutiques, and Pierre Hermé’s Infiniment Chocolat—have skillfully blended monastic simplicity with contemporary design. 


Despite the constraints imposed by the building’s historic monument classification, where ceilings and walls could not be altered, Jouin Manku Architecture Studio demonstrated remarkable ingenuity by transforming these limitations into opportunities. Their creation of innovative furniture and micro-architecture, using natural materials selected for their quality, not only tells a compelling story but also addresses thermal and acoustic challenges in spaces like the refectory and chapel. They have also successfully improved natural light in the chapter house of the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud—an impressive achievement indeed! 


As you walk through the refectory, now transformed into a stunning banquet hall, you can deeply sense the communal spirit that once inspired the abbey's monks. The chapel, reborn as a digital library, and its cozy bar—the perfect spot to enjoy a cocktail or a fine glass of Saumur wine—unexpectedly blend the sacred with the secular, creating a unique and inviting atmosphere. 


Fontevraud L’Hotel, a 4-star property within the Royal Abbey, offers more than just a glimpse of history. It combines genuine authenticity with contemporary luxury, using materials such as wool and oak to create spaces that exude a sensual atmosphere. Whether you opt for a duplex, a cozy attic room, or the former nun’s dormitory, each accommodation exudes a serene ambiance that fosters tranquility - a respectful nod to its rich past. 

Recently awarded its first Michelin key, Fontevraud L'Hotel has become one of the premier destinations in the Loire Valley. The opportunity to wander through the cloisters at night enhances its allure, making it a must-visit for those seeking a unique experience in a place steeped in history and charm. 

L’Ermitage, the Michelin-starred restaurant of Fontevraud Royal Abbey

The cloister, a focal point of the priory's layout, has been ingeniously transformed by Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku with glass walls that bring in space and light, even on overcast days!

Today, it houses L'Ermitage, the Michelin-starred restaurant led by chef Thibault Ruggeri, alongside a meticulously restored section that serves as a tranquil promenade offering delightful views of the vegetable garden. In this historically rich setting, Chef Ruggeri presents a cuisine infused with poetry and mystery, showcased in a unique menu called "Lune," which changes with each lunar cycle.

Central to Chef Ruggeri's culinary philosophy is a profound reverence for the "Nurturing Earth," reflected in Fontevraud's expansive 5,000-square-foot organic garden and the honey harvested from on-site beehives nestled in the Abbey's gardens. Environmental sustainability is a shared commitment between the chef and Fontevraud Royal Abbey, marked by nearly a decade of collaboration on various sustainable development initiatives. "At Fontevraud, we offer more than just a dining experience; it's a culinary journey that seamlessly blends tradition and modernity, enriching and reinterpreting the legacy of Saint-Lazare while evoking emotion and pleasure for the senses."

The Michelin-starred restaurant L'Ermitage at Fontevraud L'Hotel

Well-being and sustainable commitment in harmony

Fontevraud Royal Abbey is committed to sustainability with its priory cloister now home to a beautiful vegetable garden that echoes medieval monastic life. This garden supplies the restaurant with fresh organic produce and aromatic herbs, ensuring a farm-to-table experience.

Fontevraud L'Hotel has adopted a strict environmental charter with several innovative initiatives. From locally made artisan soaps to bespoke mattresses, headboards and bed frames made for the abbey in Nantes, every detail reflects a commitment to sustainability. Organic wall paint made from algae adds a natural touch, while water from Fontevraud's own spring flows throughout the hotel. Solar panels provide much of the electricity, and a high-efficiency composter enriches the vegetable garden and surrounding parklands.

Today, Fontevraud Royal Abbey continues its legacy of hospitality rooted in the Rule of Saint Benedict, inviting visitors and guests to embrace a contemporary sense of comfort while experiencing the essence of serenity.

The vegetable garden of the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud, which supplies fresh produce to the Michelin-starred restaurant.



The “Abbey life” with Hiddenist

Embark on Chef’s Escapes, bespoke gourmet journeys curated by Michelin-starred Chef Christophe Hay. Enjoy the flexibility to explore the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud, its Modern Art Museum, and indulge in Fontevraud L'Hotel at your leisure.

Savor gourmet experiences and uncover extraordinary cultural treasures during your weekend getaway or extended stay. Immerse yourself exclusively in the enchanting Loire Valley's Châteaux region, meticulously crafted by our celebrated chef based in Blois.



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