Letter from Fontevraud January 2023
The consolation of continuity
On the abbey of Fontevraud.
The Loire Valley is renowned for its spectacular fairy-tale châteaux and their associated tales of chivalry. The Château de Saumur exemplifies this: its medieval glory is captured in the fifteenth-century masterpiece Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry. Although seen in an idealized version in that luxuriant manuscript, Saumur in person is very much the storybook castle, and it is heavily trafficked by tourists as such. But only a twenty-minute drive away in the Loire countryside lies one of France’s most important religious and historical places, Fontevraud-l’Abbaye, albeit one that figures less in the guidebooks. Here spirituality and monarchy converged in the pre-revolutionary age to create a remarkable complex, one of the largest surviving monastic settlements from the medieval period, but also a site that has been modernized in a...
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