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Situated in a green valley just a few kilometres from the Loire River near Saumur, Fontevraud is an unmissable stop on a visit to the Loire Valley. At the mid-point of the three regions of Poitou, Anjou and Touraine, this abbey is one of the largest surviving monastic structures from the Middle Ages. Listed as a monument historique in 1840, the abbey was also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site as part of the Loire Valley in 2000.
Founded in 1101 by Robert d’Arbrissel, Fontevraud Abbey was originally created to have a ‘mixed’ order of both men and women, which also included people from all social backgrounds.
In 1189, Fontevraud became a royal necropolis, housing the tombs of Henry II of England, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard the Lionheart. Over seven centuries, 36 abbesses, often drawn from high nobility, and sometimes even of royal blood, succeeded one another in running the abbey.
After the last abbess of Fontevraud was evicted, Napoléon Bonaparte ordered that the abbey be transformed into a high-security prison, housing up to 2000 prisoners. During this period, Fontevraud was considered one of the toughest prisons in France. In 1963, the prison was closed, and after many years of restoration the abbey was opened to the public.
November - March: 9:30am - 6pm
April - September: 9:30am - 7pm
Closed on December 25, and from January 1-25.