Dating from 1118, the Abbey of Fontenay is one of the oldest and best preserved Cistercian abbeys in the world. In its heyday during the 1200s, the abbey was home to around 300 monks. During the French Revolution in 1789, the monks were forced to leave the abbey and the complex was turned into a paper mill.
Over 100 years later in 1906, a banker from Lyon bought the property and began restoring the abbey. The property remains in the same family to this day.
In 1981, the abbey was one of the first sights in France to be added to the UNESCO list of world heritage sites. The abbey is no longer functioning as a religious site, but it still offers a glimpse into monastic life from 900 years ago. It was peaceful and very quiet, perfect to explore in the rain.
We explored the property for about an hour, but on a sunny day we could have easily spent another hour strolling through the well manicured gardens or walking on nearby trails. It wasn’t on our original itinerary for Burgundy, but we couldn’t be happier that we made the trip.