Founded in 1118 by Saint Bernard, Fontenay Abbey is one of the oldest Cistercian monasteries in France. The Roman architecture confers a remarkable coherency onto this collection of conventional buildings. These have remained intact over more than eight centuries of history.
According to Saint Bernard’s rigorous plans, the visitor successively encounters the church, the dormitory, the cloister, the council room, the heating room, the lodging for the abbots and the forge. Transformed into a paper mill during the French Revolution, Fontenay Abbey was bought in 1820 by Elie de Montgolfier, a descendant of the first aeronauts. The papermaking plant operated until 1906, when Edouard Aynard, son-in-law of Raymond de Montgolfier, acquired Fontenay. From 1906 to 1913, massive clearing work was undertaken to free the Abbey of the unwanted structures from the papermaking period. Today, the same family maintains and preserves the site.
Private property, the Abbey of Fontenay has been classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1981. The monument is located in a small valley and entirely preserved. The site welcomes about 100 000 visitors every year. The French Garden and the landscaped gardens complete the visit with its centenary trees and its trout pond. The Fontenay gardens have been refurbished by the English landscape architect Peter Holmes. Some new plantations make this two hectares park prettier,and it has been classified “Jardin remarquable” (Remarkable garden) by the Minister of Culture.