Bizanet - Fontfroide - Bizanet: An abbey a day ... - France: Between the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees - CycleBlaze

August 30, 2007

Bizanet - Fontfroide - Bizanet: An abbey a day ...

The first days we had to contend with the heat, then came the rain, and today it's the wind, which will blow steadily from the north and northwest until the end of our trip.

For today that's the good news and the bad news - to Fontfroide it's a round trip.

It's windy
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The Abbaye de Fontfroide was one of the most important and richest Cistercian abbeys in the south of France. It is in a classic situation for an abbey, tucked into a narrow, sheltered valley remote from the outside world. It fell into decay as a result of the Plague of 1348, and was subsequently run by nobles who were given the courtesy title of Abbots without actually being monks. They added various luxuries, not necessarily in keeping with the original simplicity of Cistercian life, such as fireplaces, elaborate staircases, and marble pillars in the cloister, which make parts of the abbey look more like a château than an abbey.

The last abbot of Fontfroide died in 1895 and in 1901 a law ruling religious denominations put an end to monastic life. The last monks fled to Spain, and the building and grounds were left uninhabited until 1908 when Gustave Fayet and his wife, Madeleine, supporters of the arts and architecture acquired Fontfroide and thus rescued the monastery from decay.

Fontfroide: The cloister dates from the 12th century, reflecting Romanesque architecture at its finest
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Cloister of Fontfroide
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Extensive restoration work ensued which included stained-glass church windows and wrought-iron work.

Visible traces of the Belle Epoque: stained glass windows from 1913 by René Billa, alias Richard Burgsthal, a mosaic of coloured glass which has recently been painstakingly restored.
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Fontfroide: Wrought-iron gates
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Iron gate, detail
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Visits are by guided tour only (one every 45 minutes), in French, but leaflets are available in other languages and you can more or less look and read at your leisure.

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