The most beautiful abbeys in France

Mont Saint Michel, photo by afloresm on Flickr

When it comes to religious architecture, France wins by quality if not by quantity. Even the smallest and remotest village in France will have its tiny old stone church, and the larger cities and the capital are a vertiable paradise for those who are interested in religious architecture and art. That isn’t to say that there’s a church at every corner in France, just that its churches, chapels and cathedrals tend to be consistently beautiful. For a more rustic feel, monasteries and abbeys are a great alternative – the same amazing architecture and peaceful atmosphere. If you like visiting old and impressive buildings, then you will definitely like some of the most beautiful abbeys in France.

Martin du Canigou, Pyrenees

Martin du Canigou is a remote abbey off the beaten track, perched in the Pyrenees near the Spansi border. This beautiful Romanesque monastery was built in the first decade of the 11th century by a count, supposedly in atonement for the murder of his son. The benedictine monks who lived in Martin du Canigou abandoned it in the 18th century, but in the 1900’s renovation work began and the abbey regained its former charm.

Priory of Serrabone, Pyrenees-Orientales

Serrabonne Priory, photo by Peter Curbishley

One of the most romantic and haunting places in Languedoc Rousillon is the Priory of Serrabone, not far from Perpignan. This 12th century monastery is famous for its stunning marble rostrum, and in general it is considered to be a gem of Romanesque architecture. The greenish stones of the building make a very nice contrast with the sculptures in the cloister, which are carved out of pink marble.

Abbey of Fontanay, Cote d’Or

The abbey of Fontanay in the commune of Marmagne used to be a Cistercian abbey founded in the 12th century, and it is one of the best preserved Cistercian abbeys in Europe, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In typical austere Cistercian fashion, the abbey is far from ornate, but it is nothing less than beautiful. The old buildings are surrounded by manicured lawns and paths, as well as gardens.

Cîteaux Abbey, Cote d’Or

Saint Martin de Canigou, photo by cocoate.com on Flickr

Cîteaux Abbey near Dijon is the home of the Cistercian order, whose name actually comes from this very abbey. Today it is still one of the most beautiful abbeys in France, but is belongs to the order of Trappists, and more than 30 monks still love in its halls. The building dates back to the 11th century, and they are really a sight to see, and you might be even able to buy honey or some famous Citeaux cheese from the monks, who sell their produce to the public.

 Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy

A steep rock in the English Channel is home to one of the oldest and most fascinating abbeys in France, and one of the most important tourist attractions in Normandy. The abbey was built in the 11th century at the orders of Richard II of Normandy, and although the original was built in the Romanesque style, it suffered several modifications since.

 

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