Abbeys and Monasteries in France


French Abbeys and Monasteries are often architectural marvels. You’ll also be surprised at the fascinating history of some of them. And not least, they’re places of peaceful contemplation and wonder.

If you love abbeys, monasteries, and cathedrals, you’ll enjoy weaving a few into your trip, or even as the thematic focus of one. Here are several grouped more or less geographically together so you can see several during your trip.




In Burgundy, you’ll find several to enjoy. Create your own tour interspersed with great food and Burgundy wine, as well as lovely landscapes.

Cluny Abbey is known as the oldest abbey in France, established in 910. It is now more of a museum, but worth a visit for the architecture and history. Cluny, France.

Fontenay Abbey: this 12th-century structure is the oldest preserved Cistercian abbey in the world. Come visit the peaceful building and renovated gardens.

Cîteaux Abbey is in the town of Saint Nicolas-des-Citeaux in Burgundy. Meditations and homilies are still done here.

Vézelay is a historic town where you’ll find the Romanesque remains of the Benedictine abbey near the monastic church.


Cluny Abbey



The Loire Valley


Though the Loire Valley is more known for chateaux, there are also impressive abbeys and monasteries.

Fontevraud Abbey is by far the best known in the region, both for its illustrious royal history and for its serene and majestic architecture. It is located a few miles from Samur in the western half of the Loire Valley. It was founded in 1101 and is the burial place of the Plantagenet family, including Henry II, Isabella of Angoulême, and Richard the Lionheart. After Henry II’s death, his wife, Eleanore of Aquitaine, returned to rule from Frontevraud. It ceased to be a working monastery during the Revolution and later became a prison. Currently, it hosts seminars, visits, a museum, and cultural events. There’s even a hotel on site.

Include the abbey in your visit to the Loire Valley. It’s worth a detour!

Frontevraud Abbey


Royal Abbey of Bourgueil. Most people know the picturesque village of Bourgueil for its wines. Of course, you’ll enjoy a visit and possibly a tasting, but while you’re there, stop in at the abbey to slow your pace and appreciate the serenity and stunning architecture. It was founded in 990 by a woman, Emma de Blois, daughter of the Count of Tours and Blois (both cities in the Loire Valley.) It has quite a history, including such historical visitors as Anne of Brittany, Rabelais, Francois I, and Catherine di Medici.

Today, along with visits, the abbey hosts cultural events, exhibits, and even films. As in the case of Frontevraud Abbey, you can stay on site as well.



In Provence, many stunning architectural abbeys exist. Here are several you won’t want to miss. (First photo is Sénanque.)

Notre Dame de Sénanque, a Cistercian abbey near the hilltop town of Gordes in the Luberon. This functioning 12th-century abbey nestled in lavender fields has impressive Romanesque architecture. Come for a visit, a service, or a retreat.

Not far from Arles, you’ll find the Abbey of Montmajour, founded in 948 by Benedictine monks. Stroll the “ruins”, which still invite exploration.

The Cistercian abbey of Thoronet is due east of Aix-en-Provence in the heart of Provence. The buildings are well-preserved and today used for visits, concerts, and seminars. The last monks left in the 18th century, but the abbey had a resurgence in historical importance.



In Normandy, there were many monasteries, but one danger existed in the 9th century. Viking raids were so common in those days that monks had to evacuate on a regular basis, taking the holy articles and archives with them. Eventually, Rollo, a lead Viking, became a Christian and was baptized. This helped matters somewhat. In the centuries that followed, monasticism flourished and today you can see abbey churches in the Norman Romanesque style in Jumiege (1067), Caen (1077), and many Gothic structures in the 12th century. There are 35 abbeys in Normandy! (to learn more, check out this link: )


Le Mont Saint Michel

You might already guess the most famous and visited abbey in Normandy, le Mont Saint Michel (though it sits on the border between Normandy and Brittany.) This destination is nothing short of stunning, whether you see the town topped by the abbey from a distance or sample the view from the top. It’s the most visited monument in the country. Founded in 708, the abbey was built on a 264-foot-high rock. On the lower part of what appears to be an island, you’ll find shops and restaurants, and all the tourist provisions you could want. As you wind your way up the hill, you’ll approach the abbey and be able to fully appreciate the architecture that draws the world to view it. Once you’re there, you have the added advantage of views down over the town and the English Channel.

For lovers of history and architecture, for lovers of reflections on faith, French monasteries and abbeys enrich your visit to France.


Le Mont Saint Michel