Cistercian Abbey of Fontenay (1981)

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This stark Burgundian monastery was founded by St Bernard in 1119. With its church, cloister, refectory, sleeping quarters, bakery and ironworks, it is an excellent illustration of the ideal of self-sufficiency as practised by the earliest communities of Cistercian monks. 
  • France 1977. Abbey of Fontenay. 

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) was a French ecclesiastic, born near Dijon. In 1113 he became a monk in the Cistercian monastery of Cîteaux, a small village south of Dijon, and in 1115 he became abbot of a monastery at Clairvaux, north of Dijon. 

France 1977. Abbey of Fontenay

Under his rule the monastery at Clairvaux became the most prominent of the Cistercian order. Reputed miracles and the eloquent preaching of Bernard attracted numerous pilgrims. Between 1130 and 1145, more than 90 monasteries were founded under the auspices of the one at Clairvaux, and Bernard's influence in the Roman Catholic church spread throughout the world. 

Saint Bernard. Engraving by Pierre Albuisson, France

He is reputed to have established the rule of the Order of Knights Templar, and in 1128 he obtained recognition of the order from the church. In the contest between Pope Innocent II and Antipope Anacletus II for the papacy, Bernard was instrumental in the victory of Innocent. In 1146, at the command of the pope, Bernard began his preaching of the Second Crusade. 

His sermon, delivered at Vézelay, aroused enthusiasm throughout France; Louis VII, king of France, was persuaded to join the Crusade, and subsequently Bernard gained recruits from northern France, Flanders, and Germany. The failure of the Crusade was a great blow to him. He was canonized in 1174 and named Doctor of the Church in 1830. His feast day is August 20.

Bernard was an uncompromising opponent of heresies and of rationalistic theology, such as that of the French philosopher and theologian Peter Abelard. He wrote many sermons, letters, and hymns; some of the hymns are still sung in both Roman Catholic and Protestant churches. Important among his works are De Diligendo Deo (The Love of God, c. 1127) and De Consideratione (Consideration to Eugene III, c. 1148). 

  • Saint Bernard, engraved by the French engraver Pierre Albuisson, for a philatelic document in connection with a stamp issue 1998 honouring the Cistercian Monastery at Citeaux. Scan © Pierre Albuisson. 

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Other World Heritage Sites in France (on this site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, section France for further information on the individual properties.  

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Revised 09 sep 2007  
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