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Pontigny

The Abbey of Pontigny, in the valley of the Serein, was founded in 1114, as the second daughter-house of the Cistercian order. It has the largest Cistercian church in Europe, and itself gave birth to some forty foundations in France, Italy, Hungary and Romania. The abbey estate was managed by its monks for centuries, until the French Revolution. Inside the monastery grounds with their high walls, the lay-brothers' wing still stands : a solid mediaeval building with a dormitory, a refectory and a cellar. The mill-race, created by the monks, leads to the fishpond and two enormous fountain basins. Alongside the cloister, which was rebuilt in the 18th century, another original wing where the monks took their collation also survives. The church is entered through a porch whose simple lines anticipate the architectural purity of the light-filled nave. The white stone, the grisaille windows, the cruciform pillars and the near-abstract capitals all express an aesthetic of austerity. The nave is an example of the earliest Gothic style in Burgundy, while the apse displays its full maturity. The choir was restored in the modern period. Between 1910 and 1939, the abbey estate was the home of the ?Entretiens de Pontigny?: gatherings of the most famous intellectuals of the day, working towards international understanding. It later housed a college, then from 1954 the Mission de France seminary, and latterly a re-education centre for handicapped people. In 2003, it was bought by the Regional Council of Burgundy.

Internet : abbayedepontigny.eu

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