Founded in 1100 as a double monastery where monks and nuns lived side by side, this expansive abbey in France is the unlikely home of the tomb of one of the most legendary English kings, Richard the Lionheart.
In the 12th century, Fontevraud Abbey was located in an area of France that was then in the possession of the King of England, and the British rulers of the time were great benefactors of the abbey. Eleanor of Aquitaine made Fontevraud Abbey her place of residence following the deaths of her husband, King Henry II, and son, the legendary King Richard the Lionheart, and all three were buried at the abbey, as were several other British royals.
However although Fontevraud Abbey was once the resting place of the royal remains, it is believed the bodies were destroyed during the French Revolution (King Richard’s heart and entrails were buried separately, at Rouen and Châlus respectively). The tombs themselves remain in the abbey church, though, and can be visited. Their carved effigies lie together for viewing, surrounded by a protective railing. Eleanor can be seen to be enjoying a book in her death.
Construction of the Romanesque structures of the abbey, which today remain architectural marvels, started in 1110, and additions continued throughout the 12th century. It has been rebuilt and restored over the years and served a variety of functions. After a steady decline over centuries, the order was finally dispersed in the late 18th century, during the French Revolution. In 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte made it a prison, a shift that resulted in the structure’s preservation, though adjustments had to be made to increase the number of prisoners it could hold. It remained a prison until 1963.
The French Ministry of Culture has since transformed the abbey into a cultural hub that hosts conferences, concerts, and artists in residence, and even includes a hotel and restaurant.