Monday, June 6, 2011

Abbaye de Royaumont

I'm a little behind on reporting on some of my day trips from Paris.  The bare trees in this photo are a dead giveaway that I took this picture back in March and here it is already June.  But no matter the season, the Abbaye de Royaumont, some 30 kilometers north of Paris, is an interesting place to visit.  The first time I was there, maybe two years ago, was on one of my monthly hiking excursions in the forests around Paris.  It was a cold winter's day and we emerged from the woods, woods that otherwise were reminiscent of places on the East Coast of the U.S., to see this huge abbey across the road.  Yes, that's the kind of thing that happens all the time in France.  You're walking along in the forest and all of a sudden, there's something in front of you right out of a fairy tale. 

We wandered the grounds in search of a proper picnic place and then ducked inside to find the most palatial setting for our lunch.

Not bad huh? It was after all the abbey's one-time refectory.  I'm pretty sure that we weren't supposed to be doing that but the one uniformed staff member who peeked in the room while we were there -- muddy boots, thermoses of coffee, sandwiches, and all -- didn't say boo.

More recently, I went back for a proper guided visit and learned more systematically about the abbey's history.   Built in the 13th century by King Louis IX (better known now as St. Louis), the monastery operated continuously until the French Revolution when, like so many other religious properties in France, it was sold and repurposed.  The new owner decided that the stones that made up the church looked just right for building a cotton factory.  So he cut the pillars at the base, assuming that the structure would then collapse.  No luck.  Next, he got 100 head of cattle, roped them to the pillars, and had them pull in opposite directions.  That did the trick.  Today very little remains of the church although happily in addition to the refectory, the sacristy and cloister remain intact.

The property is now owned by the Gouin family who have not only done important renovations but have also transformed the abbey into a center for music and dance, offering both professional residencies and workshops, and a concert season that runs on weekends in September and October.

Open daily from 10 am to 6 pm


Sweet Freak said...

Ann, your constant explorations and discoveries are so cool & impressive! Can't wait to see where the next 3+ weeks take you...

Starman said...

Nice place to have lunch. Wine, baguette and cheese?

Anne said...

No wine when you're hiking, Starman!

Jeanne said...

What a beautiful find while on a hike. Here in Florida you might come across a swamp and a gator. YIKES!:-)
Loved the post.

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