Sunday, 21 August 2011

Pontigny 1

(Click to enlarge)

I discovered the Abbey of Pontigny while towing our caravan from Troyes to Auxerre. Fortunately there is a large car park on the opposite side of the road in the village and so I was able to pull over and explore. And what a discovery! The second daughter house of Citeaux having associations with St Bernard and St Stephen Harding, it was also visited by St Thomas Becket and also St Edmund of Abingdon - also Archbishop of Canterbury. St Edmund is buried there, his relics having been hidden in a place of safety when the Huguenots were attacking during the Wars of Religion and apparently overlooked during the French Revolution.
Another famous Archbishop of Canterbury who visited was Cardinal Stephen Langton- author of the Veni Sancte Spiritus sequence, who features in Magna Carta and is also credited with having divided the books of the Bible into chapters. On a signboard recording important visitors in the monastic buildings he is listed as "Blessed" - which surprised me. I had no idea that he had been beatified.
The Cistercians are long since departed. In the Refectory there was an exhibition about a period when the abbey was in lay ownership who hosted conferences for pretentious intellectuals- of which France has a fine tradition. The church itself is a fine gothic building with a seventeenth century stalls and screen. It has a slight air of musty decay and, as with so many historic French churches, a rather poor looking modern altar.

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