Abbey Church of Fontenay is one of the oldest Cistercian churches in the world. Built between 1139 and 1147, it is also one of the few Cistercian churches of the twelfth century to have survived intact until today.
According to the will of St. Bernard and the General Chapter of the Cistercian Order, nothing in the church was to distract the eye so that all could be turned to God during the daily offices. That is why this building was designed with simplicity and is a model of Burgundian Romanesque architecture : Latin cross plan, bare facade, simple foliage sculptures for the capitals, and single row of side windows.
This simplicity hides many details and special attention to harmony and symbolism, particularly as regards the proportions or the number of bays.
The choir is covered with glazed tiles of the XII and XIII centuries. There is also a remarkable carved altarpiece of the thirteenth century, and a set of gravestones including that of the English bishop of Norwich Ebrard, who financed the construction of the Abbey Church.
The Abbey Church impresses with its remarkable state of preservation, its dimensions, its rigorous simplicity and its special light. There is an atmosphere of calm and serenity inviting contemplation and meditation.