The valley of Fontenay
"To reach Fontenay in what makes its sense and the strength of its beauty, we must approach step by step along the forest paths in the October rain, through the brambles and potholes, painfully." Georges Duby
The valley of Fontenay covers an area of over 3,000 acres of woods and meadows that surround the Abbey of Fontenay.
The monks patiently drained a swampland to make it habitable and use its resources, wood and hydraulic power, for the development of the Abbey. Seven Ponds and several waterfalls still exist today. This is an exceptionally well-preserved natural environment, without other buildings that the Abbey. It remains unchanged since the time of the monks.
The valley offers opportunities for walking and hiking. It can be visited freely (no entry fee).
Recognized as Preserved Natural site by the State since 1989, the valley of Fontenay is also protected since 2007 by UNESCO as an extension of the World Heritage site.
Saint Bernard Pond - (45 minutes walk)
Take the sanded path right off the Abbey.
This is the place where Saint Bernard arrived in October 1118 with twelve monks. The first community had established a hermitage which they left in 1130 when it became too small, and built the Abbey in its current location.
Nothing remains today of the first hermitage. A calm pond named after the founder and Saint and a recorded miraculous source evoke those early days.
Munières Path - (one hour walk)
Take the path to the Saint Bernard pond for 400 m, then a path on the left.
This walk in the woods leads to the iron mines well site which was rediscovered twenty years ago.
The monks took advantage of the natural resources of the valley, hydropower, wood and iron ore to produce iron in the Fontenay Forge on a semi-industrial scale. The Forge is thus considered one of the first ironworks in Europe.
Fontenay valley tour - (3.30 hours walk)
This marked trail runs through the dense forests of the valley. It probably includes part of the path used by St Bernard in 1118 when the founding the Abbey.
It also is likely part of an ancient pilgrimage route, Fontenay being historically a waypoint on the Santiago Camino from Treviso (Trier), the capital of the Roman Germanic Empire to Vézelay.