July 7, 2015
Abbey and Airport
We made a big jump today. We went from the comfort of Beaune to the preserved medieval buildings that k have ever seen. Fontenay Abbey was constructed as Cistercian Abbey in 1148 in a remote area of Burgundy. Saint Bernard founded a new order and abbeys to escape what he considered to be the corruption of the Benedictines. His goal was to go back to the original monastic goals of St. Benedict in the 6th Century. He wanted to re-emphasize poverty and self-sufficiency.
The Abbey was established far from cities. The monks did their own work and grew their own food. They did not just own land and lease it out to peasants. In the end they became very creative and even innovative. They were leaders in medieval metalurgy and developed hydraulic hammers for working iron. This innovation alone would be used in almost every mechanical drive system in the world.
The entire complex is almost exactly the same as when it was originally built. While the number of monks declined from 200 to a dozen by the French Revolution. Fortunately, it’s remote location helped preserve it during the revolution. By the 1820s, the entire Abbey was sold to industrialists who turned the place into a paper factory. They preserved the buildings for their use. In the early 20th Century, a wealthy art loving banker bought the entire place and started to restore the place. His family still owns it and continues to preserve it for the world. This is a much better use of wealth than owning the biggest yacht.
Anyway, we enjoyed the self-guided tour and the chance to visit what the monks experienced for some 700 years. The church and the rest of the buildings were simple but elegant. The Romanesque was pure despite the early pointed arches. The 200 pad dormitory was great with its upside town boat roof structure. The gardens were nice but were probably kitchen gardens in the time of the monks.
We returned to the freeway and made another detour to Fountainebleau Chateau. It was a miscalculation as it was closed. We took a few outside pictures of its famous staircase. I knocked but Napoleon had left the house but still left his initials all over the place. We returned to the freeways and swung around the east side of Paris during rush hour. It was stressful but not as bad as LA.
Tom found the hotel without a hitch. We unloaded the car and told Tom to take the car home. We were totally under the control of the machine since I had no idea of where we were weaving through the terminals, hotels, parking lots, etc. After dropping of the car our shuttle driver took pity on us and brought us back to our hotel.
The “Nomad” chain is new. It features a number of high tech features including projection TVs, showers that are far removed from those of the monks. I don’t know what they would have thought about this place. I do know that the plane full of passengers from a cancelled wide body flight ended up here. There were piles of people everywhere while we missed all of the excitement. We found a place for beer and pizza and are now ready for Scandinavia.