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Not to be missed: the Royal Necropolis

Nicknamed “the Saint-Denis of the Plantagenets” (Saint-Denis Basilica is the traditional burial place for kings of France) the Abbey of Fontevraud became a royal necropolis upon the death of Henry II, King of England. Since then, the remains of the Plantagenets have been resting peacefully in the heart of the abbey church.

During their lifetimes, King Henry II and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine were major benefactors of the Abbey and the king was even known as “the father of the church of Fontevraud”. When he died in 1189, the queen decided to bury her dead husband in Fontevraud rather than in Grandmont, as he had requested. In practical terms, this decision avoided taking the body on a long journey in the middle of a particularly hot summer, but it above all established the legacy of the Plantagenet dynasty in Anjou, which would become its eternal resting place.

Despite being pillaged during the French Revolution, the Abbey still contains the funeral statues of King Henry II, his son Richard the Lionheart and his daughter-in-law Isabella of Angouleme, as well as of Queen Eleanor who commissioned the recumbent statues in polychrome tuffeau stone, which have been remarkably well-preserved. Henry II and Richard the Lionheart are represented with the royal sceptre and crown, while Eleanor is holding an open book. The statue of Isabella is unique in that it is made of wood. They are located in the nave of the abbey church, whose size and sobriety make it a very imposing building. The roof of the nave is structured into four vaulted spans comprising a line of cupolas, which testifies to the Byzantine origins of the Norman style in Anjou. The choir and transept, on the other hand, remain faithful to the local architectural style in the Loire Valley. This architectural amalgamation was later known as the “Plantagenet style”.
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