13 June 2011

Le Tour de France...

...des églises, abbayes, et cathédrales ! Here's another one: Pontigny. It's just north of the small city of Auxerre and the wine village of Chablis. The village of Pontigny has a population of about 750. It's in the northern part of Burgundy — Bourgogne [boor-GUH-nyuh] in French.

L'Abbaye de Pontigny en Bourgogne

The Abbaye de Pontigny [ah-bay-EE duh põ-tee-NYEE] is a Cistercian institution. The Cistercians are a Christian monastic order that was founded in the year 1098 at the abbey church in the village called Saint-Nicolas-lès-Cîteaux, also in Burgundy and just south of Dijon. The Latin name for Cîteaux is Cistercium.

The abbey church at Pontigny was built in the early 1100s,
so it's about nine hundred years old.

Over the centuries, there were about 340 Cistercian abbeys in Europe. A couple of years ago, CHM and I visited one just south of the city of Bourges, not very far east of Saint-Aignan. It's called Noirlac and here are three links (one, two, three) to posts about it, with photos.

The plain white interior with people for scale

When it came to architecture and life style, the early Cistercians were purists. They rejected the worldliness of the medieval church. Their buildings and the decoration were plain and simple. The Cistercians were also workers and builders. They grew food crops — their motto was "the cross and the plow" — and they figured out how to channel streams and build irrigation systems. They grew, bred, and improved plants, and they ended up owning a lot of land and selling a lot of food. They too got rich.

A view of the front of the church and the main entrance

I'm not getting rich writing this, so I'll stop. I have to do my U.S. taxes this morning! The deadline for Americans living outside the U.S., or anyone who happens to be out of the country on April 15, is June 15. I've put it off as long as I can.

Enjoy the pictures of the abbey church at Pontigny. Know that Thomas Beckett took refuge here for two years (1165-66) when he was in exile. It's a beautiful place just on the edge of a small village, out in the fields.


  1. Lovely photos. By the 13th/14th century the Cistercians allowed a little bit of decoration to creep in. They painted red lines to imitate brickwork on the whitewashed walls [real bricks making real patterns were of course underneath the plaster]. Saw good examples of this at Bylands Abbey in Yorkshire.

  2. That's a really imposing structure, Ken... and a lot of information to go with the pix as usual.

  3. Life was quite different a thousand years ago. I like thinking about those days and your photos help. This abbey has no out buildings that I can see. I love the last photos with the abbey and the field. I bet travelers were happy to see them in the old days.

  4. I think US expats did not have to pay income tax until the mid to late 1970s.

    We were living out of the country then and I remember my father being angry at the change. If my memory serves me, I think people had to pay a couple years retroactively when it was initiated.

  5. One rarely comes across chablis in wine stores since chablis has fallen out of favor.

  6. The real chablis comes from the village of Chablis in Burgundy. Anything else called chablis (from California for example) is piquette. Chablis wine is 100% Chardonnay.

  7. Very interesting post -- I always love the info and pictures about church architecture and history :)

    I had wondered about you guys and U.S. taxes... wondered, in fact, if you did your taxes when you came to the U.S. in March (wasn't it March?).

    Can you do your taxes online from over there?


  8. OK, I'm going to pitch AARO, the Association of Americans Resident Overseas. http://aaro.org/
    There's an annual tax seminar in late March or April dealing with the changes in US legislation and IRS rules and how they affect us. Since the meeting is in Paris, there's also information concerning French forms. The association, though, is mostly and advocacy group, seeking to inform US citizens abroad and US Congress and Treasury people about the (unintended?) negative effects of rules and legislation.

  9. Margaret and I stopped here when we were driving around Burgundy. We were very impressed with the excellent condition the abbey was kept. I wonder what the Cistercians would think of the Vatican today. I doubt they would approve.


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?