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The Cistercian Abbey of Pontigny (with lunch)

North West Burgundy (Chablis Country)


French Cistercian Abbey Pages

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Pontigny and 3 Medieval Archbishops of Canterbury


Thomas Becket - Stephen Langton - Edmund Rich


The Abbey of  Pontigny (north east of Auxerre on the N77) was founded in 1114 and is now the only one of the five mother Cistercian Abbey churches still intact, though little remains of the monastery buildings or the original abbey church.  Pontigny lies just to the north of the village of Chablis and its famous vineyards.


Thomas Becket (1120-1170 (50)) Lord Chancellor of England, Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of England before he was famously murdered in Canterbury Cathedral on 29 December 1170 (and then transformed into Saint Thomas a couple of years' later), spent the years 1164-66 in exile from Henry II's England here. 


Forty years' later, Lincolnshire man Cardinal Stephen Langton (1150 - 1228 (78)) (who had earlier sorted the bible into the books and chapters we presently know whilst teaching theology at Paris University, followed by a stint as Cardinal Priest at San Crisogono in Trastevere, Rome) was holed up here for six years from 1207 whilst waiting for the English King (by now Henry's son John) to let him in to the country as Pope Innocent III's nominated Archbishop of Canterbury.      


Langton  took refuge here from 1207 to 1213 while John  arm-wrestled the powerful Pope over whether Langton should be allowed to take up his appointment or not.  John lost (he was generally a loser), and in the process financially ruined many  Cistercian and other Abbeys in Britain.  John may have had a premonition, because Langton became a major force in the negotiations between King and Barons that led to a most unwilling King having to sign Magna Carta at Runnymede in June 1215.   It was also Langton who established the Saint Thomas Shrine in the east end of Canterbury Cathedral


Another English archbishop - Saint Edmund (Rich) (1170 - 1240 (70)) - was a professor at the Sorbonne (Paris) and Oxford before taking up with the church, where he was eventually appointed Archbishop of Canterbury in 1233.  He died near Pontigny in 1240 whilst on his way to Rome, and was buried in the Abbey Church.  Seven years later he was canonized (the first academic saint?) after reports of graveside miracles, and much later (in 1749) his remains were transferred to the ugly tomb which presently inhabits the end of Pontigny's apse.


Photo Page about all Five Foundation Cistercian Abbeys in Burgundy (Citeaux, Pontigny, Clairvaux, Morimond, La Ferté)


Web Site and List of some Daughter Houses of Pontigny




Pontigny (not marked) is just to the north east of Auxerre and the famous Chablis vineyards in North Burgundy




 The photo above was taken in June 2004, since when the new roof colour has thankfully mellowed a bit (below - but then the sun was not shining when we returned in 2007!).







The full nave (above) has sadly inherited a dark wood screen (though it is true to say that there would have been a stone one there originally), but things improve when you get past it  .....









A Burgundian Country Lunch at Le Moulin de Pontigny


Across the road from the abbey church is what remains of the extensive water system which the Cistercian monks would have built.  It was said that Cistercian water engineers were without peer in extracting water power from even minor drops in water levels.  Now all that remains is a goose pool, and on its edge the restaurant "Le Moulin de Pontigny" which claims one of the water mills (moulins) as a distant ancestor.  A good place to rest up for a Burgundian country lunch washed down by a drop of local wine.










Coq-au-Vin - Premier Cru is evaporating




Fromages de Bourgogne - Premier Cru heading for the last glass-full





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