The Saint-Philibert Abbey of Tournus, in Saône-et-Loire, was built from the 9th century by Benedictine monks who fled their monastery of Noirmoutier because of the Viking invasions.
The specificity of the site, on the right bank of the Saône, considered to be a masterpiece of Romanesque art, is that it has remained intact (the abbey church as well as the conventual buildings composed in particular of a cloister, a chapter house, the refectory, the home...), the whole being still surrounded by fortifications!
At the level of the church (listed as a Historic Monument since 1840), we first observe the facade with the appearance of a keep, pierced with loopholes, equipped with machicolations. Only thin Lombard bands and the pink stone bell tower added in the 12th century soften its appearance. At the entrance, the narthex (vestibule) surprises with its height contrasting with the flat bedside tables of the choir chapels.
The nave with 18 m vaults is remarkable for its luminosity and specialists note that the church offers a rare example of architectural technique with transverse barrel vaults. Finally, a primitive underground church is also visible…
Inside, the statue of Notre-Dame la Brune in gilded wood (12th century), mosaics in the ambulatory, the capitals carved at the crossing of the transept or the Contemporary furnishings of the altar created by the silversmith Goudji (twentieth century) are remarkable.
The Romanesque cloister, the monks' refectory and the chapter house (with broken barrel vaults), the abbey house which reflects the prosperity of the abbots and the enclosure with its defensive towers complete the discovery of this monastery left by religious during the Revolution. Only the church was returned to worship under Napoleon I.
Exhibitions and a library are housed in the old convent buildings.
Open all year round. Free visit or with audio guide. Price: from 2.50 and 5 euros. Information on +33 3 85 27 00 20.