The Abbey was founded during the early 12th century by Canons Regular of Saint Augustine. They developed the abbey to such an extent that it quickly became one the most important spiritual centers in the Alps.
In the 15th century began a new form of administration: the abbot was no longer elected by the community, but nominated by the Duchy of Savoy. It led to the decline of the abbey. At the beginning of the 17th century, Saint Francis of Sales, bishop of Geneva, exceeded by the canons’ behavior, obtained their replacement by another religious community: Cistercians monks.
The Abondance Abbey was definitely closed (in 1761), a few years before French Revolution (1789).
Nowadays, the Abondance Abbey is a public property, administration is trying to preserve this inestimable heritage.
Central place of the Abbey, this was the part where meditation and spirituals took place.
About the sculptures:
The “Virgin Mary’s Door” was the one ledding directly the monks from the cloister to the church. The tympanum is decorated with a Virgin in Majesty. On each side of the door, there are two column statues: the one on the left-hand side portrays an Old Testament allegory and the one on the right a New Testament allegory.
On the vaulting of the galleries, the keystones are decorated with the Zodiac or the Labours of the Months.
The masterpiece of the cloister is the set of murals of the 15th century. In around 1430, the cloister was decorated, by Giacomo Jaquerio and his disciples, with twenty-four paintings depicting Virgin Mary’s life. The figurative scenes are set in Chablais and Piedmont and every object, every costume and every construction illustrate this twofold influence. Nowadays, six murals and some fragments still remained.
Currently, the monastery welcomes different activities: city hall, library, music’s rooms, …
Some rooms are dedicated to an exhibition “Art and History: the sacred heritage of the Abondance valley” which presents rare sacred pieces and the local religious life.
Every summer, a temporary exhibition linked with the site is proposed.
“Montagnes de Silence”: from the 5th of July to the 27th of August 2014.
Guided Tours and animations
Guided tours, activities and workshops (for children) are proposed only in French but if you are interested, you can find the details of our program on the French version of the website.
Click on the French flag at the top right of the screen.
The Abbey Church
Built in Gothic style during the 13th century, the site suffered partial damages from fires (1440, 1633 and 1728). Consequently a new entrance was created on the left side of the church, with a classical style door. A new bell tower was not built until 1728 and the actual day façade was completed between 1898 and 1900.
Most of the church’s interior was decorated by Casimir Vicario, a painter from the Piedmont region renowned during the period of Sardinian Restoration (1815-1860). From 1845 to 1847, he completed the “trompe-l’oeil” wall paintings and statues as well as the paintings that decorate the vaulting and triforium. The “trompe-l’oeil” statues represent the twelve apostles and the eleven virtues. On the transept crossing, there are the four Founding Fathers of the Church; on the chancel vaulting, the four Evangelists and their symbols; on the apse, medallion paintings featuring cherub’s faces and the Virgin Mary’s monogram.
Some fragments of earlier decorations were discovered during the last restoration (2003-2006) and can be seen on the column at the corner of the nave and right transept.
The church’s liturgical function in the community has never been interrupted and today the church is the center of the parish “Saint Maurice en vallée d’Abondance”.
Access to the church is independent of the Abbey’s visit (no visits during worship).