21st-century city combining past, present, and future in one moment
At the heart of Anjou and the Loire Valley (favorite location for the Kings of France before the construction of Versailles), near the towns of Saumur and Chinon, stands impenetrably the famous medieval Royal Abbey of Fontevraud.
Since 2000 it has been, along with the rest of the Loire Valley area, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The monastery was established at 1101, a lot has happened during the time under the watchful eyes of canons and abbesses subordinated directly to the French King and Pope.
Today, this ensemble of the 150,000 sq. m. of buildings are a place of thriving modern life. Thanks to the good grace of Patric Jouin and Sanjit Manku the Saint-Lazare priory has turned into a modern hotel in line with the best traditions of hospitality.
54 hotel suites are filled with furniture created by local artisans according to sketches by Jouin Manku. Stylish and light rooms reflect the architectural features of one or another part of the priory, and regardless of differences in form (duplexes, attics, unbelievably high ceilings) have preserved the intimate feel of a shelter, thanks in part to the lighting (done with the help of L’Observatoire International) and proper attention to the acoustic effects. Besides, the style is laconic and convenient, for instance, headboards of beds are designed for comfortable reading, rooms are equipped with modern devices hidden from your eyes, and at the same time equipped with notepads designed by Calepino of Nantes. And so not a single smallest detail was left without proper attention and creativity of the designers – from waste bins to tables and chairs.
But the hotel lobby is the part defining its style. Large quantities of wood with minimum treatment add the warmth to the hall under the high arched ceiling. Plain forms and soft colors soothe with their genuinely contemporary presentation. Same as in the rooms, lighting in public spaces plays an important role of a delicate guide between the historical legacy and the contemporary design.
A passage to the restaurant from the main building goes through a covered arcade surrounded by an inner garden. The restaurant’s low-key, laconic style doesn’t distract but sustains your feeling of presence in a monumental building with remarkable history. Light wood furniture, stone benches turned sofas, and large wooden chandeliers hanging above the tables and playing an important role in absorbing ambient sounds – all this is designed for a place of poetic inspiration and nourishment. Besides occasionally seeing a chef collecting herbs planted by himself, the tables will be set with ceramic ware created by a ceramist who lives nearby and is famous for his works, Charles Hair in cooperation with Patrick Jouin.
After everything you see here, you get a chance to stay a while longer and explore the history of Fontevraud in a bar located in a former chapel. Monolith oak tables carved of century-old logs from the reserves of Ateliers Perrault Freres are equipped with touchscreens and telescopic lamps. Digital modernity rhymes with the monks’ past – it’s more than a bar and not a chapel at all anymore.