Churches and Abbeys in Burgundy for Beginners

Because Burgundy is a places of fantastic religious art it would be a shame to pass through without taking in some of these spectacular sights. No two churches and abbeys in Burgundy are the same, with each one offering its own unique style of religious iconography and art. Here is a top 5 list of the most beautiful religious building to visit in the area.

L’Abbaye de Cluny

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  • Cluny was one of the most important spiritual stops on the pilgrimage trail in the Middle Ages. At its peak, around the 1100s, Cluny ruled over 10,000 monks and 1,500 monasteries throughout Europe.
  • It’s architectural audacity was rather unheard of at it’s time. The church was the largest in the world until the construction of St. Peter’s in Rome in the seventeenth century.
  • However, it also tells the story of a woeful waste in French history; during the French Revolution more than 90% of this spectacular building was demolished, the stone being used to build other projects.
  • Luckily, 3D flat screen uses the magic of augmented reality to show how the building would have looked before it’s ransacking. The real remains and virtual missing parts fit together perfectly for a stunning result.
  • Visiting Cluny is not just an opportunity to visit the abbey; you can also take a stroll through the charming streets of the village, and say hello to the horses of the National Stud.

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La Basilique de Paray-le-Monial

  • If you want to visit somewhere similar to Cluny, but on a smaller scale, Paray-le- Monial is perfect as it is directly inspired by the latter.
  • Witness the exceptional light which floods the nave, vaults and sculpture of this church throughout the day.
  • See the vaulted arches, a revoulution in architecture which gave more height to the nave and makes the lighting more efficient, allowing for larger windows.
  • Take a look the three steeples reflected in the water of the nearby Bourdine river.
  • Deepen your knowledge of Romanesque art with the two discovery itineries which link together nearly one hundred churches and Romanesque chapels of the Brionnais area.

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L’Abbaye de Tournus

  • This church is simply one of the greatest Romanesque monuments in France
  • From the banks of the river Saone you can see the beautiful ouline of the abbey and it’s two rectangular steeples standing proud.
  • The monumental beauty of the church façade; austere and bare as a fortress.
  • The nave is flooded with light, illuminating the pink and ochre stone within.
  • The church contains 12th century mosaics that show signs of the zodiac and months of the year.

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La Cathédrale d’Autun

  • This cathedral boasts a richness of Romanesque sculptures, with signed works from Gislebertus and medieval comic strips, which at the time were considered by the canons “of a barbaric and primitive taste”.
  • The sculpted tympanum depicts the Last Judgement where one can easily distinguish on the one side the elect, on the other the damned and the grimacing devils ready to take them to their fate.
  • Behind its Gothic exterior the church hides inside many jewels of Romanesque art.
  • Nicknamed “Mona Lisa”, a sculpture of Eve is exhibited in Rolin museum near the cathedral: her unusual posture, her attitude, her eyes, everything about the painting arouses a deep feeling of sympathy.

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The basilica and the hill of Vézelay

Colline éternelle de Vézelay
  • This outstanding site was awarded the title of UNESCO World Heritage
  • See the pilgrims begin their long march towards St Jacques de Compostela, Vézelay being a starting point of the famous pilgrimage.
  • Find tranquility and serenity facing the mountains of Morvan from the panoramic terrace located at the top of the “eternal hill”.
  • Witness the splendid marriage between Gothic and Romanesque architecture inside the basilica.
  • Take a walk in the surrounding village, ranked among the “most beautiful villages in France”.

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