Hauterive Abbey

Hauterive Abbey is the oldest working Romanesque abbey. It is possible to visit the Romanesque church with its Gothic choir. Exceptional stalls provide seating for the monks.

The abbey's history began in 1131, at an isolated site, when a local nobleman donated his lands to build a monastery. The neighbouring feudal lords continued these donations, and the institution rapidly found itself with barns, vineyards, pastures and fields. At the mercy of the vagaries of religious and political life, the abbey experienced periods of prosperity and decline. In 1578, several buildings were destroyed by fire. The baroque convent buildings were rebuilt in the 18th century.

The government closed the monastery in 1848. The premises then became an agricultural school, followed by a teacher training college. The monastery was re-established in 1939, and is today home to around 20 Cistercian monks.

The church, built between 1150 and 1160, is a fine example of medieval architecture. It has a Romanesque structure and a Gothic choir (14th century). The 34 backrests of the 15th century oak stalls were sculpted by Antoine de Peney, alternating depictions of prophets and the apostles. Gothic stained-glass windows are particularly recognisable in the choir. The Frenchmen Jean Bazaine and Alfred Manessier designed the non-figurative contemporary windows. The abbey shop occupies magnificent vaulted premises.

Around 30 stone cutters worked on the decoration of the cloister. The Romanesque parts date from the foundation of the abbey, while the Gothic parts date from a later reconstruction. The cloister surrounds an attractive contemporary geometric garden. In the 12th and 13th centuries, the abbey was home to a major scriptorium (a workshop where monastic scribes worked before the invention of the printing press).

The name of the location (haut = high, rive = river bank) is a reminder that the abbey was built within a large meander of the Sarine, cut into an imposing cliff.
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