Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday, 19 July 2013


On our ourney northwards across Burgundy we entered the heartland of the Cistercian Order, and passed the sign for Citeaux itself. Further on, and near to the Gaullist shrine of Colombey les Deux Eglises we came to the sign for Clairvaux and decided to break our journey for lunch there.  

The village is quite pretty, and the monastic enclosure quite clearly defined by its perimeter wall, but the home of St Bernard is today a rather sad place for the pilgrim or historian.

 St Bernard of Clairvaux 

Image: fatherhollywood.blogspot.co.uk

Founded in 1115 on a site immediately to the west of the present enclosure the house expanded and produced agreat number of daughter foundations under the example and influence of its great abbot. In 1134/5 it moved to the present site, two decades before St Bernard died in 1153. The conventual buildings were nearly all replaced by the present complex in 1708 - as at Paray and cluny evidence once again of vitality amongst the monastics of the Ancien Regime, but following the revolution the abbey became a prison, which it remains to this day, and in 1808 the medieval  church was destroyed.

 Clairvaux before the eighteenth century rebuilding and post-revolution destruction


Although it is still a prison, there is a visitors centre in the Hostellerie des Dames, which dates from about 1500, and where we had lunch in a common room, with good information displays about the abbey on the walls. We did not have time, but one can pay and enter part of the prison - no cameras, mobile phones etc - and see the surviving cloisters.  

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