19 December 2019
Located twenty minutes away from Niort, the Royal Abbey of Nieul-sur-l’Autise is a true piece of cultural heritage. In Vendée, at the edge of the Marais poitevin Regional Natural Park, it offers a calm and timeless place to visit.
The Abbey of Nieul-sur-l’Autise through the years
Museography of the Royal Abbey.
On each side of the road from Niort to Fontenay-le-Comte, we have the choice between two abbeys, two monuments that evoke the rich historical and religious heritage of the Marais poitevin. On one side, the Abbey of Maillezais is a millennial witness of the history of the Marsh and its development; on the other side, the Abbey of Nieul-sur-l’Autise, which is where we are going this time.
Built in 1068 at the request of the Lord of Vouvant, the Abbey is entrusted to canons from Saint-Augustin. The royal status and its prosperity came later with the venue of Alienor of Aquitaine, Queen of France, then of England. The monks of the Abbeys of Nieul, Maillezais, Saint-Maixent and l’Absie together shaped the Marais poitevin as we know it nowadays with its numerous navigable canals, perfect for a ride with your family or your friends. Ruined by the wars and abandoned after the French Revolution, the Abbey is sold as a “National Asset”. Listed as a Historical Monument by Prosper Mérimée in 1862, it was then bought by the Departmental Council of Vendée in 1968 and a renovation and enhancement project was then conducted. A new life for the Abbey.
An interactive visit for the entire family
The restored Abbey also received special attention on how it should be presented to the public. The museography is very modern and particularly interactive. Accessible all year long to the public, it shares its secrets along the visit, sometimes with the help of sounds that visitor can hear as they approach, sometimes with light shows and holograms. The immersive side of the visit brings a real added value to the Abbey; we are not just visiting buildings; we hear their stories. The visitor is not passive, he is at the heart of the life in the buildings. The great characters of the Abbey directly talk to us, tell us stories and explain us their life.
Royal Abbey of Nieul sur l’Autise and the House of Eleanor.
As the most recent enhanced part of the Abbey (in 2007), the Alienor House is set as an interactive cinema. This residency, built in the Empire style, leads the visitor to a virtual guided tour of the Abbey in the 12th century. Like a videogame, you will explore each part of the Abbey, faithfully reproduced with computer-generated pictures. You freely wander between the walls thanks to a joystick and discover the former monastic like and the different places of worship or life, like the Saint-Vincent abbey, the 12th-century cloister, the dormitory, the capitulary hall, the refectory, etc.).
When the season allows it, the small garden bordering the Abbey and the Alienor House offers us a variety of cultures. Plants, flowers, vegetables, they are all here as they were cultivated by the masters of the place long ago.
As a place filled with the History of the Poitevin Marsh, a visit of the Abbey of Nieul-sur-l’Autise is a perfect break during a bike trip, or just before discovering the Green Venice in boat.
There are many other sites to visit in the Marais poitevin like the House oh milling which is also located in Nieul sur l’Autise.