Abbaye de Clairvaux Monastery

Top choice in Champagne

Bernard de Clairvaux (1090–1153), nemesis of Abelard and preacher of the Second Crusade, founded this hugely influential Cistercian monastery in 1115. Since Napoléon's time, the complex has served as one of France's highest-security prisons. Several historic abbey buildings are open to the public. Tours take in 12th-century structures, built in the austere Cistercian tradition, but more interesting is the 18th-century Grand Cloître, where you can see collective ‘chicken coop’ cells (from the 1800s) and individual cells (used until 1971).

Past 'guests' have included Carlos the Jackal; two prisoners who staged a revolt here in 1971 were guillotined. For security reasons, visitors need to bring ID, mobile phones must be switched off and photography is prohibited.

The abbey is on D396, 8km south of Bayel and 6km north of A5 exit 23.

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