Hautecombe Abbey

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Hautecombe Abbey on the shores of the Lac du Bourget,
Hautecombe Abbey on the shores of the Lac du Bourget,

Hautecombe Abbey (Latin Altacumba, Altæcumbæum) is a former Cistercian monastery, later a Benedictine monastery, in Saint-Pierre-de-Curtille near Aix-les-Bains in Savoy, France. For centuries it was the burial place of the members of the House of Savoy. It is visited by 150,000 tourists yearly.

History[edit]

The origins of Hautecombe lie in a religious community which was founded about 1101 in a narrow valley (or combe) near Lake Bourget by hermits from Aulps Abbey, near Lake Geneva. In about 1125 it was transferred to a site on the north-western shore of the lake under Mont du Chat, which had been granted to it by Amadeus, Count of Savoy, who is named as the founder; and shortly afterwards it accepted the Cistercian Rule from Clairvaux. The first abbot was Amadeus de Haute-Rive, afterwards Bishop of Lausanne. Two daughter-houses were founded from Hautecombe at an early date: Fossanova Abbey (afterwards called For Appio), in the diocese of Terracina in Italy, in 1135, and San Angelo de Petra, close to Constantinople, in 1214.

Abbey cloister.

It has sometimes been claimed, but as often disputed, that Pope Celestine IV and Pope Nicholas III were monks at Hautecombe.

Hautecombe was for centuries the burial-place of the Counts and Dukes of Savoy. Count Humbert III, known as "Blessed", and his wife Anne were interred there in the latter part of the 12th century; and about a century later Boniface of Savoy, Archbishop of Canterbury (1245–1270), son of Count Thomas I of Savoy, was buried in the sanctuary of the abbey church. He had come out from England with King Edward I to accompany him in a crusade, but died at the castle of St. Helena in Savoy.

The abbot Anthony of Savoy, a son of Charles Emmanuel I, was also buried there in 1673.

Abbey Lighthouse

The abbey was restored (in a debased style) by one of the dukes about 1750, but it was secularized and sold in 1792, when the French entered Savoy, and was turned into a china-factory. King Charles Felix of Sardinia purchased the ruins in 1824, had the church re-constructed by the Piedmontese architect Ernest Melano in an exuberant Gothic-Romantic style, and restored it to the Cistercian Order. He and his queen, Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies, are buried in the Belley chapel, which forms a kind of vestibule to the church. Some 300 statues and many frescoes adorn the interior of the church, which is 66 m long, with a transept 26 m wide. Most of the tombs are little more than reproductions of the medieval monuments.

Abbey-church

The Cistercians re-settled the abbey from Turin, but the Italian monks soon left, and were replaced by others from Sénanque Abbey, who remained until about 1884. The premises were taken over by the Benedictines of Marseilles Priory in 1922, but in 1992 the monks left for Ganagobie Abbey in the Alpes de Haute Provence, and the buildings are now administered by the Communauté du Chemin-Neuf, an ecumenical and charismatic Roman Catholic group.

Sources[edit]

Coordinates: 45°45′10″N 5°50′22″E / 45.75278°N 5.83944°E / 45.75278; 5.83944