I remember debating, long ago, whether I should even bother going to Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud. It was a bit of a haul from my flat in Amboise in 2019. A train, then a bus. Almost six hours for 50km of travel. However, something kept nudging me. Spend the night in the former abbey. Walk the grounds at midnight. Remain in silence, as the moniales once did, if I chose.
Three years and two visits later, I cannot believe I ever doubted. Fontevraud Abbey is one of my most sacred pilgrimages which I am sure I will do many more times in my life. Not just because it is the sacred seat of the Sibylline in The Sibylline Chronicles. It is my sacred seat. It calls me home.
Fontevraud Abbey and Woman On The Wall
The entire third act of Woman On The Wall is set at Fontevraud during its period as one of the most notorious prisons in France. Juxtaposing the magic and mystery of the Sibylline with the harsh realities of prison has always thrilled me as a novelist. Being at Fontevraud again to experience those clear dichotomies is remarkable.
One of the most exciting parts of returning is the chance to actually see the Roman kitchens for myself. These were an archeological restoration when I was here in 2019. Seeing the kitchens for myself was super satisfying to confirm that my research had depicted them properly and incredible to actually consider Marie right there with me. It also turns out that there is a door at the back leading, well, somewhere.
I spent three days at Fontevraud this time, and took the opportunity to experience the sacred hours of dawn and midnight at the abbey. To walk the grounds at these moments, just me and the absolute peacefulness of this place, is illumination.
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