a 12th century abbey of the Bernardin Order in Burgundy
The Lieu-Dieu Abbey is at the bottom of a valley, out of sight of onlookers, standing like an islet surrounded by dry-stone ramparts in a verdant setting. The village of Marey-les-Fussey, renowned for its 11th century Romanesque church, its vine-covered hillsides, its truffle beds, its woods and its meadows, is 15 minutes from Beaune and 10 minutes from the little town of Nuits-Saint-Georges, where the “Great Wine Route”, commonly known as Burgundy’s “Champs-Elysées”, begins. Although classified as one of the “Climates of Burgundy” by UNESCO since 2015 and reached via the A6 motorway from Paris, Lyon and Geneva in 2 hours, the little town of Nuits-Saint-Georges still has all of its authenticity, its charm and its tranquillity. Its train station has 20-minute links to Beaune and Dijon, both on the TGV train line. Its aerodrome is open to civil aircraft.
The Abbey and its history
Just after Tart Abbey near Dijon, the Bernardine nuns founded their second abbey on the site of a Gallic settlement, near a spring dubbed “Lieu-Dieu”, under the protection of the Seigneury of Vergy in 1127. Alix-de-Vergy, having become Duchess of Burgundy through her marriage to Eudes III in 1199 and then Regent until her son, Hugues IV, came of age, took over protection of the community of some twenty nuns, all from the nobility. Courtesy of the so-called miraculous spring, the nuns cultivated hemp and willow. They also produced a little wine with the fruit from their vines. Constantly being pillaged and destroyed by fire, a section of the abbey was rebuilt in 1567. In 1636, the nuns took permanent refuge in Beaune and founded their new nunnery next to the current “Rempart des Dames”, giving the name of the “Tour des Dames” to one of the bastions of the town. Having become a farm, the Lieu-Dieu Abbey was again destroyed by fire in 1755 and was then sold as national property in 1791. Completely dismantled, there is nothing left of the gothic Sainte-Marie church, constructed around 1225. The dovecote, the nuns’ quarters and the cloister are no longer referred to in 1833.
Purchased in 1881 by a banker and then abandoned once again in the 1960’s during the rural exodus, the abbey was given a new lease on life by its current owners in 1981. Filled with enthusiasm for this excellent example of Burgundy character, they were to protect the buildings as best they could.
The south-facing house, covered with climbing roses and wisteria, follows the natural lie of the land. The old section, known as the chaplain’s home, is accessed via a little, single, glazed door, opening directly into a kitchen. Terracotta floor tiles, a French ceiling, two south-facing windows and a French window on the north side opening on to a walled garden, with an unobstructed view over the valley, the meadows and the woods. Near to the entrance, a stone alcove, with a mirror, bears witness to a door no longer in existence. A large, central stone fireplace, with a door leading directly to the cellar. The kitchen section is open. A door provides access to a bedroom, looking out over the garden through a French window. Terracotta floor tiles and a French ceiling. A bathroom, with a toilet, laid out in the old chapel, with an east-facing window. A fully-glazed door gives a glimpse of a little spiral stone stairway that goes upstairs.
Via the bedroom in the chaplain’s home, the spiral stairway leads to a bedroom, with a French window opening on to a little wrought iron balcony. View over the garden and the woods. Terracotta floor tiles, a French ceiling and a large, condemned, stone fireplace, housing a small, cast iron, wood-burning stove, connected to the flue. A bathroom, with a toilet and an east-facing window. A door in the bedroom opens on to a landing which is also reached via a large, outdoor, stone stairway, also providing access to the living space. A very steep, wooden stairway goes up from this landing to a dormitory under the slopes of the roof, featuring skylights. Access via a trapdoor. The landing also leads to an open-plan kitchen and lounge. Three south-facing windows. The window, looking out over the valley, is framed with a fresco featuring floral motifs created by Thierry-Bosquet in 1983, this Belgian painter was renowned for his opera stage sets. A large, condemned, stone fireplace, with a plain, hanging closed-hearth fire. Terracotta floor tiles and a plain beam system. A door opens into a large, adjoining bedroom-lounge on a lower level. Floorboards. A north-facing window and a gothic window on the south side. Adjoining, a door opens on to a landing that can also be reached via an outdoor flight of seven stone steps. This is the third entrance to the house, with an access ramp paved with small stone tiles under the lush foliage of old rose bushes. Opposite the door, a bathroom on the north side. Access to a kitchen-living room, with a condemned fireplace, housing a wood-burning stove, connected to the flue. A south-facing window, a north-facing window and a gothic-shaped French window leading to a shady terrace on a lower level. The entrance houses an L-shaped, wooden stairway going to the upper floor.
On the first landing, a shower room and a toilet. On the second landing, two large bedrooms, with sloping ceilings, facing one another. Plain carpet, exposed beams and lighting via skylights on both sides.
In the left-hand section of the house, on the garden level, a room with a bread oven.
In the centre of the house, a door opens on to a flight of seven steps that leads to two vaulted stone cellars. Direct access from the first cellar to the chaplain’s home via the door in the fireplace.
A south-facing leisure area borders the full length of the house, with a stone paved terrace in the shade of a catalpa tree. Small stone pathways make it easy to move between the barn and the house. A lawn bordered with irises and peonies, a small fountain with a pond, a large willow and a watercress bed, fed by the overflow from the spring flowing directly into the Lieu-Dieu stream meandering through the valley.
Opposite the access lane, a tall, vast, dressed stone barn, partially covered with ochre rendering. Above the facade of the porch, the nuns’ coat-of-arms. Three stone buttresses appear to support the building. Between two of the buttresses, a wooden dovecote. Two small sheds. A small stable and a greenhouse are installed under a section of the collapsed roof. Roof redone using interlocking tiles.
A large, robust, storeroom composed of original dressed stone. The first floor intended as a granary is no longer in existence. The wide entrance door faces another door providing access to the meadow on the south side. The interlocking tile roof was redone in the 1980’s. On the exterior of the east side, vestiges of old fireplaces bear witness to the site of the nuns’ dormitory which was destroyed.
Several orchards surround the property’s buildings always in the shelter of its walls.
Behind the old storeroom, a hornbeam coppice stand forms an islet of deciduous trees planted on a hillock. The old spring fed a one-metre-deep ditch all around, indicating that this space could originally perhaps have been an ice cave.
Behind the hornbeam coppice stand, a large meadow, inside the perimeter wall, bordered by fencing delimiting the protected perimeter of the spring tapping system.
A second meadow is located outside of the walls, alongside the property on the edge of the stream. It constitutes the limit with the woods surrounding the property and leaves an open space between the hill and the abbey.
Exuding discretion, humility and generosity, this abbey summarises the Burgundy character. The setting and the serenity of the premises provide strength as well as a rare and beneficial balance, the feeling that it is possible to be self-sufficient here. Although protected by its dry-stone walls, the view from the inside extends heedlessly over the surrounding landscapes. The potential of the buildings and the areas, both open and compartmented, creates multiple layout possibilities, reinforced by the presence of a second gateway on the west side of the perimeter wall. Here, body and mind can but blossom.
|Land registry surface area||16213 m2|
|Main building surface area||300 m2|
|Number of bedrooms||4|
|Outbuilding surface area||300 m2|
Anne Gros +33 1 42 84 80 85
NB: The above information is not only the result of our visit to the property; it is also based on information provided by the current owner. It is by no means comprehensive or strictly accurate especially where surface areas and construction dates are concerned. We cannot, therefore, be held liable for any misrepresentation.