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Tonneins
€380,000
Property features
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  • 5 habitable rooms
  • 2000 square meters of living space
Property description
On the banks of the river Lot in the Aquitaine region, a listed Benedictine abbey awaiting major restoration works - ref 362271
The little town grew up around the abbey, alongside the river Lot, where beaches have been created. It has a wealth of superb half-timbered, medieval houses. Local shops and a market provide daily necessities. Agen, with its TGV train station, its airport and its slip roads for the A62 motorway, is but 30 minutes away. The region abounds in a wide variety of delightful scenery including the Quercy hills, the nearby Dordogne river and the fertile Garonne Valley.
This property, standing on the edge of the river Lot in a dominant position, was built at the beginning of the 11th century. Fought over during the battles that laid waste to the Aquitaine region, it was destroyed by the Cathars in the 13th century and again by the protestants in the 16th century.
At this time, it was seized by the royal army and then became a part of French history when Henry IV gave part of its revenues to the Order of Lateran. It is also since this time that each president of the French Republic is given the title “Honorary Canon of Lateran”.
Restored in the 17th century, it was sold as National Property at the time of the French Revolution. Having become a sixth form college, it was purchased in the 1960’s by private individuals, before gradually falling into disrepair.

All the buildings

The high abbey walls border a square which contains the church, to which it was attached. It is accessed via two sets of large wrought iron gates. Those nearest the church open, via a vaulted passageway, into the courtyard of a cloister which has been preserved. This is part of the monastic enclosure: two galleries form an L-shape, the tall, small-brick arcades of which, with their stone keystones, border an enclosed garden. The wall of the adjacent church forms the third side. The fourth side, no longer in existence, could be evoked by arches covered in climbing plants. Only the well is left of the central garden, where vegetation has run rife. The paving of one of the cloister’s two galleries still comprises its old terracotta tiles; the other has been covered with cement.

The reception building

A large wing, set at right angles to the west side of the abbey, was no doubt constructed on older foundations.
The requirements of current times have led to this building being used for commercial purposes, now a reception building, it sells souvenirs, entrance tickets, etc. It takes up the entire surface area of the ground floor which opens on to the garden via three French windows and two windows. A wooden stairway goes up to the first floor which, spanning the same surface area, is laid out as a large open space.

The wing standing at right angles to the river Lot

Two large, through rooms, with panelled ceilings, open on to the parklands, overlooking the square. The alleyway, which creates a view, is still marked by four large plane trees.
On this side, a covered area, with brick and stone arcades as well as terracotta paving, runs the full length of the building. A round tower at the end marks the corner with the wing overlooking the river Lot.
Above the roof of this covered area, the facade of the house and its six stone-framed windows stand out from the old brick buildings.

The wing standing parallel to the river Lot

Facing the entrance, this wing opens via old, double wooden doors into two rooms, said to be state rooms of the abbey house: the first still has its panelling with cymatium moulding, a tall marble fireplace with a trumeau and a full wall, lined with cupboards. It has wide strip parquet flooring and a plaster ceiling. A passageway and a few steps lead to the second, bigger and more richly decorated room, with a wide marble fireplace featuring a trumeau topped with a coat-of-arms. Here the parquet flooring is laid in a Versailles pattern. A door in the west corner opens on to a landing with a wooden stairway going up to the rooms on the floor above.

The cellars

Laid out under the two wings of the cloister, the cellars currently represent the oldest section of the abbey: listed medieval substructures. The first cellar, under the entrance wing, comprises two small-brick, vaulted rooms with stone cross springers. It has a packed mud floor. It used to house the monks’ wine-press. Both rooms are remarkably well preserved, as is the vaulted room, under the wing set at right angles.
Directly under the tower, dating from the same period, a few steps go down to another, deeper cellar, in the midst of which is a round well. This underground refuge is perhaps connected to passageways just waiting to be discovered.



Our opinion
The saving of monastic edifices that played a major role in French history is in itself an exciting objective. Furthermore, the future vocation of the buildings will prove to be an equally exciting project, given the intrinsic cultural value of the premises. A multitude of possibilities is available to those who take up the gauntlet of such major works, transforming a challenge into reality and creating a convalescent or retirement home in a region revered by its poets (Théophile-de-Viau), an international music centre, as was the case for many a year, or a personal project for old stone enthusiasts. We would very much like to see new life breathed into this abbey. The enthusiastic and motivated inhabitants of the village are ready to provide a maximum of support.
Tonneins, France
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