Bonneval Abbey was founded as a monastery of Cistercian monks in Le Cayrol. Bonneval Abbey was founded in 1147 by Cistercian monks from Mazan Abbey, in Rouergue. Its name means 'good valley', a typical Cistercian name. Bonneval quickly became a rich and powerful abbey, owning extensive estates throughout the country.

In the mid-14th century it suffered from the Black Death and underwent much damage and loss during the Hundred Years' War, as the Rouergue was given to the English in 1360 by the Treaty of Brétigny. Towns and abbeys were looted, and Bonneval, although fortified, was unable to keep out the English troops and the bands of marauding French bandits.

A long period of decadence followed. Nevertheless, Bonneval was chosen in the 17th century to educate novices from every Cistercian abbey in southwest France. During the French Revolution, in 1791, the 13 remaining monks had to leave. The abbey and its goods were sold off, and the buildings subsequently quarried for stone.

In 1875, Trappist nuns came to rebuild the abbey. They also opened a chocolate factory, and installed a turbine on the river to produce electricity. In 1902, they founded what is now known as Bon-Conseil Abbey, in Quebec, Canada.

Today, the community at Bonneval consists of 30 nuns. They still produce a well-known chocolate, but above all they endeavour to fulfill their vocation of prayer.

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Founded: 1147
Category: Religious sites in France
Historical period: Birth of Capetian dynasty (France)

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