Fontgombault Abbey (Abbaye Notre-Dame de Fontgombault) is a Benedictine monastery of the Solesmes Congregation. In 1091 Pierre de l'Étoile founded a Benedictine monastery on the banks of the Creuse River, near the spring or fount of Gombaud. In the 12th and 13th centuries the abbey experienced vigorous growth and established twenty or so priories. In the 15th century the abbots of Fontgombault had numerous ponds excavated, as was also done at the abbeys of Saint-Cyran and Méobecq, thus contributing to fish husbandry in the Brenne region.
The abbey was sacked and laid waste by the Calvinists in 1569, and was not restored until the end of the 17th century, when Dom Andrieu accomplished the task. In 1741 however the Benedictine community, reduced to five members, was replaced by a community of Lazarists, who established a seminary here and used it as a center for missions in the region.
The buildings were partly destroyed during the French Revolution, when the monastery was nationalised and sold off. It was eventually bought back for religious uses by the Trappists in 1849, who succeeded in re-establishing it as a viable community by redeveloping its agriculture and setting up a kirsch distillery.
But in 1905 the Trappists were expelled from France under the Association Laws and the monastery was secularized and sold off for a second time. The purchaser was Louis Bonjean, who set up a button factory in the premises. At his death in 1914 the buildings were put to use as a military hospital for wounded soldiers of the Belgian army, which it remained until 1918. The Trappists who were expelled in 1905 went on to form the Monastery of Our Lady of Jordan, Oregon in the United States.
In 1948 the empty buildings were restored to the site's original purpose when 22 monks from Solesmes Abbey settled it afresh as a Benedictine community. It is now the most populous of Solesmes' foundations, with over a hundred monks, and has in its turn founded another three religious houses in France — Randol Abbey, (1971), Triors Abbey (1984) and Gaussan Priory (1994) — as well as Clear Creek Abbey (elevated from a priory in 2010) in the United States in 1999. Mass is celebrated in Latin using the traditional pre-Vatican II rite as in the 1962 Roman Missal.References:
The Château de Foix dominates the town of Foix. An important tourist site, it is known as a centre of the Cathars. Built on an older 7th-century fortification, the castle is known from 987. In 1002, it was mentioned in the will of Roger I, Count of Carcassonne, who bequeathed the fortress to his youngest child, Bernard. In effect, the family ruling over the region were installed here which allowed them to control access to the upper Ariège valley and to keep surveillance from this strategic point over the lower land, protected behind impregnable walls.
In 1034, the castle became capital of the County of Foix and played a decisive role in medieval military history. During the two following centuries, the castle was home to Counts with shining personalities who became the soul of the Occitan resistance during the crusade against the Albigensians. The county became a privileged refuge for persecuted Cathars.
The castle, often besieged (notably by Simon de Montfort in 1211 and 1212), resisted assault and was only taken once, in 1486, thanks to treachery during the war between two branches of the Foix family.
From the 14th century, the Counts of Foix spent less and less time in the uncomfortable castle, preferring the Governors' Palace. From 1479, the Counts of Foix became Kings of Navarre and the last of them, made Henri IV of France, annexed his Pyrrenean lands to France.
As seat of the Governor of the Foix region from the 15th century, the castle continued to ensure the defence of the area, notably during the Wars of Religion. Alone of all the castles in the region, it was exempted from the destruction orders of Richelieu (1632-1638).
Until the Revolution, the fortress remained a garrison. Its life was brightened with grand receptions for its governors, including the Count of Tréville, captain of musketeers under Louis XIII and Marshal Philippe Henri de Ségur, one of Louis XVI's ministers. The Round Tower, built in the 15th century, is the most recent, the two square towers having been built before the 11th century. They served as a political and civil prison for four centuries until 1862.
Since 1930, the castle has housed the collections of the Ariège départemental museum. Sections on prehistory, Gallo-Roman and mediaeval archaeology tell the history of Ariège from ancient times. Currently, the museum is rearranging exhibits to concentrate on the history of the castle site so as to recreate the life of Foix at the time of the Counts.