Abbaye de VilleneuveAt the beginning of the 18th century, in an agitated France where man built and destroyed, the incertitude affected not only the underprivileged but also the better off. The only possible refuge was a belief in God. In the Nantes region, near Machecoul, the monks of Buzay abbey rapidly increased their wealth through donations from neighbouring lords. Buzay’s distance from Villeneuve created a practical problem for devotees, so Duchess Constance of Brittany, an important person in the region, proposed the creation of an abbey in Villeneuve, no doubt in order to redeem her misdeeds and purify her soul as well as those of her ancestors.

Begun in 1201; the construction of the Abbey was long due to the infringement of Cistercian rules, it was not until 1223 that they could celebrate the consecration of Villeneuve by the Breton authorities. Villeneuve experienced a long period of prosperity, welcoming both the rich who wished to be buried in a sacred spot and the poor who came to collect alms. However the monks’ daily life was strict and respectful of religious rites: they slept on hard slabs, rose at 2am, spent 8hrs a day in church, ate neither fish nor meat, and worked the fields.

In the late 18th Century, Abbots were replaced by commendatories, priests or otherwise, appointed by royal favor, and Villeneuve began its decline. The commendatories collected half the income, the rest was shared amongst the monks who were now considered as common peasants. The discouraged monks gradually left the Abbey which was then acquired by General Jean d’Estrée. This rich landowner demolished it then renovated it. During the revolution he was expelled from the Abbey by the Vendeans. Villeneuve was transformed into a war camp.

After the revolution, Jean d’Estrée and his descendants returned and resumed the construction of a castle in Villeneuve.

Prominent families from Nantes followed until 1974, the date when further transformations were made to Villeneuve. It became a quality hotel.