History of The Priory
1000 Years of History
The Priory, built in 1031, has played a pivotal role in the history
of Talloires. Religion first came to the shores of Lake Annecy in
the 9th century. In 866, King Lothair II, great grandson of
Charlemagne, gave Talloires to his wife Thiberge. She founded the
first religious community, the beginnings of the future monastery.
Documentation of the Monastery’s history began early in the 11th
century. In the Charter of 1018, Queen Ermengarde, wife of King
Rudolphe III of Bourgogne, gave Talloires and its surrounding lands
to the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Martin in Savigny near Lyon.
Germain, the first Prior of Talloires, was sent by the abbey shortly
thereafter to manage the donated site. Under Germain, the monastic
community erected a magnificent church which stood in front of the
present-day Priory. Consecrated in 1031, the church was rebuilt
after a fire in the 16th century.
During the Middle Ages, Talloires was a village governed by the law
of the Prior. At the top of the feudal hierarchy, the monastery
quickly acquired both wealth and territory. The Prior was the
principal landowner in a village whose agricultural activity
depended upon vineyards and the production of wine. The revenue from
the vineyards and various taxes was used by the monastic community
to establish several hospices and a school. In addition, the monks
stood at the Porte de l’Aumone, (which today exists as a small
platform outside the front wall surrounding the Priory) to
distribute provisions to religious pilgrims and to those in need.
The 14th century witnessed a transfer of monastic power. A line of
lay Priors, sons chosen from among the region's aristocratic
families, succeeded the religious line. Thus began a period of
decadence for the monastery of Talloires. In 1674, the monastery’s
independence from Savigny was established by Pope Clement VII. An
addition was added in 1681 to house the monks — it now now serves as
the Hotel de l’Abbaye.
The French Revolution put an end to an already decadent religious
order. Angry mobs destroyed the church, its vast treasures and the
historic records kept by the monks. The Priory today reflects the
various historical and architectural influences of its past.
However, the original uses of the rooms are difficult to determine
due to a lack of historical documentation.
On the ground floor is the “cave” with Romanesque arches made from
volcanic rock; it is the oldest part of the Priory dating from the
12th century. Another ground floor feature is the “meditation room”
which once contained a vaulted window that opened to the lake. The
room has two grain cupboards set in the wall, evidence that the room
may have once served as a stable.
MacJannet Hall on the second floor, where the Prior once held
meetings and administered justice, has a magnificent Savoyard
ceiling dating from the 15th century. The 17th century fireplace is
decorated with a crest of the Prior Charles Louis de Lances.
The front facade, restored in the 17th century by Louis de Lances,
is adorned with Corinthian columns and with a balustrade made of
sandstone, a material widely used in the region. The southwestern
side of the building houses twin bays with pointed arches once part
of the gothic chapel constructed by Cardinal de Brogny, first
Commendary Prior of the 14th century.