L'abbaye de Romainmôtier. Foto/Photo: TES

The Romainmôtier Monastery

The village of Romainmôtier (canton of Vaud) offers an exceptional cultural landscape. The abbey church of Romainmôtier is a marvel of Romanesque and Gothic art.

Around 450, the monk Romanus founded a monastery on the site of today’s Romainmôtier. Sources are lacking until the mid-8th century. Only the monk Bobbio (600-659) mentions the monastery in his Vita on the Irish monk Columban (540-615).

Pope Stephen II (pope from 752 to 757), on his way to the Frankish king Peppin (714-768), stopped at Romainmôtier and placed the monastery under Rome’s direct authority and protection.

In 928 or 929, the monastery was transferred to the abbey of Cluny (founded in 910. The 11th to 13th centuries were marked by continuous land expansion and the foundation of small priories on distant estates controlled by the abbey.

The Romanesque church’s predecessors were two smaller hall churches with an apse. The takeover of Cluny prompted significant renovations, which took place in several phases.

The main construction phases took place under the supervision of the abbot Odilo (abbot of Cluny 993-1048) and were modelled on the second building of the mother church Cluny II (Cluny III was built between 1088-1130). The church was extended on the west side a few years after its construction. The first Gothic building, the small portal to the west, dates from the mid-13th century.

Due to the Reformation in 1537 (after Bern’s occupation), many monastery buildings were demolished. Only the church and the cruciform chapel remained.

The various stages of construction are still visible on the outside. The exterior walls are structured with pilaster mouldings and blind arcades typical of the Romanesque period. However, the north facade of the transept is the only entirely preserved Romanesque part.

The west facade is hidden from view by the mighty structure of the church from the third quarter of the 11th century. The rectangular Gothic choir forms the eastern end.
The richly decorated interior with capitals with knobs, leaves and palms, mythical animals, relief bands with rosettes, lily flowers and vines, barrel vaults, arches and columns, archivolts, murals, sculptures, has remained intact since the 13th century.

The documentary “Romainmôtier Revisité” is a journey back to the foundation of one of Switzerland’s oldest monasteries and churches.

(Source: Philippe Jaton, Die ehemalige Klosterkirche Romainmôtier (Bern 2007): Klaus Kissling, Romainmôtier historique, Notre histoire, October 2015).