fortifications

Period: gothic

The site of Saint-Jean-des-Vignes included not only the church and inner claustral buildings, but also comprised the larger zone enclosed by the fortification walls. Gardens, vineyards and courtyard areas were all a feature of the medieval and early modern site.

Many monasteries were fortified in the Middle Ages, but few of these fortifications survive. The walled precinct at Saint-Jean, which remains intact virtually in its entirety, is thus a rare example of a widespread medieval practice. Originally, the precinct included three major towers and seven small turrets, a fortified entry gate with a pont-levis, and more than a kilometer of precinct wall. The Barbaran view and the Lejeune plan show a moat at the western end of the site. Its existence has been confirmed archaeologically in the area of the entry gate. This fortified ensemble was constructed during the Hundred Years' War. According to the abbey obituary, a donation of a thousand florins made by Jean Guyard de Monteny around 1360 provided the funding necessary to erect the walls and towers. From the fourteenth century, the abbey of Saint-Jean was thus entered through the fortified gatehouse to the northwest of the church façade, giving an initially diagonal view of the abbey. The abbey was garrisoned briefly in the early fifteenth century, giving the fortifications functional use at the time. In the seventeenth century, the gatehouse area was transformed into the ceremonial entryway that is depicted in the Barbaran engraving. Significant parts of both construction phases survive behind the modern visitors' office on the site.