The Royal Monastery of Brou, a memorial to love !
The Monastère Royal de Brou at Bourg-en-Bresse is a real architectural gem which was voted “France’s Favourite Monument” in 2014 ! This Flamboyant Gothic treasure was built in the early 16th century at the request of Margaret of Austria and comprises a church and three cloisters. It also houses a Fine Arts Museum. There is a lot to see and guided tours are available if you wish. A great place for a family outing !
But first of all let’s talk about Margaret of Austria. She was born in 1480, the daughter of Maximilian of Austria and Mary of Burgundy, and from a very young age she was the object of several alliances. At scarcely two years old under the Treaty of Arras she was promised to the Dauphin of France, the future Charles VIII. The engagement took place on 23 June 1483, but 8 years later the Dauphin undertook to conquer other countries and on 6 December he married Anne of Brittany. Margaret returned to the Habsburgs, but not for long as she was married at the age of 17 to the Infant of Spain. Six months later she was widowed and once again her father, Maximilian, used her as a political pawn. This time he married her to the Duke of Savoy, Philibert the Good, but in September 1504 she was widowed yet again. It was at this point that Margaret decided to build a convent at Brou where her late husband, her mother-in-law and she herself would be buried.
The church was consecrated on 22 March 1537. Margaret, who ruled at Mechelen as Regent of the Netherlands, had never had time to visit the site before dying of a gangrenous leg in 1530. Nevertheless, everything had been thought of to enable her to live at Brou. The new visitor trail takes you from the church to Margaret’s apartments and onto a rich collection of paintings. In the church don’t miss the filigree-stone rood screen, which bears the entwined initials of Margaret of Austria and her late husband Philibert the Good, and the three newly-restored recumbent statues as well as the wonderful altarpiece featuring the Seven Joys of Mary. In Margaret’s apartments, a hologram of the Regent herself recounts her life story and her love of art.