Terryl Kinder takes listeners back to the future of Pontigny Abbey

More than 50 pack her presentation in Nicolle Hall to hear about a benefactor's exciting hopes for French site where College's founding religious order has deep history

January 27, 2023
Faculty/staff report
tk vaults

Professor Terryl Kinder in the vaults at Pontigny Abbey in this file photo.

A warm and significant community occasion started the new semester on a positive note with connections to Saint Michael’s roots, scholarship, alumni and faculty.

Terryl N. Kinder, Distinguished Visiting Professor in Fine Arts, gave a slide presentation in Nicolle Hall on January 20, with more than 50 community members in attendance, even on a snowy evening to travel. Kinder’s research into the Edmundite archives at Saint Michael’s – as well as her knowledge of Pontigny’s history – were woven together in this presentation, sponsored by the Society of St Edmund, the Pontigny Society, and the Center for Global Engagement.

The speaker has lived and worked in Pontigny (Burgundy, France) for more than 30 years and published numerous articles and books on the abbey’s celebrated architecture, archeology, and land management. Since 2004 she has taught Ancient and Medieval Art at Saint Michael’s College and taken more than 200 students from the College to Pontigny for a summer course.  Many attending this recent talk had visited Pontigny as alumni of Edmundite Heritage trips sponsored by the College and Edmundites over recent decades. Kinder regularly hosts and greets such visitors at the abbey and her nearby home when they come.

A focus of Kinder’s talk was recent initiative affecting Pontigny abbey’s future by The François Schneider Foundation — founded in 2000 by its eponymous benefactor to help high school students pay for higher education (to date he has sponsored 1,580 young people, 70 percent of them female), and to support the diversity of artistic projects for the 21st century. Pontigny is the second of four sites in France devoted to art works made of, or representing, the four elements, Kinder said.

Pontigny aerial

The land surrounding Pontigny abbey to be developed for artistic projects, agriculture, tourism. Aerial photo credit: J-P Delor

The first, centered on any aspect of Water, is in Alsace (read about it at this link). In December 2022, 22 acres of former abbey property in Pontigny that once belonged to the Edmundites – including the cloister and monastic buildings (but not the church!) – were sold to this art collector with a vision for its development around the theme of Earth (the abbey was built on clay which is still used for bricks and roof tiles around the world), Kinder said.

An extinct volcano (Fire) and a former windmill (Air) will eventually complete this vision. The Pontigny project will be three-fold, Kinder told her Saint Michael’s audience: art, culture and heritage; hotel and restaurant; agricultural production, all based on sustainability and mentoring students. Residences for artists and contemporary art competitions will be held annually, and a number of works will become part of a permanent collection at Pontigny

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