Founded at the beginning of the 9th century by Barnard, a former military officer under Charlemagne, Ambronay Abbaye was attached to the Rule of St Benedict. In the 11th century, it became a powerful religious center, receiving a total sovereignty from Pope Leon IX by a papal bull in 1051. During this period, the Abbaye’s influence extended over a large territory, with up to 44 parishes, 21 priories and 9 deaneries, attracting covetousness.
Ambronay was at the heart of the border battles between Dauphiné and Savoie between 1280 and 1355. A “château” was built, within the Abbaye’s own wall, with two medieval defensive towers hosting up to 15 bowmen. In the 15th century, in the aftermath of the war Jacques de Mauvoisin and Etienne de Morel gave a new lust to the abbey. However, the monks began to enjoy certain freedoms, moving away from communal living in houses built in the village. Following the reforms of Louis XIII, the Abbaye was attached to the Congregation of the Benedictines of Saint-Maur in 1651. A strict monastic life was restored with a strong emphasis on knowledge and teaching. The buildings were enlarged to the architecture we know today.
After the French Revolution, and the enforced departure of the monks, the abbey became the parish church. The former monastic buildings became in turn jail, barns, a nursing home, and in the 20th century military barracks, a school and social housing.
In the late 19th century, a politic of protection was implemented to save the buildings, starting with the church and the cloister. Created in 1980, Ambronay Early Music Festival was always intended to save parts of the Abbaye buildings left in disarray. Created by the Association Art et Musique, this project developed over the years into the Ambronay Centre culturel de rencontre with the support of Ain Department, that acquired progressively the buildings except for the abbey and the cloister that remain religious as the Parish church.
Bringing together a remarkable historic monument and a cultural project based around a music festival, Ambronay CCR is dedicated to artistic creativity, outreach programs and the development of young talents. Through its renowned Early Music festival, Ambronay CCR has developed an ambitious European programme to support the professional insertion of young artists . The center encourages participation by amateurs and public engagement with culture in a rich heritage setting. It also forges links between culture, tourism and economy, with the introduction of a business club and a conference centre, and manages its own record label, Ambronay Editions.