The old cloister founded by Robert d'Arbrissel, at the beginning of the 12th century, is a cultural and architectural heritage. The church is a fine example of the Romanesque style of Poitiers. Monasteries for the men and women of Lencloître came under the authority of the Abbey of Fontevraud; the monks and nuns were subject to the authority of Abbess of the Royal Abbey built in the Saumur area.
The image and wealth of the Order of Fontevraud, combined with the fertile Envigne Valley, promoted the development of agriculture. In the 13th century, the monastic buildings and the neighbouring village became thriving market places. These markets became weekly in the 16th century. The monastery experienced a particularly brilliant period in the 17th century, under the enlightened direction of Antoinette d’Orléans. In 1612, the inhabitants of the neighbouring village asked her to intercede with King Louis XIII so that four annual fairs could be held. They were set by Royal Edict and in exchange, the nuns collected fees. From 1780, the annual calendar of fairs changed and they more than doubled from 4 to 9. Eventually, by the 19th century, there were 12 per year and they were held on the first Monday of each month.
The Municipality of Lencloître was created during the French Revolution and the village was christened with the name that was used at the time for the little village and its monastery.
From the church to the rose garden: a remarkable heritage complex
The seat of the priory founded at the beginning of the 12th century, Lencloître Church has undergone few transformations. When it became parochial, it retained its original layout, characteristic of the Romanesque buildings of Poitiers : a nave with collaterals, a transept and an apse choir framed by two absidioles. The church is as well preserved inside as outside : portal, cornices, belfry, nave and apses all have, among other things, preserved columns, colonnettes, modillions and sculpted capitals. Even though its Western façade was reworked during the period between the 15th and 16th centuries, the Lencloître Church remains an elegant, harmonious and richly decorated building. It also has a collection of paintings, including a magnificent Flemish-inspired triptych of the 16th century.
Around the church, not far from the men's monastery, buildings for the nuns and the house of the prioress who directed the community were constructed. The portal of the pilgrims’ hospice, crowned with a lion, is still visible today. Not far from there, the round dovecote (17th century) has 1,200 nests and a turntable ladder in perfect condition. The cloister garden and the rose garden complete the complex.