The association

The Abbaye aux Dames, cité musicale

A thousand-year influence

The Abbaye aux Dames, the first women’s abbey in Saintonge, was founded in 1047.
These powerful, independent dames carried crosiers, struck money and had a taste for enterprise. For a thousand years, people have thought, slept, undertaken business, studied and prayed at the abbey.

A creative spirit

Now a musical centre or cité musicale, it perpetuates its creative civic movement.


Music is the heart of the abbey, with:

  • the Festival de Saintes, a fantastic event dedicated to early music that always prominently features Bach,
  • the Jeune Orchestre de l’Abbaye (JOA), a springboard for the music stage that provides young musicians from all over the world with a unique training in period instruments,
  • Musicaventure, a connected, sensory exploration of the site,
  • concerts all year round,
  • long-term cultural outreach activities.

The abbey is also hospitable, welcoming visitors to its intentionally understated hotel.
The Abboutique promotes local produce and regional literary and musical works.
With its diverse audiences, long-term cultural outreach programme and the use of some of the site as state-rented lodgings and artists’ residences, the Abbaye aux Dames takes an active part in the life of Saintes residents. Propitious to exchanges and open to all, the abbey invites you to enjoy the emotions and pleasure of music with complete simplicity and authenticity.
These activities, which complement and mutually enrich one another, make the Abbaye aux Dames a unique musical ecosystem.

The Association Abbaye aux Dames, la cité musicale is a member of the network of Heritage Sites for Culture (Centres culturels de rencontre or CCR in French).



Representatives of the board of partner members

Jean-Yves HOCHER, President (qualified individual)

Pascal DUC (representative of the tourist office of Saintes and Saintonge)

Father Guillaume SALIN (representative of the parish)

Michel LOMBARDI (representative of the association of Belle-Rive inhabitants)

Vincent ROBERT (representative of the APMAC)

Catherine TERCINIER (representative of the CCI Rochefort et Saintonge)


Representatives of the board of subscribing members



Jean-Pierre GIRARD

Christopher HANCOCK


Jean-François REBOUX


Jean-Yves HOCHER, president

Jean-François REBOUX, vice-president

Vincent ROBERT, secretary

Gilles MERLET, treasurer

Pascal DUC, member of the board of partner members

Philippe Herreweghe, conductor, creator and leader of the Collegium Vocale Gent and Orchestre des Champs-Élysées

Jean-Paul Cluzel, Inspector-General of Finance, Chairperson of the Grand Palais and the Réunion des musées nationaux (“Union of national museums”)

Alain Baraton, head gardener of the gardens of Versailles, journalist, author

Pierre Brunel, honorary professor of comparative literature at the Sorbonne, author and musicologist

Olivier Cazenave, councillor, maître at the Cour des comptes (“revenue court”), President of the Centre du livre et de la lecture (“Centre of books and reading”), President of Music and Mixed Race Literature

Jean Chapelot, archaeologist, professor at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS, or “School of advanced studies in social sciences”) and research director at the CNRS, France’s National Centre for Scientific Research

Madeleine Chapsal, author and novelist

Claude Dagens, bishop of Angoulême, theologist and author, member of the Académie française

Claire Gibault, conductor, former member of the European Parliament

Jean-Claude Guillebaud, editor, journalist, author, President of the Centre François Mauriac de Malagar

Anne Marie Guillemard, French sociologist, professor emerita at the Université Paris Descartes

Josyane Savigneau, journalist for Le Monde, author

Richard Texier, sculptor, President of the Prix des Mouettes (“Seagull Prize”)

Aussi à l'Abbaye