Aubazine is roughly two hours from our house in the hills of the Auvergne. It is the site of a splendid 12th-century Cistercian abbey, which was founded by Etienne de Vielzot (St. Etienne) in 1135. By the XVIIth century, the abbey had about 300 members, but by the time of the French Revolution, the number had dwindled and there were only a few monks left.
By the XIX century, the sisters of the Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Mary ran an orphanage in the monastery attached to the abbey. In February 1895, Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel and her two sisters were brought to the orphanage by their father, upon the death of their mother. Coco was just 11 years old. The future fashion designer stayed in Aubazine for six years, during which she lead a rather austere life. Her time in the abbey had a profound impact on her life and on her designs. It is said that the logo for her company, two interlacing Cs, was inspired by the intricate designs of the abbey's glass window panes, and that the patterns in the stone floors were recreated in her jewelry designs.
Though the abbey is definitely worth a visit, Aubazine itself, the small town that grew around around the Abbey over the centuries, is quite charming as well.