The monastery of Fontevrault was founded by Blessed Robert of Arbrissel, at the close of the 11th century, on the confines of Anjou, Tours, and Poitou. It was a double monastery for monks and nuns, following a rule supplementary to that of Saint Benedict, and governed by an abbess. At the death of the founder in 1117, the order enjoyed great prosperity, but by the end of the 12th century the nuns were obliged to gain their livelihood by manual labor. When Mary of Brittany became abbess in 1457, she appointed a commission of religious of several orders to draw up a specific rule based on the rules of Saint Benedict, Saint Augustine, Blessed Robert, and the Acts of Visitations. Her successor, Anne of Orleans, re-established discipline in a number of priories and gained a victory over the rebellious religious at Fontevrault. This resulted in the admission of a great number of novices. Jeanne Baptiste de Bourbon finally brought peace to the order; in 1641 she secured royal confirmation of the reform and quashed the claims of the monks who sought to organize themselves independently of the abbess. In the 17th century the order comprised the provinces of France, Brittany, Gascony, and Auvergne, besides houses in Spain and England.
A Fontevrist school was opened at Chemille, 1803, a community was started, and the ancient rule was preserved. By 1849 there were three houses of the revived congregation, which became subject to the ordinary. There were no Fontevrist monks.