[Map of Fontevraud Abbey, created 2012, source: Wikimedia Commons]
So great was the attraction of both this new monastery and Robert’s preaching, that he ended up founding several other houses within the Order. He left Hersende as prioress and Petronilla of Chemillé, a widow and one of his early followers, as her assistant to oversee the construction and organization of the motherhouse. Before Robert died, he made Petronilla Abbess, stipulating that the Abbess should always be a woman who had been married, not a consecrated virgin, because such a woman would already have experience navigating the secular world .
[Fontevraud, photographed 2005, source: Wikimedia Commons]
*It has since restarted, but is not located within the Abbey. Additionally, there are no Fontevrist monks, only nuns.
Venarde, Bruce L., trans. Robert of Arbrissel: A Medieval Religious Life. Catholic University of America Press, 2003. [Note: This contains Robert of Arbrissel's two vitae. It can be found on Google Books here.]
Gold, Penny Schine. "Male/Female Cooperation: the Example of Fontevraud." In Distant Echoes: Medieval Religious Women, edited by John A. Nichols and Lilian Thomas Shank, 151-168. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1984.
McNamara Jo Ann. Sisters in Arms: Catholic Nuns Through Two MiIlennia. Harvard University Press, 1996. [Note: Can be found on Google Books here.]
Fontevraud Abbey - Wikipedia
Robert of Arbrissel - Wikipedia
Order and Abbey of Fontevraud - Catholic Encyclopedia