The history of the location
Les Entretiens de Royaumont is closely linked to the Royaumont Abbey, where the event takes place every year during the first weekend of December. This location embodies the spirit that Saint Louis wanted to bring at its inception in the 13th century.
The history and spirit of Les Entretiens de Royaumont takes its roots in the founding of the Abbey in 1228 by Louis IX, when he was only fourteen years old. The legend has it that the choice of location was reinforced by the fact that there used to be a spring there, where the young king would come to meditate and think about his decisions. The construction of the Abbey represents a very personal choice for Louis IX.
After the Abbey was built, Saint Louis spent many days in Royaumont, participating in the daily lives of the monks. He was very humble by nature, helping the monks meant a lot to him. He even asked to wash their feet and helped take care of the sick ones. As a result of this, part of the abbey became a hospital for the sick and disabled.
As time went on, the abbey witnessed many ups and downs. After reaching its peak in the 14th century, it suffered during the Hundred Year’s War. After the war, activities restarted until the French Revolution, during which the abbey was sold, becoming national property and transformed into a cotton factory.
One century later, in 1864, the convent became once again a religious site, before being bought by Jules Goüin in 1905. During World War I, his son opened the doors of the abbey to the French Red Cross to open a hospital for those wounded during the war. The medical staff, which was exclusively composed of women, took care of more than ten thousands wounded individuals by the end of the War.
In 1923, Henry Goüin, Jules’ grandson, decided to take charge of the abbey and its restauration. During the 1930s, he came to the conclusion to open the place to artists and philosophers. The sanctuary, forced to close its door during World War II, but reopened just after the war. It became the « International Cultural Centre of Royaumont ». Conceived as an alternative to traditional universities, the Centre focused itself on music and artistic expression in all its forms, including the expression of ideas.
Henry Goüin then transferred the property of the abbey to the « Fondation Royaumont for the advancement of Human studies », which he created in 1964, and is now in charge of managing the site.
The Royaumont Abbey has lived several lives: it had been a place of prayer, a factory, a hospital, and a place for artistic and intellectual expression. It is therefore a symbol of eclecticism: it’s in respect to that tradition that Entretiens de Royaumontcontinue to convey its spirit.
The creation of Les Entretiens de Royaumont
Following Henry Goüin disappearance in 1977, the abbey ceased all activities for many years.
This was until 2003, when Jérôme Chartier, who was mayor of Domont, created Les Entretiens de Royaumont. Inspired by Saint Louis’ vision, it represents an opportunity for open and peaceful discussions.
From their inception, Les Entretiens are endorsed by Jérôme Monod, adviser of former French President Jacques Chirac and Emmanuel d’André, president of the Trois Suisses and the Foundation Royaumont.
In its first year of its creation, Les Entretiens de Royaumont offered an exemplary event, which focused on the quality of discussions and themes chosen as its centerpiece. “Is France becoming weaker?” being the inaugural theme.
Several key dates have left their mark on Les Entretiens de Royaumont’s history:
In 2003, the success of the first edition.
In 2007, the Entretiens were suspended. Still, participants insisted that this event should not be abandoned, since it represents a necessary catalyst of the creation and expression of ideas.
In 2008, the Entretiens opened their doors once again, in a strong and decisive manner.
In 2013, the Entretiens de Varsovie are hosted by the French chamber of commerce and industry in Poland, marking the start of the Entretiens de Royaumont’s international events.
In 2014, Les Entretiens de Royaumont established an editorial board, assuring the neutrality of debates.
2020, year of the pandemic and the choice. Should the Entretiens go digital? Les Entretiens de Royaumont decided not to: there were not any conference this year. A difficult choice. They used the following two years to work on improving themselves, to come back stronger.
In 2021, the charity gala closing the conference is dedicated to two charities. One at the national scale, and the other at the international level. It was so successful that the charity gala will now take place outside the Entretiens, as an event of its own.
In 2022, Les Entretiens de Royaumont invest themselves even further into founding principles: bringing ideas to the light and allowing an open debate in good spirits. Gathering speakers and participants for free during three and a half days, during which new ideas are created, to help France progress and cope with the challenges of the 21st century.
Reconnecting with the Age of Enlightenment
Entretiens de Royaumont responsibilities: fuel debates, focus on original and varying points of view at the forefront, not shy away from opposing opinions, and to share and spread the French spirit throughout the world by supporting events that represent Entretiens de Royaumont.
Entretiens de Royaumont vision has always been about free and open dialogue, to avoid uniformity and echo chambers.
Today, Les Entretiens de Royaumont are seen as a contemporary place where thoughts can evolve, to help the growth of France as a nation where ideas are created.
Every year, during the first weekend of December, the Royaumont Abbey becomes a forum of discussion on important topics for France and the entire world. Decision makers, leaders, entrepreneurs, renown experts, all share their vision, while trying to create a debate and simultaneously stimulate the participants.
Three key principles guide this event: « Freedom of thought and speech », « In-depth reflection and analyses », « Respect of different opinions and a passion for contradicting point of views ».
Giving opportunities to women and men from varying backgrounds to exchange freely is a concept Les Entretiens de Royaumont take to heart. That way, new ideas are allowed to emerge in order to fuel public debate.