The abbey of Clairvaux is to the east of Troyes. It has changed purposes several times: from Cistercian abbey to prison and to tourist site. Several monks arrived in 1115 from the abbey of Cîteaux. They worked the land around a clearing in the forest and settled there with Saint Bernard. He developed the spirituality for the Cistercian order and his influence is still felt today. Clairvaux was an influential abbey up until the French Revolution in 1789 when the monks were forced to leave. The buildings were bought by an industrialist, and under Napoleon the abbey became the largest prison in France at the time. Today the site is both a prison and a tourist site. The oldest part is listed as a Historical Monument and is visited each year by many tourists. The prison is in the center of the monastic compound but the buildings are modern. Visits and cultural events are organized regularly with the agreement of the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Justice.
The festival “Shadows and Light” is a central event that each year invites artists with different musical styles, who are inspired by the duality of the site (monastic life and prison life). A composer sets up workshops for the prisoners whose work is then presented at the festival along with that of the professional musicians.