Monasteries in France

Mont Saint Michel Abbey

The first written text about an abbey dates from the 9th century. When Christianity expanded to this area, around the 4th century, Mont Tombe, the original name of Mont Saint Michel, was part of diocèse d’Avranches. By the middle of the 6th century, christianism had a stronger presence in the bay. By this time, Mont Tombe was populated by religious devots, hermits (probably some Celtic monks) resupplied by th ...
Founded: 709 AD | Location: Le Mont-Saint-Michel, France

Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés

The Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés was the burial place of Merovingian kings of Neustria. The Abbey was founded in the 6th century by Childebert I, the son of Clovis I (ruled 511–558). Under royal patronage the Abbey became one of the richest in France; it housed an important scriptorium in the 11th century and remained a center of intellectual life in the French Catholic church until it was disb ...
Founded: 1014 | Location: Paris, France

Fontevraud Abbey

Fontevraud Abbey is a religious building hosting a cultural centre since 1975, the Centre Culturel de l'Ouest. It was founded by the itinerant reforming preacher Robert of Arbrissel, who had just created a new order, the Order of Fontevrault. The first permanent structures were built between 1110 and 1119. Philippa of Toulouse persuaded her husband William IX, Duke of Aquitaine to grant Robert of Abrissel land in Norther ...
Founded: 1110 | Location: Fontevraud-l'Abbaye, France

Basilica of St. Denis

The Basilica of Saint Denis is a large medieval abbey church in a northern suburb of Paris. The building is of unique importance historically and architecturally, as its choir completed in 1144 is considered to be the first Gothic church. The site originated as a Gallo-Roman cemetery in late Roman times. The archeological remains still lie beneath the cathedral; the people buried there seem to have had a faith that was a ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Seine-Saint-Denis, France

Abbey of Saint-Étienne

The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine. Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etie ...
Founded: 1067 | Location: Caen, France

Jumièges Abbey Ruins

Jumièges Abbey was founded in 654 on a gift of forested land belonging to the royal fisc presented by Clovis II and his queen, Balthild, to the Frankish nobleman Filibertus, who had been the companion of Saints Ouen and Wandrille at the Merovingian court of Dagobert I. Under the second abbot, Saint Achard, Jumièges prospered and soon numbered nearly a thousand monks. In the 9th century it was pillaged and b ...
Founded: 654 AD | Location: Jumièges, France

Abbey of St. Vaast

The Abbey of St. Vaast was founded in 667. Saint Vedast, or Vaast (c. 453–540) was the first bishop of Arras and later also bishop of Cambrai, and was buried in the old cathedral at Arras. In 667 Saint Auburt, seventh bishop of Arras, began to build an abbey for Benedictine monks on the site of a little chapel which Saint Vedast had erected in honour of Saint Peter. Vedast"s relics were transferred to the new a ...
Founded: 667 AD | Location: Arras, France

Fontfroide Abbey

Fontfroide is a former Cistercian monastery in France, situated 15 kilometers south-west of Narbonne. It was founded in 1093 by the Viscount of Narbonne, but remained poor and obscure until in 1144 it affiliated itself to the Cistercian reform movement. Shortly afterwards the Count of Barcelona gave it the land in Spain that was to form the great Catalan monastery of Poblet, of which Fontfroide counts as the mother house, ...
Founded: 1093 | Location: Narbonne, France

Sainte Marie de La Tourette

Sainte Marie de La Tourette is a Dominican Order priory on a hillside near Lyon designed by architects Le Corbusier and Iannis Xenakis. It was constructed between 1956 and 1960. Le Corbusier"s design of the building began La Tourette is considered one of the most important buildings of the late Modernist style. In July 2016, the building and several other works by Le Corbusier were inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage ...
Founded: 1956-1960 | Location: Lyon, France

Beauport Abbey Ruins

Beauport Abbey was founded by Alain I of Avaugour in 1202. The heyday of abbey was in the 13-14th centuries and the late 17th century. It was closed down and destroyed during the Great Revolution in 1790. The abbey was sold as private property in 1797 and later to the community of Kérity. The restoration began in 1992 and today it is one of the most important attractions in Brittany. The different buildings constructed ...
Founded: 1202 | Location: Paimpol, France

Fort Saint-André

The treaty of Meaux-Paris, signed in 1229 at the end of the Albigensian Crusade, handed the French crown land to the west of the Rhone from Pont-Saint-Esprit to the Mediterranean and a joint interest in the city of Avignon. In 1290 the French king, Philip IV, ceded his claim to Avignon to his father's cousin, Charles II of Naples who was the Count of Provence through his marriage to Beatrice of Provence. The Benedictine ...
Founded: | Location: Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, France

Abbey of Saint-Germain d'Auxerre

The Abbey of Saint-Germain d"Auxerre was a Benedictine monastery dedicated to its founder Saint Germain of Auxerre, the bishop of Auxerre, who died in 448. The abbey reached the apex of its cultural importance during the Carolingian era; the source for its early history is an account of the Miracula Sancti Germani Episcopi Autissiodorensis ('Miracles of Saint Germain, Bishop of Auxerre') written before ca. 880. The earlie ...
Founded: 9th century | Location: Auxerre, France

Cimiez Monastery

Cimiez Monastery and church that have been used by the Franciscan monks since the 1546. The church houses the Pietà, Crucifixion and Deposition, by the Italian medieval artist Ludovico Brea. On display are also more than 300 documents and works of art from the 15th to 18th centuries. Buried in the cemetery near the monastery are the painters Henri Matisse and Raoul Dufy as well as the winner of the 1937 Nobel ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Nice, France

Montmajour Abbey

Montmajour Abbey was a fortified Benedictine monastery built between the 10th and 18th centuries. Until the late Middle Ages, Montmajour was an island, 43 meters above the surrounding terrain, protected by marshes and accessible only by boat. As early as the 3rd millennium BC the island was used as a cemetery, with individual graves carved into the rock. In the 9th and 10th centuries the island also served as a sanctuary ...
Founded: 963 AD | Location: Arles, France

Abbey Church of Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe

The Romanesque Abbey church was constructed in the mid-11th century and contains many beautiful 11th- and 12th-century murals which are still in a remarkable state of preservation. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983. The cruciform church carries a square tower over its crossing. The transept was built first, then the choir with its ambulatory with five radial chapels in the polygonal apse. In the next bu ...
Founded: c. 1050 | Location: Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe, France

Abbey of Saint-Gilles

The Abbey of Saint-Gilles is included in the UNESCO Heritage List, as part of the World Heritage Sites of the Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France. According to the legend, it was founded in the 7th century by saint Giles, over lands which had been given him by the Visigoth King Wamba after he had involuntarily wounded the saint during a hunt. The monastery was initially dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul: however, ...
Founded: 7th century | Location: Saint-Gilles, France

Le Thoronet Abbey

Le Thoronet Abbey, sited between the towns of Draguignan and Brignoles, is one of the best examples of the spirit of the Cistercian order. Even the acoustics of the church imposed a certain discipline upon the monks; because of the stone walls, which created a long echo, the monks were forced to sing slowly and perfectly together. The monks move from Floriéges to Le Thoronet around 1176 and founded a new monastery t ...
Founded: 1176 | Location: Le Thoronet, France

Royaumont Abbey

Royaumont Abbey is a former Cistercian abbey built between 1228 and 1235 with the support of Louis IX. Several members of the French Royal family were buried here (instead of Saint Denis Basilica), for example, three children and two grandchildren of Louis IX. The abbey was dissolved in 1791 during the French Revolution and the stones were partly used to build a factory. However, the sacristy, cloister, and refectory rem ...
Founded: 1228-1235 | Location: Asnières-sur-Oise, France

Abbey of Saint-Georges

Saint-Georges de Boscherville Abbey is a former Benedictine abbey. It was founded in about 1113 by Guillaume de Tancarville on the site of an earlier establishment of secular canons and settled by monks from the Abbey of Saint-Evroul. The abbey church made of Caumont stone was erected from 1113 to 1140. The Norman builders aimed to have very well-lit naves and they did this by means of tall, large windows, initially made ...
Founded: 1113 | Location: Saint-Martin-de-Boscherville, France

St. Jean des Vignes Abbey

The Abbey of St. Jean des Vignes was a monastery of Augustinian Canons situated in the south western hills of Soissons. Only ruins remain, of which the west front is still one of the most spectacular pieces of architecture in the town. The abbey was founded on St. John"s hill in 1076 by Hughes Le Blanc. Initially built in Romanesque style, the first buildings were replaced at the end of the 12th century by those vis ...
Founded: 1076 | Location: Soissons, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Wawel Castle

Wawel Hill – a Jurassic limestone rock, a dominant feature in the landscape of Kraków, have provided a safe haven for people who have settled here since the Paleolithic Age. It is supposed that the Slav people started living on Wawel hill as early as the 7th century. Early medieval legends tell stories about a dreadful dragon that lived in a cave on Wawel Hill, about his slayer Krakus, and about the latter’s daughter Wanda, who drowned herself in the Vistula rather than marry a German knight. Towards the end of the first millennium A.D Wawel began to play the role of the centre of political power.In the 9th century it became the principal fortified castrum of the Vislane tribe. The first historical ruler of Poland, Miesco I (c.965-992) of the Piast dynasty as well as his successors: Boleslas the Brave (992-1025) and Miesco II (1025-1034) chose Wawel Hill as one of their residences.

At that time Wawel became one of the main Polish centres of Christianity. The first early Romanesque and Romanesque sacral buildings were raised here, including a stone cathedral that was erected after the bishopric of Kraków was established in the year 1000.

During the reign of Casimir the Restorer (1034-1058) Wawel became a significant political and administrative centre for the Polish State. Casimir’s son, Boleslas the Bold (1058-1079) began the construction of a second Romanesque cathedral, which was finished by Boleslas the Wrymouth (1102-1138). In his last will of 1138, this prince divided Poland into districts, and provided that Kraków was to be the residence of the senior prince. In 1291 the city of Kraków along with Wawel Hill temporarily fell under the Czech rule, and Wenceslas II from the Premysl dynasty was crowned King of Poland in Wawel cathedral.

In 1306 the Duke of Kuyavia Ladislas the Short (1306-1333) entered Wawel and was crowned King of Poland in the Cathedral in 1320. It was the first historically recorded coronation of a Polish ruler on Wawel Hill. Around that time, at the initiative of Ladislas the Short, the construction of the third Gothic cathedral began, the castle was expanded and the old wooden and earthen fortifications were replaced by brick ones. The tomb of Ladislas the Short in the cathedral started a royal necropolis of Polish kings in Krakow.The last descendant of the Piast dynasty, Casimir the Great (1333-1370) brought Wawel to a state of unprecedented splendour. In 1364 the expanded gothic castle witnessed the marriage of Casimir’s granddaughter Elizabeth to Charles IV accompanied by a famous convention of kings and princes, subsequently entertained by a rich burgher Wierzynek. The accession to the throne in 1385 of Jadwiga from the Hungarian dynasty of Andegavens, and her marriage to a Lithuanian prince Ladislas Jagiello (1386-1434) started another era of prosperity for Wawel. The royal court employed local and western European artists and also Rus painters. During the reign of Casimir Jagiellon (1447-1492) the silhouette of the hill was enriched by three high brick towers: the Thieves’ Tower, the Sandomierz Tower and the Senatorial Tower. The first humanists in Poland and tutors to the king’s sons: historian Jan Długosz and an Italian by the name Filippo Buonacorsi (also known as Callimachus) worked there at that time.

The Italian Renaissance arrived at Wawel in the early 16th century. King Alexander (1501-1506) and his brother Sigismund I the Old (1506-1548) commissioned the construction of a new palace in place of the Gothic residence, with an impressive large courtyard with arcaded galleries which was completed about 1540. Sigismund’s patronage also left an indelible impression in the cathedral, where a family chapel was erected, known today as Sigismund’s Chapel - the work of Bartolomeo of Berrecci Florence, and through various foundations, one of which was that of a large bell, called the Sigismund to commemorate the king. Close artistic and cultural relations with Italy were strengthened in 1518 by the king’s marriage to Bona Sforza. Alongside Italian artists, German architects, wood workers, painters and metal smiths worked for the king. The last descendant of the Jagiellonian dynasty, Sigismund II Augustus (1548-1572), enriched the castle’s interiors with a magnificent collection of tapestries woven in Brussels. In the “Golden Age” of Polish culture Wawel became one of the main centres of humanism in Europe.

The reign of Sigismund III Waza (1587-1632) also made a strong impression on the history of Wawel. After a fire in the castle in 1595 the king rebuilt the burned wing of the building in the early Baroque style. The relocation of the royal court to Warsaw was the cause of a slow but nevertheless steady deterioration in the castle’s condition. The monarchs visited Kraków only occasionally. Restoration of the castle was undertaken during the reign of John III Sobieski, the Wettins and Stanislas Augustus to counteract neglect.

After Poland had lost its independence in 1795, the troops of partitioning nations, Russia, Prussia and Austria, subsequently occupied Wawel which finally passed into the hands of the Austrians. The new owners converted the castle and some of the secular buildings into a military hospital, and demolished some others, including churches. After the period of the Free City of Kraków (1815-1846) Wawel was once more annexed by Austria and turned into a citadel dominating the city. By the resolution passed by the Seym of Galicia in 1880, the castle was presented as a residence to the Emperor of Austria Franz Josef I. The Austrian troops left the hill between 1905-1911. At the turn of the 20th century a thorough restoration of the cathedral was conducted, and shortly afterwards a process of restoration of the royal castle began which lasted several decades.

When Poland regained its independence in 1918, the castle served as an official residence of the Head of State, and as a museum of historic interiors. During the Nazi occupation the castle was the residence of the German governor general, Hans Frank. Polish people managed to remove the most valuable objects, including the tapestries and the “Szczerbiec” coronation sword to Canada, from where they returned as late as 1959-1961. At present, the main curators of Wawel are Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection and the Metropolitan Basilica Board on Wawel Hill.