Monasteries in France

Abbey of Sainte-Trinité

The Abbey of Sainte-Trinité (the Holy Trinity), also known as Abbaye aux Dames, is a former monastery of women. The complex includes the Abbey Church of Sainte-Trinité. The abbey was founded as a Benedictine monastery of nuns in the late 11th century by William the Conqueror and his wife Matilda of Flanders as the Abbaye aux Dames ('Women"s Abbey'), as well as the Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men& ...
Founded: 1062 | Location: Caen, France

Fleury Abbey

Fleury Abbey (Floriacum), founded about 640, is one of the most celebrated Benedictine monasteries of Western Europe. It possesses the relics of St. Benedict of Nursia. Today the abbey has over forty monks and is headed by the abbot Etienne Ricaud. Fleury abbey had originally two churches, another one dedicated to St. Peter"s and another to Blessed Virgin. The church of St. Peter was demolished in the 19th century; the ex ...
Founded: 640 AD | Location: Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire, France

Valasse Abbey

Established in 1150 by Galéran IV, the count of Meulan, Valasse Cistercian abbey (L’abbaye Notre-Dame du Vœu) has seen much during the history: two pious vows and a lively foundation, the arrival of the 'white monks', the hundred Years" War, the nomination of abbots by the King of France, the French Revolution, the destruction of the abbey church, the transformation of the abbey into a st ...
Founded: 1150 | Location: Gruchet-le-Valasse, France

Saint-Hilaire Abbey

Originally devoted to Saint-Sernin, first bishop of Toulouse, the Saint-Hilaire abbey later took the name of Saint-Hilaire who was Bishop of Carcassonne during the 6th century, because relics of his mortal remains were apparently sheltered there. It was during the medieval period that this locality grew in importance, the village spread around the abbey whose abbots were also the feudal lords. Until the beginning of the ...
Founded: 8th century | Location: Saint-Hilaire, France

Lérins Abbey

Lérins Abbey is a Cistercian monastery on the island of Saint-Honorat, one of the Lérins Islands, on the French Riviera, with an active monastic community. The island, known to the Romans as Lerina, was uninhabited until Saint Honoratus, a disciple of a local hermit named Caprasius of Lérins, founded a monastery on it at some time around the year 410. According to tradition, Honoratus made his home on the isl ...
Founded: 410 AD | Location: Île Saint-Honorat, France

Vaucelles Abbey

The abbey of Vaucelles, old Cistercian abbey founded in 1132 by Saint-Bernard, is the 13th daughter-house of Clairvaux. During the era of prosperity in the 12th and 13th centuries, the community included several hundred monks, lay brothers and novices. The 12th century claustral building is the only remains of this immense abbey, now open to the public. It included the Norman scriptorium, auditorium, chapter room (built i ...
Founded: 1132 | Location: Les Rues-des-Vignes, France

Fécamp Abbey

Fécamp Abbey was founded in 658 by Waningus, a Merovingian count, for nuns. Another convent he founded in 660, near the site of the Precious Relic, was destroyed by the Vikings in 842. Around the Ducal palace, the foundations of two chapels have been found. After more Viking raids, Richard I of Normandy rebuilt the church. It was Richard II who invited Guillaume de Volpiano in 1001 to rekindle the life of the abbey ...
Founded: 658 AD, 1001 | Location: Fécamp, France

Valbonne Abbey

Founded by monks from the Order of Chalais, the Valbonne church was built between 1199 and 1230. It features minimalist architectural lines, typical of the order which reached its peak at this moment, before its decline and disappearance in 1303. This was a small abbey, housing a maximum of 30 monks. The simple church, now a parish church, can be visited, as well as the monastery buildings, which are very well preserved ...
Founded: 1199-1230 | Location: Valbonne, France

Saint-Génis-des-Fontaines Abbey

Saint-Génis-des-Fontaines Benedictine abbey is recorded for the first time in 819, in a document mentioning its abbot, Sentimir. Plundered and destroyed, it was rebuilt by order of King Lothair of France in 981. Later it came under the protection of the Counts of Roussillon and later of the Kings of Aragon. The abbey church was enlarged and re-consecrated in 1153. In the 13th century it gained a marble cloister on ...
Founded: 819 AD | Location: Saint-Génis-des-Fontaines, France

Serrabone Priory

Serrabone Priory is a former monastery of Canons Regular in the commune of Boule-d"Amont. The priory is located in a wild and beautiful area in the valley of the Boulès in the heart of an oak forest, at the centre of the Aspres mountain range. It is famous for its splendid marble rostrum from the 12th century, regarded as a masterpiece of Romanesque art. The name of the monastery derives from the Catalan serr ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Boule-d'Amont, France

Daoulas Abbey Ruins

The buildings of former Daoulas Abbey - a cloister and a 12th century font, an oratory and a monumental 16th century fountain, together with the 18th century conventual house - are an exceptional tribute to Breton art from the 10th century onwards. It was established by Guyomarch IV de Léon in 1173, but there has been at least a church since the 6th century. The former abbey was raided and looted by Vikings. Daou ...
Founded: 1173 | Location: Daoulas, France

Abbey of Saint-Martin-du-Canigou

The abbey of Saint-Martin-du-Canigou is located in the Pyrenees on Canigou mountain near the Spanish border. The original Romanesque style monastery was built from 1005 to 1009 by Guifred, Count of Cerdanya, in atonement for the murder of his son and was populated by Benedictine monks. In 1049, Guifred, Count of Cerdanya, died at the monastery he had built. In 1051 a messenger set forth to visit religious houses througho ...
Founded: 1005-1009 | Location: Canigou, France

Lagrasse Abbey

The Abbey of St. Mary of Lagrasse is a Romanesque Benedictine abbey whose origins date to the 7th century. Despite a legend attributing its creation to Charlemagne, the monastic community was founded in the 7th century by the abbot of Narbonne, Nimphridius, who adopted the Benedictine rule. It was elevated to the rank of abbey in 779 and enriched quickly thanks to donation from lords from the neighbourhood and the county ...
Founded: 779 AD | Location: Lagrasse, France

Caunes-Minervois Abbey

The foundation of the Benedictine abbey Caunes-Minervois was the work of Aniane, Saint Benoît d'Aniane's friend, at the end of the 8th century. Originally under the direct protection of the King of France, the monastery later passed into the hands of the Count of Barcelona, before ending up as a possession of the Trencavel family who decided to renounce their rights in 1195. During the Crusade against the Albigensi ...
Founded: 8th century | Location: Caunes-Minervois, France

Flaran Abbey

Flaran Abbey is a former Cistercian abbey located in Valence-sur-Baïse. The abbey was founded in 1151, as a daughter house of Escaladieu Abbey, at the confluence of the Auloue and Baïserivers, between the towns of Condom and Auch. The abbey was founded by Burgundian monks and today represents one of the best preserved abbeys in the south-west of France. After its foundation, Flaran Abbey experienced rap ...
Founded: 1151 | Location: Valence-sur-Baïse, France

Valmagne Abbey

Valmagne Abbey was founded in 1138 by Raymond Trencavel, Vicomte de Béziers. Valmagne then experienced a time of rapid growth as local landowners bestowed both land and money on the monastery. The buildings were extended and a vineyard of 5 hectares was established by the monks. From the 12th century to the beginning of the 14th century, Valmagne was one of the richest monasteries in southern France and at its peak was ...
Founded: 1138 | Location: Villeveyrac, France

St. Vigor Abbey Church

The St. Vigor abbey (Saint-Vigor de Cerisy-la-Forêt) was founded in 1032 by Duke Robert the Magnificent. It inherited the remote site of a small religious establishment founded at the beginning of the 6th century by St Vigor, Bishop of Bayeux, and destroyed by the Scandinavian invasions; the Benedictines thus restored, as at Saint-Marcouf or Orval, a religious continuity after this interruption. Nothing now survives ...
Founded: 1032 | Location: Cerisy-la-Forêt, France

Saint-Vincent Abbey

The former Benedictine abbey of Saint-Vincent was founded in the 10th century. The abbey church, rebuilt in 1248 and consecrated in 1376, is a superb example of Gothic architecture. After the Revolution, which marked the end of the abbey, the church became a parish church and then a basilica in 1933.
Founded: 1248 | Location: Metz, France

Landévennec Abbey Ruins

Landévennec Abbey (Abbaye de Landévennec) was a monastery now in Finistère. It existed from its foundation at Landévennec, traditionally by Winwaloe in the late fifth century, to 1793, when the monastery was abandoned and sold. In 1950 it was bought and rebuilt by the Benedictines of Kerbénéat. It became a Benedictine foundation in the eighth century. It was attacked and burned by ...
Founded: 482 AD | Location: Finistère, France

Vaux-de-Cernay Abbey

Vaux-de-Cernay Abbey was founded in 1118 when Simon de Neauffle and his wife Eve donated the land for this foundation to the monks of Savigny Abbey, in order to have a monastery built in honour of the Mother of God and Saint John the Baptist. Vital, Abbot of Savigny, accepted their offer, and sent a group of monks under the direction of Arnaud, who became their first abbot. Besides the founders, others of the nobility cam ...
Founded: 1118 | Location: Cernay-la-Ville, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.