Monasteries in France

Saint-Michel Abbey

The Abbey Saint-Michel is intimately tied to the origins of Gaillac, a silent witness to the town’s long history. In 972 AD the Bishop of Albi handed some land to a group of Benedictine monks, instructing them to found an abbey there. These monks also set about the business of winegrowing – with great success, it must be said – which contributed to Gaillac’s economic development and to the town’s burgeoning re ...
Founded: 972 AD | Location: Gaillac, 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

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Charlottenburg Palace

Charlottenburg Palace is the largest palace in Berlin and the only surviving royal residence in the city dating back to the time of the Hohenzollern family. The original palace was commissioned by Sophie Charlotte, the wife of Friedrich III, Elector of Brandenburg in what was then the village of Lietzow. Originally named Lietzenburg, the palace was designed by Johann Arnold Nering in baroque style. The inauguration of the palace was celebrated on 11 July 1699, Frederick's 42nd birthday.

Friedrich crowned himself as King Friedrich I in Prussia in 1701 (Friedrich II, known as Frederick the Great, would later achieve the title King of Prussia). Two years previously, he had appointed Johann Friedrich von Eosander (also known as Eosander von Göthe) as the royal architect and sent him to study architectural developments in Italy and France, particularly the Palace of Versailles. On his return in 1702, Eosander began to extend the palace, starting with two side wings to enclose a large courtyard, and the main palace was extended on both sides. Sophie Charlotte died in 1705 and Friedrich named the palace and its estate Charlottenburg in her memory. In the following years, the Orangery was built on the west of the palace and the central area was extended with a large domed tower and a larger vestibule. On top of the dome is a wind vane in the form of a gilded statue representing Fortune designed by Andreas Heidt. The Orangery was originally used to overwinter rare plants. During the summer months, when over 500 orange, citrus and sour orange trees decorated the baroque garden, the Orangery regularly was the gorgeous scene of courtly festivities.

Inside the palace, was a room described as 'the eighth wonder of the world', the Amber Room, a room with its walls surfaced in decorative amber. It was designed by Andreas Schlüter and its construction by the Danish amber craftsman Gottfried Wolfram started in 1701. Friedrich Wilhelm I gave the Amber Room to Tsar Peter the Great as a present in 1716.

When Friedrich I died in 1713, he was succeeded by his son, Friedrich Wilhelm I whose building plans were less ambitious, although he did ensure that the building was properly maintained. Building was resumed after his son Friedrich II (Frederick the Great) came to the throne in 1740. During that year, stables for his personal guard regiment were completed to the south of the Orangery wing and work was started on the east wing. The building of the new wing was supervised by Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff, the Superintendent of all the Royal Palaces, who largely followed Eosander's design. The decoration of the exterior was relatively simple but the interior furnishings were lavish. The ground floor was intended for Frederick's wife Elisabeth Christine, who, preferring Schönhausen Palace, was only an occasional visitor. The decoration of the upper floor, which included the White Hall, the Banqueting Hall, the Throne Room and the Golden Gallery, was lavish and was designed mainly by Johann August Nahl. In 1747, a second apartment for the king was prepared in the distant eastern part of the wing. During this time, Sanssouci was being built at Potsdam and once this was completed Frederick was only an occasional visitor to Charlottenburg.

In 1786, Frederick was succeeded by his nephew Friedrich Wilhelm II who transformed five rooms on the ground floor of the east wing into his summer quarters and part of the upper floor into Winter Chambers, although he did not live long enough to use them. His son, Friedrich Wilhelm III came to the throne in 1797 and reigned with his wife, Queen Luise for 43 years. They spent much of this time living in the east wing of Charlottenburg. Their eldest son, Friedrich Wilhelm IV, who reigned from 1840 to 1861, lived in the upper storey of the central palace building. After Friedrich Wilhelm IV died, the only other royal resident of the palace was Friedrich III who reigned for 99 days in 1888.

The palace was badly damaged in 1943 during the Second World War. In 1951, the war-damaged Stadtschloss in East Berlin was demolished and, as the damage to Charlottenburg was at least as serious, it was feared that it would also be demolished. However, following the efforts of Margarete Kühn, the Director of the State Palaces and Gardens, it was rebuilt to its former condition, with gigantic modern ceiling paintings by Hann Trier.

The garden was designed in 1697 in baroque style by Simeon Godeau who had been influenced by André Le Nôtre, designer of the gardens at Versailles. Godeau's design consisted of geometric patterns, with avenues and moats, which separated the garden from its natural surroundings. Beyond the formal gardens was the Carp Pond. Towards the end of the 18th century, a less formal, more natural-looking garden design became fashionable. In 1787 the Royal Gardener Georg Steiner redesigned the garden in the English landscape style for Friedrich Wilhelm II, the work being directed by Peter Joseph Lenné. After the Second World War, the centre of the garden was restored to its previous baroque style.