Monasteries in 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

Graville Abbey

The first mention of Graville Abbey was in the 9th century. Considered to be a masterpiece of the Romanesque art in Normandy, the abbey underwent several periods of construction since the 11th century. The church"s nave and transept date from the Romanesque period. Guillaume Malet de Graville, who was victorious during the Hastings battle alongside William the Conqueror, as well as his descendants, invested their for ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Le Havre, 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

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

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

Abbaye Blanche

The Abbaye Blanche ('White Abbey'), was a nunnery founded in 1112 in Mortain. Shortly after establishing an abbey for men called Holy Trinity of Savigny, Saint Vitalis, founder of the monastic order of Savigny, set up the Abbaye Blanche for women. The church is built on a Latin cross floorplan of a central nave and a wide transept. The style is Early Gothic, though unfortunately only the chapter house, cellar an ...
Founded: 1112 | Location: Mortain, 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

Bricquebec Abbey

Bricquebec Abbeyn (Notre-Dame de Grâce de Bricquebec) was founded in 1824 by father Bon Onfroy. The abbey church was completed in 1834 and the priory was established in 1836.
Founded: 1824 | Location: Bricquebec, France

Saint-Gildas de Rhuys Abbey

The Abbey of Saint-Gildas is dedicated to St. Gildas (c. 500–570) who was a British historian and cleric. He is one of the best-documented figures of the Christian church in the British Isles during this period. According a legend Gildas established the abbey, but there are no written evidences. Buildings were destroyed by Norman raids in the 10th century. The first known record dates from 1008 when the abbey was r ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Saint-Gildas-de-Rhuys, 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

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

Saint-Sever-Calvados Abbey

Saint-Sever-Calvados Abbey was founded by Guillaume Sanche, the lord of Gascony in the late 10th century. According to the monastic chronicles, this was as the result of a vow he made after the battle of Taller, in Gascony, in which he defeated the Vikings (982). In 1060, after a fire, the abbey was reconstructed on the model of Cluny under the direction of the abbot Gregori de Montaner. The Saint-Sever Beatus was the wor ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Saint-Sever-Calvados, France

Villelongue Abbey

The Villelongue Cistercian monastery was first established on the lands of the neighbouring county of Saissac, before being transferred to its present location, around the 12th century: a donation was granted in 1149 to the Cistercian Order, and to Guillaume, a monk who came, with 12 companions, from the abbey of Bonnefont de Comminges. Construction of the monastery began in 1180. At the beginning of the 13th century, Si ...
Founded: 1180 | Location: Saint-Martin-le-Vieil, France

Saint-Papoul Abbey Church

Situated on the eastern side of the Pays Lauragais, the ancient fortified city of Saint Papoul has conserved its medieval style with its lanes of half-timbered houses. The abbey is to one side of the village, at its southern entrance. Founded during the 8th century, the Benedictine Abbey is closely linked to the figure of Saint Papoul. This evangelist of the Lauragais, a disciple of Saint Sernin, Toulouse"s first bi ...
Founded: 8th century | Location: Saint-Papoul, France

St-Florent-le-Vieil Abbey

The abbey of St-Florent-le-Vieil was originally established already in the 6th century. It was a strong and wealthy abbey until attacked by Normans several times between 850-853. The abbey was left to decay over centuries until 1637 when monks restored it. It was damaged again during the French Revolution 1790-1793.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Saint-Florent-le-Vieil, 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

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

Bec Abbey

Bec Abbey (Abbaye Notre-Dame du Bec) was once the most influential abbey in the Anglo-Norman kingdom. The abbey was founded in 1034 by Herluin, a Norman knight who in about 1031 left the court of Gilbert, Count of Brionne, to devote himself to a life of religion: the commune of Le Bec Hellouin preserves his name. 136 monks made their profession while Herluin was in charge. With the arrival of Lanfranc of Pavia, Bec becam ...
Founded: 1034 | Location: Le Bec-Hellouin, France

Bernay Abbey Church

Bernay Abbey (Notre-Dame de Bernay) was established in the first decade of the 11th century by Judith of Brittany who devoted part of the marriage settlement from her husband, Richard II, Duke of Normandy, to its construction. The latter entrusted the completion of the abbey to the Italian, William of Volpiano (died 1028), who reformed the monastery of Fécamp to which he had been called in 1001. After a period of d ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Bernay, France

Paimpont Abbey

Paimpont Abbey was originally built by the King of Dumnonia in the 7th century, probably around 630 AD. It was destroyed by Vikings in the 9th century. The construction of current abbey building was started in 1199. The present buildings are works from the 11th, 13th, 15th and 17th century. Paimpont Abbey was closed down during the Great Revolution in 1790, but several buildings have survived. The Abbey is home to many fi ...
Founded: 1199 | Location: Ille-et-Vilaine, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Royal Palace of Aranjuez

Palacio Real de Aranjuez is a former Spanish royal residence. It was established around the time Philip II of Spain moved the capital from Toledo to Madrid. Aranjuez became one of four seasonal seats of government, occupied during the springtime (from about holy week). Thereafter, the court moved successively to Rascafría, El Escorial and wintered in Madrid. Aranjuez Cultural Landscape is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After the Christian conquest, Aranjuez was owned by the Order of Santiago and a palace was built for its Grand Masters where the Royal Palace stands today. When the Catholic Monarchs assumed the office of Grand Master of the Order of Santiago, Aranjuez became part of the Royal estate. This fertile land, located between the Tajo and Jarama Rivers, was converted into the Spanish monarchy"s most lavish country retreat: during Spain"s Golden Age, Aranjuez became a symbol for the perfection of nature by mortal hands, as El Escorial was for art.

Such excellence was based on strong Renaissance foundations, as Charles V envisaged this inherited estate as a large Italian-inspired villa, a desire continued by Philip II who appointed Juan Bautista de Toledo to design leafy avenues that ran through the gardens and farming land. A series of dams was constructed in the 16th century to control the course of the Tajo River and create a network of irrigation canals.

The splendour of the estate was only enhanced by the Bourbon monarchs, who would spend the whole spring, from Easter to July, at the Palace. Phillip V added new gardens and Ferdinand VI designed a new system of tree-lined streets and created a small village within the estate, which was further developed by Charles III and Charles IV. As Ferdinand VII and Isabella II continued to visit Aranjuez during the spring, the splendour of this site was maintained until 1870.

The Royal Palace, built by Phillip II on the site of the old palace of the Grand Masters of Santiago, was designed by the architect Juan Bautista de Toledo –under whom construction began in 1564– and later Juan Herrera, who only managed to finish half the project. Although glimpses of the original layout still remain, the building itself is more characteristic of the classicism favoured by the Hapsburg monarchs, with alternating white stone and brick. The original design was continued by Phillip V in 1715 but not finished until 1752 under Ferdinand VI. The rectangular layout that Juan Bautista de Toledo had planned, and that took two centuries to complete, was only maintained for 20 years, since in 1775 Charles III added two wings onto the Palace.

Real Casa del Labrador

As the Prince of Asturias, Charles IV was a frequent visitor to the pier pavilions built by Ferdinand VI and grew up playing in the Prince’s Garden. When he became King, he decided to build a new country house at the far end of these gardens, known as the Casa del Labrador (the labourer"s house) due to its modest exterior that was designed to heavily contrast the magnificent internal decor. It was built by chief architect Juan de Villanueva and his pupil Isidro González Velázquez, who designed some of the interior spaces. These rooms, developed in various stages until 1808, are the greatest example of the lavish interior decor favoured by this monarch in his palaces and country retreats. Highlights at this Site include the combination of different types of art and the luxurious textiles, in particular the silks from Lyon, as well as wealth of original works on the main floor, where Ferdinand VII added various paintings and landscapes by Brambilla.

King"s Garden, the Island Garden, Parterre Garden and the Prince"s Garden

Phillip II, a great lover of gardens, paid special attention to this feature of the Aranjuez Palace: during his reign, he maintained both the Island Garden, designed by the architect Juan Bautista de Toledo, and the King"s Garden, immediately adjacent to the Palace and whose current layout was designed by Philip IV. The majority of the fountains on this island were commissioned by Phillip IV, while the Bourbons added other features such as the Charles III benches.

Phillip V made two French-style additions to the existing gardens: the Parterre Garden in front of the palace and the extension at the far end of the Island Garden, known as the Little Island, where he installed the Tritons Fountain that was later moved to the Campo del Moro park by Isabella II.

The Prince"s Garden owes its name and creation to the son and heir of Charles III who, in the 1770s, began to use Ferdinand VI"s old pier for his own enjoyment. He also created a landscaped garden in the Anglo-French style that was in fashion at the time and which was directly influenced by Marie Antoinette"s gardens at the Petit Trianon. Both Juan de Villanueva and Pablo Boutelou collaborated in the design of this garden.