Monasteries in France

Abbey of Saint Bertin

The Abbey of St. Bertin was a Benedictine abbey, but today in ruins (the town's town-hall was built with stone from the abbey in 1834) and open to the public. It was dedicated to its second abbot, Saint Bertin. The monastery was founded on the banks of the Aa in the 7th century by the bishop of Thérouanne, who sent the monks Bertin, Momelin and Ebertram from Omer to proselytize among the pagans in the region. The Abbey ...
Founded: 7th century AD | Location: Saint-Omer, France

Le Breuil-Benoît Abbey

Le Breuil-Benoît Abbey was founded in 1137 by Foulques, lord of Marcilly, and his son Guillaume. It was settled by monks from Vaux-de-Cernay Abbey, as a member of the congregation of Savigny Abbey. The abbey was soon able to settle a foundation of its own, that of La Trappe Abbey in 1140. In 1147 the Savigniac houses became part of the Cistercian movement, among them Breuil-Benoît, which was made a daughter ho ...
Founded: 1137 | Location: Marcilly-sur-Eure, 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 isla ...
Founded: 410 AD | Location: Île Saint-Honorat, France

Jouarre Abbey

Jouarre Abbey was traditionally founded around 630 AD by the Abbess Theodochilde or Telchilde. She was inspired by the visit of St. Columban, the travelling Irish monk who inspired monastic institution-building in the early seventh century. As part of its Celtic heritage, Jouarre was established as a double community of monks as well as nuns, both under the rule of the abbess, who in 1225 was granted immunity from interfe ...
Founded: 630 AD | Location: Jouarre, 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

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

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

Montivilliers Abbey

The Abbey Church of Notre-Dame, sometimes referred to as 'Montivilliers Abbey' dates back to 684, although it was destroyed a Viking raid in 850, and rebuilt as a church in both the Romanesque and Gothic styles. It fell into decline by the late 1700's. Its decline went up to the French revolution at the end of the 18th century when it was closed and sold. Fortunately the abbey was not destroyed and was later bought back b ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Montivilliers, 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

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

Saorge Monastery

Saorge was a stronghold of strategic significance defending the road between Nice and Turin via the Col de Tende mountain pass. Recollect Franciscan monks founded a monastery there in 1633, at the time of the Catholic Reformation. Today it overlooks the village and waterfalls of La Roya at the gateway to Mercantour. The cloister and the refectory contain examples of exceptional painted decoration dating from the 17th and ...
Founded: 1633 | Location: Saorge, 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

Abbaye de Noirlac

The Cistercian Abbaye de Noirlac, founded in 1136, is a fine example of medieval monastic architecture. The chapter house, where the monks’ daily assemblies were held, and the cellier, where the lay brothers were in charge of the food, wine and grain stores, were built in plain but elegant style. The cloisters, with their graceful arches and decorated capitals, date from the 13th and 14th centuries, which was a less ...
Founded: 1136 | Location: Bruère-Allichamps, France

Valognes Abbey

In 1623, Jean de Raval, Lord Tourlaville, and his wife Madeleine de la Vigne offered de la Vigne"s cousin enough money to establish a monastery in Valognes that de la Vigne"s would become the first abbess or 'superior'. The following year, the Bishop of Séez gave permission for a group of nuns to join the new abbey. Plague prevented the nuns from taking up their new posts and construction did n ...
Founded: 1631 | Location: Valognes, France

La Lucerne Abbey

La Lucerne Abbey (Abbaye Sainte-Trinité de La Lucerne) was founded in 1143 by Hasculf de Subligny, son of Othoerne, the tutor of William Adelin, both of whom perished in the White Ship disaster of 1120, and later had the support of the English crown. The new monastery was settled from Dommartin Abbey near Hesdin. The foundation stone of the permanent buildings was laid in 1164 by Achard of St. Victor, who was later ...
Founded: 1143 | Location: La Lucerne-d'Outremer, France

Fontaine-Guérard Abbey

At the beginning of the 12th century, there was a simple priory on the site of current abbey. Around 1190, Robert, Earl of Leicester founded the Abbey of Fontaine-Guérard. The nuns joined the order of Cîteaux in 1207 as Daughter-abbey of Clairvaux, but did not receive Abbey status until 1253. By this date, the buildings we see here were complete; the church was consecrated in 1218. Sold for the “national ...
Founded: 1190 | Location: Radepont, France

Beaulieu-lès-Loches Abbey

A great abbey church named Belli Locus dedicated to the Holy Sepulchre was founded in the early 11th century by Fulk Nerra, Count of Anjou, who is buried in the chancel. In 1011 Pope Sergius IV donated some relics of Saints Chrysanthus and Daria and Fulk himself a piece of the Holy Sepulchre he stole from his visit to Jerusalem to the abbey. The pope settled a dispute over the abbey's consecration with the Archbishop of T ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Beaulieu-lès-Loches, France

Fontgombault Abbey

Fontgombault Abbey (Abbaye Notre-Dame de Fontgombault) is a Benedictine monastery of the Solesmes Congregation. In 1091 Pierre de l'Étoile founded a Benedictine monastery on the banks of the Creuse River, near the spring or fount of Gombaud. In the 12th and 13th centuries the abbey experienced vigorous growth and established twenty or so priories. In the 15th century the abbots of Fontgombault had numerous ponds ex ...
Founded: 1091 | Location: Fontgombault, France

Ardenne Abbey

Ardenne is the third largest abbey in Caen region. It was founded in 1121 by a small Christian community. During the 1789 Revolution, the religious community was expelled from Ardenne Abbey, the building"s original purpose was modified and it was stripped of the furniture and works of art which had been collected. On 7 June 1944, the second day of Normandy Invasion, the Germans took Canadian soldiers prisoner and es ...
Founded: 1121 | Location: Saint-Germain-la-Blanche-Herbe, France

Lessay Abbey

It is not exactly known when the Abbaye de Sainte-Trinité in Lessay was established; other historians date it to 1056, Cologne University to 1105. The vaults of the church, built around 1100 are however probably the oldest in Normandy. The abbey flourished in the 12th and 13th centuries, but during the Hundred Years' War in 1356 it was burned and looted. The nave and tower were badly damaged and restored in 1385. Lessay ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Lessay, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Castle de Haar

Castle de Haar is the largest and most fairytale-like castle in the Netherlands. The current buildings, all built upon the original castle, date from 1892 and are the work of Dutch architect P.J.H. Cuypers, in a Neo-Gothic restoration project funded by the Rothschild family.

The oldest historical record of a building at the location of the current castle dates to 1391. In that year, the family De Haar received the castle and the surrounding lands as fiefdom from Hendrik van Woerden. The castle remained in the ownership of the De Haar family until 1440, when the last male heir died childless. The castle then passed to the Van Zuylen family. In 1482, the castle was burned down and the walls were torn down, except for the parts that did not have a military function. These parts probably were incorporated into the castle when it was rebuilt during the early 16th century. The castle is mentioned in an inventory of the possessions of Steven van Zuylen from 1506, and again in a list of fiefdoms in the province Utrecht from 1536. The oldest image of the castle dates to 1554 and shows that the castle had been largely rebuilt by then. After 1641, when Johan van Zuylen van der Haar died childless, the castle seems to have gradually fallen into ruins. The castle escaped from total destruction by the French during the Rampjaar 1672.

In 1801 the last catholic van Zuylen in the Netherlands, the bachelor Anton-Martinus van Zuylen van Nijevelt (1708-1801) bequeathed the property to his cousin Jean-Jacques van Zuylen van Nyevelt (1752-1846) of the catholic branch in the Southern Netherlands. In 1890, De Haar was inherited by Jean-Jacques' grandson Etienne Gustave Frédéric Baron van Zuylen van Nyevelt van de Haar (1860-1934), who married Baroness Hélène de Rothschild. They contracted architect Pierre Cuypers in 1892 to rebuild the ruinous castle, which took 15 years.

In 1887, the inheritor of the castle-ruins, Etienne van Zuylen van Nijevelt, married Hélène de Rothschild, of theRothschild family. Fully financed by Hélène's family, the Rothschilds, the couple set about rebuilding the castle from its ruins. For the restoration of the castle, the famous architect Pierre Cuypers was hired. He would be working on this project for 20 years (from 1892 to 1912). The castle has 200 rooms and 30 bathrooms, of which only a small number on the ground floor have been opened to be viewed by the public. In the hall, Cuypers has placed a statue with his own image in a corner of the gallery on the first floor.

The castle was equipped by Cuypers with the most modern gadgets, such as electrical lighting with its own generator, and central heating by way of steam. This installation is internationally recognized as an industrial monument. The kitchen was for that period also very modern and still has a large collection of copper pots and pans and an enormous furnace of approximately 6 metres long, which is heated with peat or coals. The tiles in the kitchen are decorated with the coats of arms of the families De Haar and Van Zuylen, which were for this purpose especially baked in Franeker. Cuypers marked out the difference between the old walls and the new bricks, by using a different kind of brick for the new walls. For the interior Cuypers made a lot of use of cast iron.

In the castle one can see many details which reminds one of the family De Rothschild, such as the David stars on the balconies of the knight's hall, the motto of the family on the hearth in the knight's hall (A majoribus et virtute) and the coat of arms of the family right underneath on the hearth in the library.

The interior of the castle is decorated with richly ornamented woodcarving, which reminds one of the interior of a Roman Catholic church. This carving was made in the workshop of Cuypers in Roermond. The place where later also the interiors of many Roman Catholic churches were made, designed by Cuypers. Cuypers even designed the tableware. The interior is also furnished with many works of the Rothschild collections, including beautiful old porcelain from Japan and China, and several old Flemish tapestries and paintings with religious illustrations. A showpiece is a carrier coach of the woman of a Shogun from Japan. There is only one more left in the world, which stands in a museum in Tokyo. Many Japanese tourists come to De Haar to admire exactly this coach, which was donated from the Rothschilds collections.

Surrounding the castle there is a park, designed by Hendrik Copijn, for which Van Zuylen ordered 7000 fully grown trees. Because these could not be transported through the city of Utrecht, Van Zuylen bought a house and tore it down. The park contains many waterworks and a formal garden which reminds one of the French gardens of Versailles. During the Second World War many of the gardens were lost, because the wood was used to light fires, and the soil was used to grow vegetables upon. At this time, the gardens are restored in their old splendor.

For the decoration of the park, the village Haarzuilens, except for the town church, was broken down. The inhabitants were moved to a place a kilometer further up, where a new Haarzuilens arose, where they lived as tenants of the lord of the castle. This new village was also built in a pseudo-medieval style, including a rural village green. The buildings were for the most part designed by Cuypers and his son Joseph Cuypers.