Monasteries in France

Mont Saint-Eloi Abbey Ruins

On a hill overlooking Arras stand the remains of two towers which bear testament not only to the once-powerful Mont-Saint-Eloi Abbey. According to legend the abbey was established in the 7th century by Saint Vindicianus, a disciple of Saint Eligius, and by the Middle Ages it had become a powerful religious centre; however the turbulent times of the Revolution saw its walls pillaged for their stone. All that survived were ...
Founded: 600-700 AD | Location: Mont-Saint-Éloi, France

Marcevol Priory

Marcevol Priory is situated at an altitude of 500 metres on a plateau overlooking the Tet Valley. The Priory was built in the 12th century by the religious order of Saint Sepulchre. In 1129 the Bishop of Elne donated them the small church, as well as some surrounding out-buildings. These were monks following the rules of Saint Augustine. The Order of Saint Sepulchre was founded in 1099 after the crusades and the conquest ...
Founded: 1129 | Location: Arboussols, 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

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

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

Mortemer Abbey Ruins

Mortemer Abbey was originally built in 1134 on land gifted to the Cistercians by Henry I of England. The stagnant water of the drainage lake, dug out by the monks to dry up the marshy land around the quick running Fouillebroc stream, was called 'dead mere', 'dead pond' - in modern French 'morte mare' - and gave the monastery its name. The monks constructed what was then one of the largest Ci ...
Founded: 1134 | Location: Lisors, 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

Escaladieu Abbey

Escaladieu Abbey was a Cistercian abbey located in the French commune of Bonnemazon. Its name derives from the Latin Scala Dei ('ladder of God'). The abbey was founded in 1142 and became an important pilgrimage stop on the Way of St. James en route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. The abbey is situated at the confluence of the Luz and the Arros rivers near the Château de Mauvezin ...
Founded: 1142 | Location: Bonnemazon, 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

Bon-Repos Abbey

The Bon-Repos Abbey was founded by Viscount Alain III de Rohan in c. 1184. According to legend, he was asked to build it by the Virgin Mary; she appeared to him in a dream when he fell asleep on this spot after a hard day’s hunting in the Quénécan Forest. After a tumultuous history, which included being burnt down by the Chouans (Royalists) in 1795, the abbey fell into ruin until it was rescued in 1986 ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Saint-Gelven, 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

Abbey of Saint-Savin-en-Lavedan

The Abbey of Saint-Savin-en-Lavedan was a Benedictine abbey in the commune of Saint-Savin and one of the most important religious centres in the County of Bigorre. The abbey dates at least from the 10th century, and it was built by order of Charlemagne on the site of an ancient Gallo-Roman fortress. In 841, the abbey was looted and burnt by the Normans, and previously by the Saracens. In 945, Count Raymond I ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Saint-Savin, France

Saint-Michel de Grandmont Priory

Saint-Michel de Grandmont Priory was built in the 12th century and is one of the best-preserved of the 160 Grandmontine monasteries. It is a religious order, founded by Étienne of Thiers, son of Viscount of Thiers from the Auvergne. It was known to be one of the strictest, and austere orders of the Middle Ages. There was no hierarchy, with no archives, and no heating. The monks walked with bare feet, in perpetual silenc ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Saint-Privat, France

Bonport Abbey

The abbey of our Lady of Bonport was founded in 1189 by Richard the Lionheart, King of England and Duke of Normandy. According to legend, the King was in peril on the river Seine and made a vow that if he arrived safely (in French à Bonport) on the other bank of the river, he would found a monastery on that side. The abbey was built shortly afterwards with the help of local lords and was damaged and restored severa ...
Founded: 1189 | Location: Pont-de-l'Arche, France

Cassan Abbey

The Augustinian priory here was founded in 1080, on land donated by the Alquier noble family of Béziers.  A new church was consecrated in 1115. Numerous relics were collected by the abbey and it served as cemetery to the nobility of the region. The lands owned by the priory extended to 75 villages. Pope Innocent III in the context of the crusade against the Cathars exempted the priory from control by the bishops of Béz ...
Founded: 18th century | Location: Roujan, 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

Lonlay Abbey

Founded in c. 1020 by Guillaume de Bellême known as 'Talvas', Lonlay Abbey was originally occupied by the monks of Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire. Interpolated between the Gothic choir and porch, there are no more remains of the Romanesque edifice than the transept whose lower and middle sections show some signs of fishbone bonding, and date back to the end of the 11th century or beginning of the 12th centur ...
Founded: c. 1020 | Location: Lonlay-l'Abbaye, France

Pontlevoy Abbey

The Benedictian Abbey of Pontlevoy (Abbaye de Pontlevoy) was established in 1034. It made the town an important commercial and cultural center. A local knight named Gelduin de Chaumont founded to fulfill a vow. It is believed that Gelduin's boat was caught in a storm on the way back from a Crusade in the Holy Land. He prayed to the Virgin for help, promising to build Her a church in Pontlevoy, which he held as a vassal of ...
Founded: 1034 | Location: Pontlevoy, 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

Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives Abbey

The Abbey Church of Saint-Pierre-sur-Diveswas was rebuilt in the 12th century and 13th centuries and restored and modified in the 16th and 17th centuries, replacing the former abbey church built in 1011 by William the Conqueror"s aunt, Countess Lesceline. The church was entirely restored in the 16th century. By that time it got its general current appearance: a long main nave with two aisles and five radiating chapel ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Hochosterwitz Castle

Hochosterwitz Castle is considered to be one of Austria's most impressive medieval castles. The rock castle is one of the state's landmarks and a major tourist attraction.

The site was first mentioned in an 860 deed issued by King Louis the German of East Francia, donating several of his properties in the former Principality of Carantania to the Archdiocese of Salzburg. In the 11th century Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg ceded the castle to the Dukes of Carinthia from the noble House of Sponheim in return for their support during the Investiture Controversy. The Sponheim dukes bestowed the fiefdom upon the family of Osterwitz, who held the hereditary office of the cup-bearer in 1209.

In the 15th century, the last Carinthian cup-bearer, Georg of Osterwitz was captured in a Turkish invasion and died in 1476 in prison without leaving descendants. So after four centuries, on 30 May 1478, the possession of the castle reverted to Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg.

Over the next 30 years, the castle was badly damaged by numerous Turkish campaigns. On 5 October 1509, Emperor Maximilian I handed the castle as a pledge to Matthäus Lang von Wellenburg, then Bishop of Gurk. Bishop Lang undertook a substantial renovation project for the damaged castle.

About 1541, German king Ferdinand I of Habsburg bestowed Hochosterwitz upon the Carinthian governor Christof Khevenhüller. In 1571, Baron George Khevenhüller acquired the citadel by purchase. He fortified to deal with the threat of Turkish invasions of the region, building an armory and 14 gates between 1570 and 1586. Such massive fortification is considered unique in citadel construction.

Since the 16th century, no major changes have been made to Hochosterwitz. It has also remained in the possession of the Khevenhüller family as requested by the original builder, George Khevenhüller. A marble plaque dating from 1576 in the castle yard documents this request.

A specific feature is the access way to the castle passing through a total of 14 gates, which are particularly prominent owing to the castle's situation in the landscape. Tourists are allowed to walk the 620-metre long pathway through the gates up to the castle; each gate has a diagram of the defense mechanism used to seal that particular gate. The castle rooms hold a collection of prehistoric artifacts, paintings, weapons, and armor, including one set of armor 2.4 metres tall, once worn by Burghauptmann Schenk.