Monasteries in 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

Fontcaude Abbey

The Abbaye de Fontcaude is a 12th century abbey in Cazedarnes, 20 km from Beziers. Ruined after the Revolution, the abbay has been an amazing restoration. It now offers its looks roman abbey, cloister, oil mill, museum of Gothic sculptures and a bell foundry from 12th century.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Cazedarnes, 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

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

Saint-Sever-de-Rustan Abbey

The Abbey of Saint-Sever-de-Rustan is one of the most exciting architectural Hautes-Pyrenees. In Gallo-Roman origin, the site hosts an early Benedictine abbey. It promotes the birth of the fortified town which is fast becoming the capital of Rustan. The ancient Romanesque Abbey reaches us, over the years, such reconstructions of destruction in a ship stranded on the shores of Arros. All major architectural styles of the p ...
Founded: 9th century AD | Location: Saint-Sever-de-Rustan, France

Sainte-Gauburge Priory

The Sainte-Gaubuge priory was originally a hamlet, which is very well preserved. All the houses are located around the priory. The church building dates from the 13th, 15th and 18th century. The canons of St. Denis are at the origin of the most beautiful architecture sites. Rich carved decorations (13th and 15th century), the house of the prior has magnificent chimneys listed (15th century), and the vaults (13th century) ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Saint-Cyr-la-Rosière, France

Saint-Pé-de-Bigorre Abbey

The Church of Saint-Pé-de-Bigorre is one of the oldest in the region, as it was formerly a Benedictine abbey founded in the early 11th century. Throughout the centuries it has undergone many transformations but also suffered major damage during the religious wars of the 16th century and the earthquake of 1660. Far-reaching changes were made between the 12th and 13th centuries, inspired by the Romanesque style. This is w ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Saint-Pé-de-Bigorre, France

Relec Abbey Ruins

The Abbaye du Relec was founded in 1132. It had an innovative hydraulic mechanism for irrigating the gardens and pumping water through the buildings. It also made a significant contribution to the local economy by developing the lands called La Quévaise. Today There is a large Romanesque church, vestiges of cloisters, two lakes, a pathway lined with trees, a monumental fountain and ancient gardens surrounded by dee ...
Founded: 1132 | Location: Plounéour-Ménez, France

Combelongue Abbey

The abbey of Combelongue was founded in 1138 by Arnauld d"Austria, count of Pallars for one of his sons Antoine, who became the first abbot. It was on the way of the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela which made the abbey prosperous until the 14th century. From 1446 the abbey began to decline. It was affected by the Black Death (1353-1355) and damaged during the Hundred Years War and the Wars of Religi ...
Founded: 1138 | Location: Rimont, 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 excavate ...
Founded: 1091 | Location: Fontgombault, 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

Valmont Abbey

Valmont Abbey (Notre-Dame-du-Pré de Valmont) was a Benedictine abbey founded in 1169 by Nicolas d"Estouteville with Benedictines split off from Hambye Abbey. It never held more than 25 monks and was destroyed and rebuilt several times, with the abbey church only truly completed in the 16th century – countess Marie II of Saint-Pol is buried in it. The abbey buildings were built from 1678 to 1782 under Lo ...
Founded: 1169 | Location: Valmont, France

La Clarté-Dieu Abbey

The Abbey of La Clarté-Dieu was a Cistercian monastery. The abbey was founded in 1239 by the executors of Peter des Roches, Bishop of Winchester, as one of a pair, the other being Netley Abbey in Hampshire, England. The bishop had conceived the idea of founding a pair of monasteries some years before and had begun collecting the necessary endowments for them, but his death in 1238 prevented him from completing ...
Founded: 1239 | Location: Eaunes, France

Saint-Evroul Abbey Ruins

The Abbey of Saint-Evroul is a former Benedictine abbey, today in ruins. Its name refers to its founder, Ebrulf (Evroul), who founded a hermitage in the forest of Ouche around 560. The abbey was rebuilt around 1000. Robert de Grantmesnil served as abbot of Saint-Evroul, which he helped restore in 1050. He had become a monk at Saint-Evroul before becoming its abbot. Orderic Vitalis entered the abbey as a young boy and late ...
Founded: c. 1000 | Location: Saint-Evroult-Notre-Dame-du-Bois, 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

Grestain Abbey

Grestain Abbey (Abbaye Notre-Dame de Grestain) was an 11th century Benedictine monastery. Closely associated with the family of William, Duke of Normandy, the abbey was instrumental in the Normans taking control over the Catholic Church in England in the centuries following the Norman Conquest of England, establishing new churches and priories in England, and Abbots of Grestain ordained many English priests. Many churches ...
Founded: 1050 | Location: Fatouville-Grestain, France

Bonnefont Abbey

Bonnefont Abbey was founded in 1136 or 1137 and was a daughter monastery of Morimond Abbey. The land for monastery was donated by the Countess of Montpezat. During the French Revolution the abbey was dissolved. Today only the tower from the 15th century, the gatehouse and parts of the wing from the 13th century are preserved. The church has been completely abandoned since 1856.
Founded: 1136 | Location: Proupiary, France

Boulbonne Abbey

Boulbonne Abbey was first founded in 1129 about 14km from its current location. It was burned down and demolished during the Wars of Religion in 1567 by Huguenots. The reconstruction of the abbey on its current site started in 1632. The church was consecrated in 1742. After the French Revolution most of the buildings have disappeared, but there are still some facades, the entrance brick portal, the chapter house, ...
Founded: 1632 | Location: Cintegabelle, 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

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Externsteine Stones

The Externsteine (Extern stones) is a distinctive sandstone rock formation located in the Teutoburg Forest, near the town of Horn-Bad Meinberg. The formation is a tor consisting of several tall, narrow columns of rock which rise abruptly from the surrounding wooded hills. Archaeological excavations have yielded some Upper Paleolithic stone tools dating to about 10,700 BC from 9,600 BC.

In a popular tradition going back to an idea proposed to Hermann Hamelmann in 1564, the Externsteine are identified as a sacred site of the pagan Saxons, and the location of the Irminsul (sacral pillar-like object in German paganism) idol reportedly destroyed by Charlemagne; there is however no archaeological evidence that would confirm the site's use during the relevant period.

The stones were used as the site of a hermitage in the Middle Ages, and by at least the high medieval period were the site of a Christian chapel. The Externsteine relief is a medieval depiction of the Descent from the Cross. It remains controversial whether the site was already used for Christian worship in the 8th to early 10th centuries.

The Externsteine gained prominence when Völkisch and nationalistic scholars took an interest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This interest peaked under the Nazi regime, when the Externsteine became a focus of nazi propaganda. Today, they remain a popular tourist destination and also continue to attract Neo-Pagans and Neo-Nazis.