Monasteries in 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

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-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

Savigny Abbey Ruins

Savigny Abbey (Abbaye de Savigny) was founded by Vital de Mortain, who set up a hermitage in the forest of Savigny (1105). Rudolph, lord of Fougeres, confirmed to the monastery (1112) the grants he had formerly made to Vital, and from then dates the foundation of the monastery. Its growth was rapid, and Vital and Saint Aymon were canonized. In 1119 Pope Celestine II, then in Angers, took it under his immediate protection ...
Founded: 1105 | Location: Savigny-le-Vieux, France

Loc-Dieu Abbey

Founded in 1123 in a place formerly called Locus Diaboli (Latin for 'devil"s place') due to the large number of dolmens around it, tm abbey was renamed Locus Dei in Latin by the monks, which in French became Loc-Dieu, both meaning the 'place of God'. Burnt down by the English in 1409, it was rebuilt in 1470, and the abbey was fortified. The abbey was suppressed and its assets sold off as nat ...
Founded: 1123 | Location: Martiel, France

Cornilly Abbey Ruins

Hervé de Donzy, the Lord of Saint Aignan established Cornilly Abbey in the 11th century. It was authorized by Pope Urbanus II in 1091. The abbey grew rapidly, but in the 1357 it was destroyed by English Black Prince troops during the Hundred Years" War. Monks rebuilt the abbey, but it was again destroyed by religious fanatics in 1562. It was not rebuilt again and in the Revolution (1789) it was moved as a nati ...
Founded: 1091 | Location: Contres, France

Clairmarais Abbey Ruins

Clairmarais owes its origin to the famous Cistercian abbey founded by St. Bernard in 1140. He gave the village the name of Claromarisco (later to be Clarus Mariscus and then Clermarez) because of the huge marshes and many rivers in the vicinity. The Dutch Klaarmares and West Flemish Cleremeersch names reflect the nature of the terrain, too. Clairmarais became a fully-fledged common in 1790 when the abbey was going to be d ...
Founded: 1140 | Location: Clairmarais, France

Montebourg Abbey

Montebourg Abbey was probably established by William the Conqueror after the invasion to England (1066). The exact date is unknown, but it was before William"s death in 1087. The abbey got lot of donations from the Dukes of Normandy and Kings of England until the 1180s. It had a large land property even in the southern England and the abbey grew up quickly in the 12th century. The abbey suffered damages in the Hundr ...
Founded: 1066-1087 | Location: Montebourg, France

Preuilly Abbey

Preuilly Abbey, the fifth daughter house of Cîteaux Abbey, was founded in 1118 by Stephen Harding on a site provided by Theobald of Blois, Count of Champagne. The first abbot was Arthaud. The abbey soon became prosperous and founded its own daughter houses, Vauluisant Abbey (1129) and Barbeau Abbey (1148). In 1146 La Colombe Abbey, founded some years previously, joined the Cistercian Order and put itself under the s ...
Founded: 1118 | Location: Égligny, France

Sainte-Marie du Désert Abbey

Sainte-Marie du Désert Abbey was founded in 1852. It was raised to the status of priory in 1855, and to abbey in 1861. The abbey was founded on the pilgrimage site of Marie Desclassan's tomb, who lived in there eremitic life in 1109-1117.
Founded: 1852 | Location: Bellegarde-Sainte-Marie, 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

La Trappe Abbey

La Trappe Abbey is the house of origin of Reformed Cistercians or Trappists, to whom it gave its name. It began as a small oratory chapel to the Virgin Mary, built in 1122 by Rotrou III, Count of Perche, as a memorial to his wife Matilda (n illegitimate daughter of Henry I, who drowned in the White Ship disaster of 1120). A few years later Rotrou built a monastery adjoining, which he offered to the monks of Le Breuil-Beno ...
Founded: 1122 | Location: Soligny-la-Trappe, France

Saint-Fromond Abbey

In 650 AD Fromond and some of his companions arrived to Brévands and established an abbey. Fromond became a bishop of Coutances he was died to the abbey in the year 690. In 871 Normans destroyed and looted the abbey. The new church was built in 1154 by Richard de Bohon, the bishop of Coutances. It was again destroyed by fire and the abbey church was rebuilt again with a massive Romanesque nave. It was demolished an ...
Founded: 1154 | Location: Saint-Fromond, France

Manoir de Brion

The Manoir de Brion, also known as the Château de Brion, is a former Benedictine priory of the abbey of Mont Saint-Michel. It was founded in 1137 by the abbot Bernard du Bec. Several kings and members of the royal court stayed at the Manoir de Brion while on pilgrimage to Mont Saint-Michel, including Charles VI in 1393, Louis XI in 1462 and Francis I of France in 1532. The explorer Jacques Cartier was also presented ...
Founded: 1137 | Location: Dragey-Ronthon, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Abbey of Saint-Étienne

The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.

Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.

The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.

As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).