Monasteries in 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.