Monasteries in 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

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

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

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

Tournay Abbey

A priory was first established on the site of Tournay Abbey in the 11th century, which became an abbey in the 17th century. It was suppressed during the French Revolution. A new abbey was founded in the 1930s in Madiran and was transferred to Tournay in 1952, the year after construction of a new monastery. The building was completed in 1958. The abbey remains active and houses a community of approximately 20 monks ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Tournay, 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

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-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

Flaran Abbey

Flaran Abbey is a former Cistercian abbey located in Valence-sur-Baïse. The abbey was founded in 1151, as a daughter house of Escaladieu Abbey, at the confluence of the Auloue and Baïserivers, between the towns of Condom and Auch. The abbey was founded by Burgundian monks and today represents one of the best preserved abbeys in the south-west of France. After its foundation, Flaran Abbey experienced rap ...
Founded: 1151 | Location: Valence-sur-Baïse, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Königstein Fortress

Königstein Fortress is located on the left bank of the River Elbe. It is one of the largest hilltop fortifications in Europe. The 9.5 hectare rock plateau rises 240 metres above the Elbe and has over 50 buildings, some over 400 years old, that bear witness to the military and civilian life in the fortress. The rampart run of the fortress is 1,800 metres long with walls up to 42 metres high and steep sandstone faces. In the centre of the site is a 152.5 metre deep well, which is the deepest in Saxony and second deepest well in Europe.

The fortress, which for centuries was used as a state prison, is still intact and is now one of Saxony's foremost tourist attractions, with 700,000 visitors per year.

By far the oldest written record of a castle on the Königstein is found in a deed by King Wenceslas I of Bohemia dating to the year 1233. It is probable that there had been a stone castle on the Königstein as early as the 12th century. The oldest surviving structure today is the castle chapel built at the turn of the 13th century. In the years 1563 to 1569 the 152.5 metre deep well was bored into the rock within the castle - until that point the garrison of the Königstein had to obtain water from cisterns and by collecting rainwater.

Between 1589 and 1591/97 Prince-Elector Christian I of Saxony and his successor had the castle developed into the strongest fortification in Saxony. The hill was now surrounded with high walls. Buildings were erected, including the Gatehouse (Torhaus), the Streichwehr, the Old Barracks (Alte Kaserne), the Christiansburg (Friedrichsburg) and the Old Armoury (Altes Zeughaus). The second construction period followed from 1619 to 1681, during which the John George Bastion was built. The third construction period is seen as the time from 1694 to 1756, which included the expansion of the Old Barracks. From 1722 to 1725, at the behest of August the Strong, coopers under Böttger built the enormous Königstein Wine Barrel, the greatest wine barrel in the world, in the cellar of the Magdalenenburg which had a capacity of 249,838 litres. It cost 8,230 thalers, 18 groschen and 9 pfennigs. The butt, which was once completely filled with country wine from the Meißen vineyards, had to be removed again in 1818 due to its poor condition. Because of Böttger, Königstein Fortress is also the site where European porcelain started.

Even after the expansion during those periods of time there continued to be modifications and additions on the extensive plateau. The Treasury (Schatzhaus) was built from 1854 to 1855. After the fortress had been incorporated in 1871 into the fortification system of the new German Empire, battery ramparts were constructed from 1870 to 1895 with eight firing points, that were to have provided all-round defence for the fortress in case of an attack that, in the event, never came. This was at this time that the last major building work was done on the fortress.

Because Königstein Fortress was regarded as unconquerable, the Saxon monarchs retreated to it from Wittenberg and later Dresden during times of crisis and also deposited the state treasure and many works of art from the famous Zwinger here; it was also used as a country retreat due to its lovely surroundings.

The fortress played an important role in the History of Saxony, albeit less as a result of military action. The Saxon Dukes and Prince-Electors used the fortress primarily as a secure refuge during times of war, as a hunting lodge and maison de plaisance, but also as a dreaded state prison. Its actual military significance was rather marginal.

Since 1955 the fortress has been an open-air, military history museum of high touristic value.