Vauclair Abbey Ruins

Bouconville-Vauclair, France

Vauclair Abbey was a Cistercian monastery located in what is now the commune of Bouconville-Vauclair.

The monastery was built about 15 kilometers to the south of Laon in an east-west stretch of the Ailette river valley at the foot of the northern side of the Chemin des Dames, on a site already occupied by a church, in the present commune of Bouconville-Vauclair. The site was ceded to Bernard with all its rights and dependencies. On 23 May 1134 a group of monks from Clairvaux Abbey, headed by the Englishman Henry Murdac, its first abbot, took possession of the new abbey, the 15th daughter house of Clairvaux. Its favourable east-west orientation led Bernard to name it Vauclair (Vallis clara), reversing the name of the mother abbey (Clara vallis). Supported by gifts from rich families, the abbey quickly prospered and was given several estates and farms.

In 1142, on the initiative of Bernard and of Hatto, bishop of Troyes, Le Reclus Abbey north of Sézanne was made subsidiary to Vauclair. In 1167, at the request of Henry I of Champagne, count palatine of Champagne, Vauclair Abbey sent monks to found La Charmoye Abbey not far from Épernay. The Hundred Years' War and the 16th-century French Wars of Religion heavily damaged Vauclair, though it managed to survive until the French Revolution in 1789, when it was finally demolished and sold as 'national property'. Its geographical location very near to the Chemin des Dames led to what was left of its buildings being almost totally destroyed in 1917 by direct artillery bombardment. Only ruins now remain.

Following excavations in 1966 by a local association led by a young Belgian Jesuit, Père René Courtois, who lived in the abbey from 1966 until his death in 2005, the site was made a monument historique in 1970. The site now also includes an arboretum of apple and pear trees and a medicinal herb garden planned by Courtois and opened in 1976.



Your name


Founded: 1134
Category: Religious sites in France
Historical period: Birth of Capetian dynasty (France)

More Information


4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Yvan Vanderkimpen (12 months ago)
Abbey ruins free to visit. Beautiful and very quiet area. There is a possibility for a picnic next to the ruin. In the fall (free) to pick apples of old French and foreign varieties.
Clio Simons (13 months ago)
Very quiet and peacefull site. We visited the site after à long Bike ride, but also Nice to visit by foot. At the end of the Voie Verte. But that route is not very well maintained. The province should invest in the Voie Verte to attrzct more tourists.
Ali Mohamed (14 months ago)
Nice place, they are doing efforts to keep it in good condition. There is an exposiyion which is open every week end. A garden have a lot diffrent plants.
Rian Gonzales-de Ravel (2 years ago)
An overall wonderful experience. It was easy to navigate the area with maps provided and signs leading you precisely where you're looking for! A nice to walk with ypur dogs also ?
Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Doune Castle

Doune Castle was originally built in the thirteenth century, then probably damaged in the Scottish Wars of Independence, before being rebuilt in its present form in the late 14th century by Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany (c. 1340–1420), the son of King Robert II of Scots, and Regent of Scotland from 1388 until his death. Duke Robert"s stronghold has survived relatively unchanged and complete, and the whole castle was traditionally thought of as the result of a single period of construction at this time. The castle passed to the crown in 1425, when Albany"s son was executed, and was used as a royal hunting lodge and dower house.

In the later 16th century, Doune became the property of the Earls of Moray. The castle saw military action during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms and Glencairn"s rising in the mid-17th century, and during the Jacobite risings of the late 17th century and 18th century.