Corbie Abbey

Corbie, France

Corbie Abbey is a former Benedictine monastery in Corbie, Picardy, dedicated to Saint Peter. It was founded by Balthild, the widow of Clovis II, who had monks sent from Luxeuil. The Abbey of Corbie became celebrated both for its library and the scriptorium.

The abbey was founded in about 657/661 under Merovingian royal patronage by Balthild, widow of Clovis II, and her son Clotaire III. The first monks came from Luxeuil Abbey, which had been founded by Saint Columbanus in 590, and the Irish respect for classical learning fostered there was carried forward at Corbie.

Its scriptorium came to be one of the centres of work of manuscript illumination when the art was still fairly new in western Europe. The clear and legible hand known as Carolingian minuscule was also developed at the scriptorium at Corbie, as well as a distinctive style of illumination.

Medieval period

Corbie continued its intimate links with the royal house of the Carolingians. In 774 Desiderius, last King of the Lombards, was exiled here after his defeat by Charlemagne. Members of the Carolingian house sometimes served as abbots. In the ninth century Corbie was larger than St. Martin's Abbey at Tours, or Saint Denis at Paris. At its height it housed 300 monks.

In 1137 a fire destroyed the monastic buildings but they were rebuilt on a larger scale. 

Commendatory abbots were introduced in 1550, amongst those that held the benefice was Cardinal Mazarin. The somewhat drooping fortunes of the abbey were revived in 1618, when it was one of the first to be incorporated into the new Congregation of Saint Maur. At its suppression in 1790 the buildings were partly demolished, but the church remains to this day, with its imposing portal and western towers.


Corbie was renowned for its library, which was assembled from as far as Italy, and for its scriptorium. The contents of its library are known from catalogues of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. In addition to its patristic writings, it is recognized as an important center for the transmission of the works of Antiquity to the Middle Ages. An inventory (of perhaps the 11th century) lists the church history of Hegesippus, now lost, among other extraordinary treasures.

In 1638, Cardinal Richelieu ordered the transfer of 400 manuscripts transferred to the library of the monastery of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris. During the French Revolution, the library was closed and the last of the monks dispersed: 300 manuscripts still at Corbie were moved to Amiens, 15 km to the west. Those at St-Germain des Prés were released on the market, and many rare manuscripts were obtained by Russian diplomat Peter P. Dubrovsky and sent to St. Petersburg. Other Corbie manuscripts are at the Bibliothèque Nationale. Over two hundred manuscripts from the great library at Corbie are known to survive.

Modern times

Jean Mabillon, the father of paleography, had been a monk at Corbie. The village of Corbie grew up round Corbie Abbey and was close to the fighting during the Battle of the Somme. Between 22 April and 10 May 1918, Corbie was heavily shelled by the Germans and the church sustained many direct hits.



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Founded: 657 AD
Category: Religious sites in France
Historical period: Frankish kingdoms (France)

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4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Lionel DAMIENS (13 months ago)
Its great history and its call to prayer and meditation within our city
Javier Matas Martinez (18 months ago)
Spectacular building that can be seen from the canal and from the town.
Kirill Zinchenko (19 months ago)
Such a wonderful looking cathedral in such a small town.
Alain (2 years ago)
Amiens Cathedral in miniature ... We can see her from afar when arriving on Corbie. It just lacks a little perspective to be able to fully discover it when you are at its feet. The town of Corbie is very pretty with its many monuments and its view of the Somme ponds to discover.
VG (2 years ago)
Very pretty
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