L'Épau Abbey is a former Cistercian abbey founded by the English queen Berengaria of Navarre in 1229. Plans for the abbey were classic with construction respecting the style of other Cistercian buildings. Construction took from 1230 to 1365. Four years after construction began, the Bishop of Le Mans Geoffroy de Laval placed the monastery under the patronage of both Notre-Dame and Saint John the Baptiste. The main buildings were not finished until 1280.
In March 1365, in the middle of the Hundred Years' War, the people of Le Mans burned the building of their own accord. As the monks had left the abbey, the inhabitants feared that enemy troops would seize the building and use it as a base from which to attack the town. In fact, it was the noblemen who forced the people to take action. The church was the part of the abbey to suffer the most damage. However, the following year the bourgeois of Le Mans decided to completely rebuild the damaged parts of the church. But they were not the ones who financed the renovation. Money was difficult to come by in the region and donations to religious orders were rare.
All the damaged buildings were renovated between 1400 and 1444. Charles VI raised finance by taxing the local population. One of the main artisans of the church restoration was Guillaume de Bonneville.
At the beginning of the French Revolution the abbey was transformed into a gigantic agricultural outbuilding.
Between 1965 and 1990, the abbey became popular for cultural functions, in particular for classical music events, conferences and exhibitions. The location is also used as the chair for the departmental assembly, in particular the 18th-century wing, which was restored in 1990.References:
La Hougue Bie is a Neolithic ritual site which was in use around 3500 BC. Hougue is a Jèrriais/Norman language word meaning a \'mound\' and comes from the Old Norse word haugr. The site consists of 18.6m long passage chamber covered by a 12.2m high mound. The site was first excavated in 1925 by the Société Jersiaise. Fragments of twenty vase supports were found along with the scattered remains of at least eight individuals. Gravegoods, mostly pottery, were also present. At some time in the past, the site had evidently been entered and ransacked.
In Western Europe, it is one of the largest and best preserved passage graves and the most impressive and best preserved monument of Armorican Passage Grave group. Although they are termed \'passage graves\', they were ceremonial sites, whose function was more similar to churches or cathedrals, where burials were incidental.