L'Épau Abbey

Le Mans, France

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.



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Le Mans, France
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Founded: 1229
Category: Religious sites in France
Historical period: Late Capetians (France)

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4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Floris van Hal (11 months ago)
The construction of the abbey was ordered by the wife of Richard Lionheart, yet nowadays little is left of the beauty this should have inspired. The abbey is a nice tranquil place outside of the business of le Mans, but a real abbey it is not. It was completely emptied during the French Revolution and never reinstated as an abbey. Nowadays everything is empty and to see an abbey here one will need some imagination. Luckily the information folder helps a bit with this, but it cannot fill the physical hole of missing things.
Serkan B (11 months ago)
Kinda exaggerated. I wouldn't pay 5.5€ to enter there.
Graham Pike (11 months ago)
Lovely place to visit. Very interesting. Enjoyed the walk through the grounds, the cafe and shop. Worth a visit
Colin Hiscock (14 months ago)
Very nice place to walk around and read about the history. Staff very helpful both in the shop and the cafe.
Not Just Another Book (2 years ago)
This is such an amazing but very tranquil place to visit. The simplicity of the architecture is breathtaking....you really should visit
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