Solesmes Abbey

Solesmes, France

Solesmes Abbey was founded in 1010 by Geoffrey, Lord of Sablé, who donated the monastery and its farm to the Benedictine monks. In the 12th century, a lord of Sablé returned from the Holy Land in possession of a relic. This relic, being a piece from the crown of thorns was given to the brothers at Solesmes for safekeeping and veneration. The presence of this relic drew crowds and allowed the monastery to gain popularity and fame.

Solesmes was sacked and burned during the Hundred Years' War but was later restored. The rebuilding of the church started towards the end of the 15th century. Prior Philibert de la Croix changed its plan from the basilica form to a Latin cross. His successor, Jean Bougler (1505–1556), completed the restoration of the church, added the tower, and rebuilt the cloisters, sacristy, and library.

From the 17th century on, Solesmes Abbey underwent a slow decline under a series of commendatory abbots. During the French Revolution, at the beginning of 1791, the monks began to leave the monastery, and those who resisted were imprisoned or deported to the Island of Jersey. In 1825, government property administrators sold the monastic buildings and 145 acres with its farms.

Abbey Church

The church is long, narrow, and composed of two sections: the Nave and the Monk's Choir. The Nave was built between the 11th and 15th centuries and the Monk's Choir was built by Dom Prosper Guéranger in 1865. In the nave, a large stained glass window had to be blocked to install a great organ, which now sits in the back of the nave.


Solesmes currently holds two well-manicured gardens. The smallest of the two, being the guesthouse terrace gardens surrounds a small house coated in coarse pink plaster. This area, as well as the adjacent slope (informally referred to as 'the valley' by members of the congregation) is accessible by retreaters for meditation and reflection. The larger of the two gardens is located within the enclosure.

Saints of Solesmes

Located within the transept of the church are 'The Saints of Solesmes.' These artistic masterpieces, whose creators have been lost to time, are displayed on both the North and South sections of the transept. Their estimated construction period was from c. 1530 – c. 1553 (being the date inscribed on the South colonnade). It is unknown who sculpted these icons, as nearly all of the monastery's archives were destroyed during the French Revolution. In addition, any records of who financed the creation of the Saints of Solesmes was lost with the destruction of the monastery's archives as well. It can be inferred the Saints of Solesmes were donated by wealthy benefactors, as the priory's finances at this time period would not have been able to finance a project of this magnitude.



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Solesmes, France
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Founded: 1010
Category: Religious sites in France
Historical period: Birth of Capetian dynasty (France)

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4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Bram Huyghe (2 months ago)
Here in this abbey the monks have taken in a child abuser, roger vangheluwe, like this is a very normal thing. Without punishment he can continue to have a normal life in this place.
james lynn (6 months ago)
Beautiful experience at today’s Vespers at the Abbaye Saint-Pierre de Solesmes. The Gregorian Chant is the best.
Feral (8 months ago)
It's magical here, if you don't want to visit the Abbey, the surrounding area is beautiful. There is a restaurant and hotel over the road from the Abbey too. The river is peaceful and area very quiet. You can hear the monks sing at certain times of the day which is absolutely breathtaking. Highly recommended.
Benedict Paul (10 months ago)
A stunning Abbasial Church with beautiful relief sculptures and lovely clean & clear architecture. Some great stained glass, too. I've rarely been moved so much by a church
Paul DiBianca (11 months ago)
The abbaye monks were kind enough have me stay with them for a few days and observe and participate in their daily life. The experience has enabled me to think more deeply about what Christian faith means to me.
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