Grestain Abbey (Abbaye Notre-Dame de Grestain) was an 11th century Benedictine monastery. Closely associated with the family of William, Duke of Normandy, the abbey was instrumental in the Normans taking control over the Catholic Church in England in the centuries following the Norman Conquest of England, establishing new churches and priories in England, and Abbots of Grestain ordained many English priests. Many churches mentioned in the Domesday Book cite Grestain as the founding establishment.

The Abbey was founded in 1050 by Herluin de Conteville and his wife Arlette, mother of William the Conqueror. Herluin, a victim of leprosy, was said to have seen a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary who told him to take a spa treatment at the source of the Carbec stream in Grestain (Carbec meaning 'the Stream of Kari'). Cured, he decided to build an abbey in the nearby Valley of Vilaine dedicated to the Virgin and a chapel at Carbec, a site also dedicated to the healing spring of Saint-Méen. Herluin's son, Robert de Mortain, half-brother of William, was the principal benefactor, endowing it with his revenues from England.

In 1358, the abbey was sacked by the Anglo-Navarrais. The monks took refuge at their safe house in Rouen, in the parish of Saint-Eloi. Between 1364-1365 the abbey was attacked once more. On the return of the monks, the abbey had been partly destroyed and nearly rased to the ground.

The abbey was officially closed in 1757 on the orders of the bishop. The church buildings were demolished around 1766 and the rest of abbey destroyed in 1790; of these buildings, only a few ruins remain, integrated into the Château de La Pommeraye (a private property): a defensive wall, a 13th-Century portal, an 18th century manor with a 13th century floor, and remains of the church.A monunment has been erected to the memory of the founders who were buried in the now defunct church: Arlette, Herluin and Robert de Mortain, as well as Robert's wife, Mathilde de Montgomerie, daughter of Roger de Montgomerie.



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Founded: 1050
Category: Ruins in France
Historical period: Birth of Capetian dynasty (France)


3.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Christian BEECKMANS (2 years ago)
Beaux bâtiments,mais rien de plus et difficile a trouver
Bernard Lecoq (2 years ago)
Découverte et visite hier d'un lieu plein d'émotion pour moi qui suis un descendant d'Herluin et d'Arlette de Falaise (28° génération) de son fils Robert de Mortain demi frère de Guillaume et de Mathilde de Montgommery. Je suis content et fier de savoir que ces "illustres" ancêtres reposent dans ce lieu calme et magnifique de notre Normandie. A visiter, et merci pour la préservation et l'entretien de ce site chargé d'histoire.
Philippe JEAN (2 years ago)
A voir. Chargé d histoire normandes...
Muriel Claudel (4 years ago)
Haut lieu de Culture, d'Histoire et de Théâtre, dans un site très protégé en baie de Seine, avec les paquebots à l'horizon et les moutons dans les herbages. La saison théâtrale donne lieu à des spectacles de grande qualité donnés en plein air par des comédiens de talents et des metteurs en scène aguerris et particulièrement créatifs. Cet endroit est exceptionnel et magique et mérite le détour et la visite.
Stefan Fletcher (5 years ago)
(critique en français après l'anglais) The place is interesting. Herleva (William the Conqueror's mother) is supposedly buried there, although her remains have not been located. "Abbey" sounds rather grand. In fact, there's a 17th century house built on the ruins of a chaplaincy, two thatched cottages, a stream and some outhouses. The setting is pleasant, but it is completely out of the way. You most definitely need a car to get there and won't be able to park it easily when you do. The site's owner is rather intriguing too (keep eyes firmly above waist, as he often forgets to zip his trousers). Usually affable and interesting, he can be devious. Having had dealings with him, I must say I rather wish I hadn't. All events are in French with no translation. Events vary from outdoor theatre (often in the pouring rain) by good acting troupes performing minor French playwrights or French translations of Greek tragedies by site owner to conferences by local historians, archaeologists, etc. There are some pantomimes for children, but again, everything is in French (which is only natural, after all). Le lieu est non sans intérêt et on y ressent une certaine sérénité. Arlette, la mère de Guillaume le Conquérant y serait enterrée, mais on n’a pas encore trouvé sa tombe. C’est une ancienne abbaye, ou plutôt des ruines avec une maison de maître, 2 chaumières, des dépendances et un ruisseau. Le site est excentré et difficile à trouver. La voiture est le seul moyen de s’y rendre. Malheureusement on ne peut pas se garer facilement. Le propriétaire est tout aussi intéressant quand il se rappelle sa braguette et normalement plaisant et passionné, mais non sans retors. J’ai eu l’occasion de regretter avoir eu affaire avec ce monsieur, mais cela n’impacte pas l’attrait du site. On y joue des pièces de théâtre en été à l’extérieur (prévoir des coussins et des parapluies) et le site organise des visites et des conférences sur des sujets médiévaux.
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