Grafschaft Benedictine Abbey was founded in 1072 on a site at the foot of the Wilzenberg mountain, by Saint Anno, Archbishop of Cologne, whose statue still stands at the west gate. The monastery was dedicated between 1079 and 1089. The original buildings burned down in 1270. From 1729 the premises were gradually replaced by completely new buildings in the Baroque style; the rebuild was finished in 1742 and the new abbey church dedicated in 1747.
The abbey was dissolved in 1804 as a consequence of secularisation. In 1827 the premises were bought by the Princes von Fürstenberg, but by that time the church was in such a bad condition that it had to be demolished, despite its high architectural quality.
In 1947 the buildings were given to the Sisters of Mercy of Saint Charles Borromeo, who had been expelled from the order's former mother house Trebnitz Abbey, in Silesia. Grafschaft is now the mother house. This is a nursing order, and a large part of the premises is now used as a hospital. There is also a museum of the abbey's history.References:
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).