Jumieges Abbey, an influential Norman abbey

Jumieges Abbey is situated to the east of Rouen, in the historical Pays de Caux region.

Jumieges Abbey
Jumieges Abbey

Saint-Philibert founded it in 654AD in a loop of the river Seine.

Jumieges is therefore one of the oldest Benedictine monasteries in Normandy.

The Vikings burned and looted it in 841AD.

The monks, however, had time to escape to the Priory of Haspres near Cambrai where they took all their precious manuscripts and relics.

King Charles the Simple created the Duchy of Normandy in 911 in exchange for the Vikings’ allegiance and conversion to Christianity.

Once peace returned, a dozen monks returned to the Jumieges Abbey.

They restored some of the monastic buildings under the patronage of William I Longsword, the 2nd Duke of Normandy.

Jumieges Abbey
Jumieges Abbey

Abbot Robert de Jumieges entirely rebuilt the abbey between 1040 and 1052, hence its name.

Jumiege Abbey is a perfect illustration of Norman Romanesque architecture.

The archbishop of Rouen consecrated the church on July 1, 1067 in the presence of William the Conqueror and all the bishops of Normandy!

Jumieges Abbey became so influential that in 1431 abbot Nicolas Le Roux became a member of the jury that sentenced Joan of Arc to be burnt at the stake.

The church contained also the marble recumbent statue of King Charles VII’s favourite, Agnes Sorel, who died in 1450 shortly after giving birth to their fourth daughter.

The chancel was rebuilt and lateral chapels added between 1267 and 1278 in order to lighten the church’ interior.

Decline of the abbey

The abbey was sacked in 1562 during the Wars of Religion.

Jumieges Abbey
Jumieges Abbey

The monks had just enough time to escape and put in safety their most valuable manuscripts and items.

Sadly, the Protestants ransacked, destroyed, broke, burned or disassembled everything they could!

Little remains of the chancel and apse, however the nave, facade and some walls – relatively well preserved  – partially escaped destruction.

The monks returned to the ruined abbey once the conflict over and sold some land in order to raise sufficient funds to restore their abbey.

The final blow occurred at the French Revolution, when the abbey was declared national property and sold.

It was turned into a stone and wood quarry until 1824 and was demolished stone by stone, beam by beam!

Indeed, the first owner demolished the 16th century cloister and the 18th century dormitory; the second owner, a timber merchant, dismantled the chancel.

Jumieges Abbey
Detail architecture

Nicolas Casimir Caumont, the son-in-law of the timber merchant, inherited the abbey, or at least what was left of it.

Mayor of Jumieges and an enlightened man, he spent several years protecting the abbey from further destruction.

The Lepel-Cointet family bought Jumieges Abbey when Caumont died in 1852 and pursued his work.

The intervention of Victor Hugo succeeded in awakening public interest in the abbey.

As a result, the abbey was listed Historical Monument.

Jumieges Abbey became then regarded as the ‘most beautiful ruin of France’.

Many painters and writers went there in order ‘to soak up’ the essence of the site and draw inspiration.

The French state bought Jumieges Abbey in 1947, and the department of Seine Maritime acquired it 2007.

Department Seine-Maritime
Coordinates: Lat 49.431932 – Long 0.819054

Photos via Wikimedia Commons: Feature picture by ZaironAbbey churchFurther ruins – Detail architecture – header

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