Fecamp Abbey - History and Facts | History Hit

Fecamp Abbey

Fecamp, Normandy, France

Fecamp Abbey played a vital role in William the Conqueror's story.

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About Fecamp Abbey

Fecamp Abbey is a Benedictine abbey in Fécamp, Normandy, France.

Fecamp Abbey history

Fecamp Abbey (Abbaye de la Trinité de Fécamp) in Normandy is a Benedictine abbey with a rich history dating back to the 7th century, when an abbey for nuns was founded there. In the 11th century, Fecamp Abbey played an important role in the story of William the Conqueror, who hailed from Fecamp. Indeed members of his family are interred within its walls. What’s more, Fecamp Abbey was a vital element of Duke William’s conquest of England.

Generously endowed by Richard II, the abbey was prosperous during the 12th and 13th centuries; an abbey nullius, it possessed the three abbeys of Bernay, Évreux in Normandy, and Blangy in Artois, as well as 30 parish churches and vast material domains in France, England, and Spain. Fécamp, itself, with its reputed relic of the Precious Blood was a pilgrimage centre.

The 12th- century Romanesque church was burned in 1168, and the present church was erected under Abbots Henry of Sully (1139–87) and Raoul of Argences (1187–1219), the lantern tower over the transept being built under Abbot William of Vaspail (1229–59). The abbey suffered great destruction during the Hundred Years’ War.

The abbots of the period included Peter Roger (1326–29), who became Pope Clement VI; D’Estouteville (1390–1423), founder of the abbey’s celebrated choir of chanters, which survived until 1791; and Gilles de Duremont (1423–44), a creature of the Duke of Bedford and one of the judges who condemned Joan of Arc.

In the 16th century the Abbot Cardinals Jean Balue and Antoine Bohier, the three cardinals of lorraine, and François de Joyeuse continued to attract kings and royalty to Fécamp as before, but the abbey suffered much during the Wars of Religion.

The 17th and 18th centuries were again prosperous times for Fécamp; the Maurist reform, desired by the monks as early as 1620, was introduced in 1650 despite the opposition of the grand prior. The church façade was redone in classical style in 1748. In 1768 the abbey numbered 27 maurists; it was suppressed in the French Revolution, and the abbey church became a parish church.

Fecamp Abbey today

Today, people visit the beautiful Gothic Fecamp Abbey both by way of pilgrimage and to marvel at its architecture and historic treasures.

The large Gothic structure, of exceptional length (127 metres), has interior decorations from the 15th and 16th centuries that are of particular interest. These include the tabernacle of the Precious Blood, the sculpture of the Dormition of the Virgin, and the magnificent Renaissance gates that enclose the chapels around the choir.

Particularly light and airy inside, the church is a wonderful place to spend an hour admiring the wonderful stained glass, beautiful sculptures, and a unique astronomical clock from 1667. The chapels are decorated in the early Renaissance style, except for the 15th century Chapel of the Virgin which is more flamboyant. Outside, the lantern tower standing 60 metres high is an imposing sight.

Getting to Fecamp Abbey

The address of the abbey is Abbatiale de la Sainte-Trinité Service du Patrimoine 10 rue des Forts 76400 Fécamp. Fécamp is situated in the valley of the Valmont river, at the heart of the Pays de Caux, on the Alabaster Coast. It is around 35 kilometres northeast of Le Havre (45 minute drive), and around 60 kilometres northwest of Rouen (1 hour drive).

If travelling via public transport, there are direct trains from Paris to Fecamp (3 hours and 20 min).

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