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A little history of Beauport abbey

The abbey | JLPC / CC-BY-SA
Abbey Premonstratensians Beauport abbey


Put your sweater on, it's freezing!

12th century: Alain, count of Tréguier and Penthièvre, had a crazy idea!

He decided to rebuild a monastery dedicated to saint Riom, in Guirvinil island, between 1184 and 1189.

Canons of Saint-Victor in Paris moved in. But life was hard, here, on this rocky rock beset with wind and storms! Too hard... Monks left the place!

Shelter from the wind

Alain was alone, one more time... He needed to rebuild the monastery on dry land, not on an island!

In a place where fresh water would spring, where the sea would overflow with fishes, where the new abbey would be protected against violent winds...

In 1202, monks moved in there. They started to raise a brand new abbey with a cloister and buildings. In theory, the building site was completed in 1250... in fact, everything was finished in 1620!

15 or 20 monks used to live in Beauport.

They owned forests for wood, cliffs as a quarry, they had a fresh water spring (they created ponds for fish-farming).

In the 14th century, they even raised a dyke and a jetty in order to ease boats coming: in the Middle-Ages, pilgrims from Scotland and Ireland used to stop here, on the way to Compostela!

And Beauport became very rich and powerful: the abbey administered justice on around 12 parishes, until 1650! Only Pope from Rome had power over Beauport: abbots were allowed to wear the mitre from the 15th century...

The decadence

What a mess!

One century later, troubles came. At that time, monks didn't deprive themselves! They feasted, they laughed, they even forget to maintain their abbey!

And when wars of Religion came, monks abandoned the place. A text at that time said roofs were damaged, windows broken, altars overturned...

One century later, the surrounding wall was almost destroyed, the rain entered in the dormitory.

It needed a reconstruction. Prior Vincent Royer transformed buildings into Classical style, created cells for monks, restored the church and closed the wall.

Nevertheless, monks went on with their dissolute life! Anarchy, in a word! Then came the French Revolution...

All the monks were expelled and they sold the abbey in 1791. They wanted to transform it into a sails factory! Several buildings were razed at that time, but also church's roof, vaults and bell-tower.

Did you know they decided to move the huge library (2 000 old books) in Saint-Brieuc? The boat which carried them sank during a storm, and books were... swallowed up in the sea!

Every cloud has a silver lining

Well, Beauport was sold... remember? But to whom? To the priest of Plouha! The chap ruined it more and more: he demolished everything in order to get stones for his own church!

In 1845, count of Ponenski owned the abbey.

This man was fond of archaeology! So he saved Beauport, which was listed as a Historical Monument in 1862, by Prosper Mérimée himself!

Mérimée who wrote in his book Notes d'un voyage dans l'Ouest de la France:

« Ce coin de terre semble exceptionnel. J'y voyais avec surprise prospérer des arbres du midi de la France. Oubliant leur soleil natal, des myrtes, des mûriers, des figuiers gigantesques couvraient la plage, laissant presque tomber leurs fruits dans les flots. Que devait être Beauport, lorsque de riches oisifs l'habitaient, croyant peut-être servir Dieu en ornant leur demeure ? »
"This place is exceptional. I saw, amazed, Southern France's trees here! Those one just forgot their native sun: myrtles, fig trees, mulberry bushes covered the beach. Oh, Beauport used to be a real paradise, when rich idlers lived here, thinking they were serving God..."

About the the author

I'm fond of strolls and History, with juicy and spicy details!