This website requires JavaScript.

A little history of Chaalis abbey

Ruins of the abbey | / CC-BY-NC-SA
Abbey Cistercian Chaalis abbey

A bloody foundation

King Louis VI the Fat was really biter, in this cold day of January 1136: he had just founded the Cistercian Chaalis abbey, but what a foundation!

He dedicated it to his cousin, count of Flanders Charles the Good, who was murdered in Bruges (Belgium) 10 years ago...

He needed a place to pray for his soul, and this place was... Chaalis! Chaalis, between Ile-de-France and Picardy, near king Louis VI’s palace of Ver-sur-Launette, in the dark forest of Ermenonville...

Vezelay abbey gave him lands here, in 1127, but 12 monks from Pontigny abbey in Burgundy moved in 1136.

Immediately, kings of France gave money and treasures to them: even saint Louis visited them! Thanks to this royal protection, the abbey became prosperous. And needed to be extended!

An amazing rise

They needed more space! So they raised the abbot church and the abbot chapel. The church, consecrated in 1219, was amazing! We still can see a wall and few vestiges.

But could you imagine a big Gothic colossus made of stone, 80 metres long and 30 metres large? The abbott chapel was raised between 1245 and 1255: it’s the spitting image of the Sainte-Chapelle of Paris!

Inside, we had frescos on the vaults, made by Primaticcio in the 16th century.

Chaalis was a very rich and famous abbey, in the Middle-Ages, with its own hydraulic system, barns, windmills, beehives, ponds and vineyards.

But above all, it was an unequalled intellectual centre! Oh, for instance, monk Guillaume de Digulleville, who became prior of the abbey, wrote his famous novel Le Roman des Trois Pèlerinages here...

The fall... then the rise!

But as usual in abbeys, difficulties came: wars, epidemics... Abbots even became real lords and started to receive Chaalis income! Real lords who raised luxurious buildings.

One of them made the frescos in the chapel in the 16th century.

Another one, Louis of Bourbon, re-raised the religious buildings in the middle of the 18th century: the current Classical building was raised by Jean Aubert, the man who also erected stables in castle of Chantilly...

Meanwhile, the greedy abbot squandered all the money...

In 1785, Chaalis had to close... When the Revolution came, the abbey was sold: they destroyed every building, except the main building and the abbott chapel.

In 1902, banker Edouard André and his famous wife Nélie Jacquemart (famous founders of the Parisian Jacquemart-André museum), art lovers, owned the estate and started to restore it.

They completely refit out apartments with precious furniture (Empire or 18th century style), paintings by Boucher, Oudry, Giotto...

They also laid out the nice roses garden. Nélie gave this treasure to the Institut de France in 1912, just before her death...

About the the author

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