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A little history of Nanteuil abbey

Wall of the chapter room | Jack ma / CC-BY-SA
Abbey Benedictine Nanteuil abbey

A royal foundation

The legend says king Charlemagne founded the abbey in 780, and gave it lot of money.

At the end of the 9th century, Normans set fire to the abbey and plundered it. A man called Guillaume Le Noble re-raised it and he called 20 monks to live in the brand new monastery.

We had big names, among those monks! Seguin became archbishop of Bordeaux in 999, Rodolphe de Couhé, bishop of Périgueux in 1000 or Géraud, bishop of Limoges in 1012... Our abbey became prosperous and rich, meanwhile.

From the 11th century, the church and religious buildings were rebuilt and extended: a ladrerie (special hospital for lepers) dedicated to saint Thomas was raised, on the road to Charroux (a hospital destroyed in the 15th century). They gave lands to the abbey: monks owned a vast agricultural estate.

They had lands... and also relics! Lots of relics... Saint Ann’s one, a piece of the Holy cross and nail... Those two were brought back by Charlemagne himself, says the legend! They had also Virgin Mary’s cloth, saint Peter’s tooth, Mary-Magdalene’s hairs, saint Cloud’s thumb...

Big constructions

But let’s get back to the medieval constructions: the church was began in 1047 by Aymard de La Rochefoucauld, lord of Ruffec, and was completed in the beginning of the next century.

To the south of the abbey, they raised a big square tower which housed the Treasury and where Charlemagne’s corpse was buried, says the tradition!

But in the middle of the 15th century, looters plundered the area. Monks decided to protect themselves, by fortifying the abbey and raising walls around the city.

Yet, two times, the English set fire to the monastery. Precious objects disappeared, bells were melted, but reliquaries were preserved... for a good reason! They were too heavy... Looters couldn’t move them!

Destroyed during the Hundred Years War, they rebuilt the church between 1440 and 1448, then from 1468 to 1492: period documents said monks couldn’t live in those ruined buildings...

Finally, Nanteuil was dissolved in 1770 by bishop of Poitiers, and the abbey went to ruin during the Revolution. Nowadays, the French Nation restored it: we can visit the place (with the beautiful Treasury room) in summer.

About the the author

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