Little histories about Langonnet abbey

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The cloister - ©Lanzonnet / CC-BY-SA The cloister - ©Lanzonnet / CC-BY-SA
Langonnet abbey Abbey Robbery La Fontenelle Cistercian

A big swamp

Maurice and Conan

Duke Conan III founded the abbey in 1136 for his mum, the old Breton duchess Irmengarde. 12 monks turned up from l’Aumône abbey near Chartres, and settled.

The place was located near the old road linking Port-Louis to Carhaix: a big swamp sheltered from the wind, with woods all around. The river Ellé ran next to it and allowed the landscaping of ponds for fish-farming.

The first abbot was Maurice, he will found the abbey of Saint-Maurice-de-Carnoët! Its Conan III’s pal.

Linen and parchments

Monks attended to their business. They had to work hard and pray, that’s all. Some cultivated vegetables, others made linen or parchments, others iron… So our abbey was completely self-sufficient!

In the Middle Ages, the abbey owned lands in Breton parishes of Gourin and Le Faouët, but also get private incomes. Langonnet became pretty prosperous and rich… Until the decadence, in the 16th century!

Times of wars


We were now in 1536, and the decadence began. Why? Because of the commende: a new law saying that lay abbots had to be appointed at the head of abbeys. My gosh, ordinary men! And those lay men didn’t care about their monasteries, they didn’t live there and only took all the money…

Among those ″abbots″, Langonnet kept names of:
• the Bonacourcy, a family closed to the queen Marie of Medici
• the Marboeuf, a rich family from Rennes...

A bloodthirsty crook

Things get complicated during the war of Religion: do you know La Fontenelle? A famous Breton crook who plundered a part of Brittany… including Langonnet. He settled here after he expelled all the monks and destroyed all the precious books and archives. In 1598, when monks came back, the abbey looked like a heap of ruins! It was re-raised between 1688 and 1788. One century!

Shoo, by auction!

One century of colossal building works… then, during the French Revolution, it was sold! All the furniture was sold by auction. But no one came to buy the abbey! So, what happened to it?

A stud-farm in the abbey!

A dark death trap

After the passage of the Republican army in 1793, Langonnet became a sinister lair, in 1803. A pretty dreary place! ″60 families of poor people, jobless, with nothing to do″ lived here, says the visit book printed by the abbey. ″It was not very careful to spent night here″, because they killed and robbed… Brr! A weird reconversion for an abbey!

Horsies and Holy Spirit

We must wait until 1806: emperor Napoléon decided to settle a stud-farm in Langonnet, saving the buildings: the church was transformed into stables. Yes, 70 stallions lived here, so they raised an additional wing!

And, in 1853… the congregation of the Holy-Spirit, located not far from here, in Gourin, coveted the abbey. They wanted to settle in! The French State allowed them in 1857. But what about the stud-farm? It moved in the city of Hennebont… it still exist today! Nowadays, congregations’ member still live here, but we can visit the place!

The visit of Langonnet

The cloister

With its 3 buildings with a U-shape, the cloister was re-raised in reinforce concrete between 1930 and 1936. On one corner, we have the big granite bell-tower: typically Cistercian!

The courtyard

In the middle, the statue of the Virgin Mary, the exact copy of Notre-Dame-de-France made for the Universal Exhibition of 1878. We notice 3 blazons, here: the one belonging to the Cistercian order, the one to the duchy of Brittany, the one to the congregation of the Holy-Spirit (with a dove and a heart).

The chapter room

It’s the only remain (1250) of the primitive abbey! We notice a nice door: do you see on it, this strange orange color? It’s because of the stone, ferruginous granite, which simply rusted!

The chapel

The current chapel dates back to the arrival of the Congregation: 1858. The rococo style in all its glory! Hey, we have a recumbent figure, belonging to saint Maurice.

And also!