Fécamp Abbey

Fécamp Abbey (French: Abbaye de la Trinité de Fécamp) is a Benedictine abbey in Fécamp, Seine-Maritime, Upper Normandy, France.

The abbey was the first producer of Bénédictine, a herbal liqueur, based on brandy.[1]

Fecamp Abbey Chevet10
Abbey church, Fécamp

First foundation

It was founded in 658 by Waningus, a Merovingian count, for nuns.[2] Another convent he founded in 660, near the site of the Precious Relic, was destroyed by the Vikings in 842. Around the Ducal palace, the foundations of two chapels have been found.

Second foundation

After more Viking raids, Richard I of Normandy rebuilt the church. It was Richard II who invited Guillaume de Volpiano (Guglielmo da Volpiano) in 1001 to rekindle the life of the abbey, under Benedictine rules.[3] These two Norman rulers, who were originally buried outside,[4] were later interred in 1162 by Henry II of England within the southern transept of the gothic abbey church.[5] Their remains were moved several times and reburied in several places, finally being placed in lead boxes and reburied again in the southern transept in 1956.

In February 2016, French, Danish and Norwegian researchers opened the lead boxes in order to conduct DNA analysis of the remains. Radiocarbon dating of the remains showed that neither skeleton could be that of Richard I or Richard II. One skeleton dated from the third century BCE, the other from the eighth century AD, both long before the lifetimes of Richard I and Richard II.[6]

Guillaume de Volpiano is buried in one of the northern chapels.

Mid-eleventh century

The abbey at Fécamp was critical in the Norman conquest of England. Edward the Confessor granted the royal minster church in Steyning to the abbey, in gratitude to his Norman protectors during his exile. With its large, wealthy manor lands and thriving port, this grant was to take effect after the death of Aelfwine, Bishop of Winchester, who had charge of Steyning. The bishop died in 1047 and ecclesiastical jurisdiction then passed directly to Pope Clement II. In the same way, Fécamp Abbey itself answered to no Norman bishop, only to the Pope. The gift was later confirmed by William the Conqueror.

Fécamp Sainte Trinité (02a) choir
The chancel of the church at Fécamp Abbey.

A nearby port with land around Rye, Winchelsea and Hastings had already been given to the same Abbey by King Cnut, to honour a promise made by his wife Emma of Normandy's first husband King Aethelred. The monks had hardly had time to settle in when in 1052 Godwin, Earl of Wessex expelled them from Steyning and seized it for himself. His son Harold decided to keep it upon his accession, rather than restore it to them. This made commercial and strategic sense (Harold did not want a Norman toehold at a potential invasion port), but William responded by swearing on a knife before setting out for England to recover it for the monks.[7]

This gained him a ship from the abbey and, upon his victory at Hastings, he made good his promise and returned Steyning to the abbey, with whom it remained until the 15th century.

The charter acquitted the grantees of all earthly service and subjection to barons, princes, and others, and gave them all royal liberties, custom, and justice over all matters arising in their land; and threatened any who should infringe these liberties with an amercement of £100 in gold.[8]

They moved the remains of the local saint, Cuthman of Steyning, to the mother abbey at Fecamp. The abbey also provided William with Remigius de Fécamp, the first Bishop of Lincoln.

Church architecture

The Abbey church of the Holy Trinity was built between 1175 and 1220 using the cream-coloured stone of Caen. Under the Plantagenets, the scriptorium at Fécamp produced numerous illuminated manuscripts.

See also


  1. ^ Liqueurs, M. Luisa Gonzalez-Sanjose, The Oxford Handbook of Food Fermentations, ed. Charles W. Bamforth, Robert E. Ward, (Oxford University Press, 2014), 331.
  2. ^ Georges Goyau (1912). "Archdiocese of Rouen". The Catholic Encyclopedia. 8. Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 2008-01-03.
  3. ^ R. Allen Brown, The Normans and the Norman Conquest, (The Boydell Press, 1994), 21-22.
  4. ^ Emma Mason, Westminster Abbey and Its People, C.1050-c.1216, (The Boydell Press, 1996), 14.
  5. ^ Lindy Grant, Architecture and Society in Normandy 1120-1270, (Yale University Press, 2005), 76.
  6. ^ "Mystery Of Viking Ruler Rollo Continues – Surprising Discovery In Ancient Grave". MessageToEagle.com. January 2017.
  7. ^ "Steyning: The Confessor's Gift and the Conqueror's Oath". Steyning Museum. June 2005. Retrieved 2008-01-03.
  8. ^ Davis, H. W. C. (1913). H. A. Cronne; R. H. C. Davis, eds. Regesta Regum Anglo-Normannorum 1066-1154. I. Oxford.

External links

Coordinates: 49°45′19.2″N 0°22′54.2″E / 49.755333°N 0.381722°E

Alexandre de Berneval

Alexandre de Berneval (b ?1367; d 5 January 1440) was an architect and one of the foremost masons in Normandy in the early 15th century.

He is known to have visited England, in 1413, buying alabaster from "Newcastle-on-the-Tyne" for Estaud d’Estouteville, Abbot of La Trinité at Fécamp (1390–1423). In 1420, he was paid 200 livres tournois for a masonry tabernacle at Fécamp for the relic of the Pas de l’ange or Pas au Pèlerin, an impression in sandstone of the footstep of an angel at the dedication of the 10th-century church. Although damaged, the tabernacle is the earliest extant example of Berneval’s style.In Rouen, he worked for the French King in 1417 and, after the occupation of Rouen by the English in 1419, for the Duke of Bedford, who commissioned him to build a castle for Henry V. On this project he worked closely with Jenson Salvart (flourished 1398–1447), the master mason of Rouen Cathedral. In 1424, the two of them were implicated in a plot to overthrow the English by giving information about the castle to an insurgence led by Richard Mites or Ricart Mittes. Rouen Castle no longer exists.

Berneval was first recorded in the accounts of the Abbey Church of Saint-Ouen in 1424 and was master there until his death. The church contains his tomb. He is generally credited with the design of the south rose window and (probably) the south transept porch ("Portail des Marmousets", in Gothic and Flamboyant style. Although scholars have attributed to him extensive work on the north and south transepts and the second stage of the crossing tower, the styles are too diverse to be the design of a single master.The epitaph on his tomb in Saint-Ouen reads:

Cy gist maistre Alexandre de Berneval, maistre de machonerie du roy nostre sire au bailliage de rouen et de saint ouen qui trespassa le Ve de janvier mil CCCC et XL. Priez dieu pour luy. Amen.

Here lies Master Alexandre de Berneval, master of masonry of the king our sire in the bailliage of Rouen and of Saint Ouen who died the 5th of January 1440. Pray to God for him. Amen

Alexandre de Berneval was succeeded as architect at St Ouen by his son, Colin de Berneval. His effigy on their joint tomb shows him holding a tablet with a plan of the nave and main portal, the sections with which he was mainly involved.

Charles-François Toustain

Charles-François Toustain (born at Repas in the diocese of Séez, France, 13 October 1700, died at Saint-Denis, 1 July 1754) was a French historian and Benedictine, member of the Congregation of St-Maur.

He belonged to a family of note. On 20 July 1718, he made the vows of the order at Jumièges. After finishing the philosophical and theological course at the Abbey of Fécamp, he was sent to the monastery of Bonne-Nouvelle at Rouen, to learn Hebrew and Greek. At the same time he studied Italian, English, German, and Dutch, in order to be able to understand the writers in these languages.

He was not ordained priest until 1729 and then only at the express command of his superior. He always said Mass with much trepidation and only after long preparation. In 1730 he entered the Abbey of St-Ouen at Rouen, went later to the Abbey of St-Germain-des-Pres and Blancs-Manteaux, and died while taking his milk-cure at Saint-Denis. He had worn out his body by fasting and ascetic practices.

His theological opinions inclined to Jansenism. As a scholar he made himself an honoured name. He worked for twenty years with a fellow-member of the order, Dom Tassin, on an edition of the works of St. Theodore of Studium. It was never printed, for a publisher could not be found. Another common undertaking of the two is the "Nouveau traité de diplomatique" (6 vols., 1750–65) in which they treated more fully and thoroughly the subjects taken up in Mabillon's great work "De re diplomatica". The publication of Toustain and Tassin is of permanent value. The last four volumes were edited by Tassin alone after Toustain's death.

Of general interest among Toustain's personal writings are: "La vérité persécutée par l'erreur" (2 vols., 1733), a collection of the writings of the Fathers on the persecutions of the first eight centuries; and "L'authorité de miracles dans l'Église" (no date), in which he expounds the opinion of St. Augustine. Tassin testifies that he was zealous in his duties, modest, and sincerely religious.

This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Charles-François Toustain" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.

Desiderius of Fontenelle

Saint Desiderius of Fontenelle (died c. 700) was a Frankish saint of the late 7th century.

His father was Saint Waningus, a nobleman and royal official under Chlothar III, then abbot and founder of Fécamp Abbey. Desiderius was a Benedictine monk at Fontenelle Abbey in present-day Normandy, France.Desiderius's feast day is kept on 18 December. His relics are at Ghent, Belgium.

Henry de Sully (died 1189)

Henry de Sully (died 1189) was a medieval Abbot of Fécamp and Bishop-designate of Salisbury and Archbishop-elect of York.

Jean de La Grange

Jean de La Grange (a.k.a. Jean de Lagrange) (c.1325 – April 25, 1402) was a French prelate and politician, active during the reigns of Charles V and Charles VI, and an important member of the papal curia at Avignon, at the time of the Western Schism. He was the brother of Étienne de La Grange, an advisor to the king and president of Parlement.

John, Count of Eu

John, Count of Eu, (died 26 June 1170), son of Henry I, Count of Eu, and Marguerite, daughter of William, Count of Sully, who was brother of Stephen, King of England. John was Count of Eu and Lord of Hastings.

John obtained from Étienne d'Angleterre (later Stephen, King of England) the honors of Tickhill and Blyth, being a descendant of their original owner, Roger de Busli, by his paternal grandmother Beatrice. John lost his holdings after his capture by Ranulf de Gernon, the 4th Earl of Chester, at the Battle of Lincoln in February 1141.In 1148, John returned to Hilaire, Bishop of Chichester, lands belonging to his diocese which his father had usurped during the troubled reign of Stephen. John had to take refuge in the summer of 1167 in Drincourt (now Neufchâtel-en-Bray) during the invasion of his estates by the troops of Louis VII, an ally of Thierry, Count of Flanders.

John married Alice, daughter of William d'Aubigny, 1st Earl of Arundel, and Adeliza of Louvain, the widow of King Henry I of England. John and Alice had three children:

Henry II of Eu, 6th Count of Eu, Lord of Hastings

Robert of Eu (d. 1191 in Acre)

Mathilde d'Eu (d. 1212), married to Henry d'Estouteville, Seigneur of Valmont.In addition,

John d'Eu, son of John and brother of Henry, Counts of Eu, issued a confirmation charter to Robertsbridge Abbey, Sussex, c. 1198-1205.Like his father Henry, John became canon at the abbey of Eu, where he died on June 26, 1170, after devoting the rest of his days to the monastic state. He was placed in the tomb of his father behind the altar. At the time of the destruction of the Abbey of Foucarmont in 1791, Louis Jean Marie de Bourbon, Duke of Penthièvre and Count of Eu, had the remains of the counts Henry and John reclaimed and moved to the chapel of the fr:Château de Bizy.

John was succeeded as Count of Eu and Lord of Hastings by his son Henry upon his death. John was buried at Fécamp Abbey, where many of his sons and grandsons would also be interred.

John of Fécamp

John of Fécamp, (early 11th century - 22 February 1079) was an Italian-Norman Benedictine who was the most widely read of early medieval spiritual writers before the Imitation of Christ became popular (published circa 1418-1427), during a period called the Golden Age of Monasticism and of Scholasticism, and the height of the Papacy. Writing under the name of famous writers, he wrote the very popular book Meditations of St. Augustine and the book Meditations. He was born near Ravenna and died at Fécamp Normandy, as the Abbot of the Abbey of Fécamp. He was nicknamed 'Jeannelin' or 'Little John' on account of his diminutive stature.

List of Carolingian monasteries

This is a partial list of monasteries of the Carolingian Empire, in Western Europe around the year 800.

Pope Clement VI

Pope Clement VI (Latin: Clemens VI; 1291 – 6 December 1352), born Pierre Roger, was Pope from 7 May 1342 to his death in 1352. He was the fourth Avignon pope. Clement reigned during the first visitation of the Black Death (1348–1350), during which he granted remission of sins to all who died of the plague.

Roger steadfastly resisted temporal encroachments on the Church's ecclesiastical jurisdiction and, as

Clement VI, entrenched French dominance of the Church and opened its coffers to enhance the regal splendour of the Papacy. He recruited composers and music theorists for his court, including figures associated with the then-innovative Ars Nova style of France and the Low Countries. His nepotism was ultimately reflected in the 44 statues of relatives which surrounded his sarcophagus.

Remigius de Fécamp

Remigius de Fécamp (sometimes Remigius; died 7 May 1092) was a Benedictine monk who was a supporter of William the Conqueror.

Robert, Count of Eu

Robert, Count of Eu and Lord of Hastings (d. between 1089-1093), son of William I, Count of Eu, and his wife Lesceline. Count of Eu and Lord of Hastings.

Robert commanded 60 ships in the fleet supporting the landing of William I of England and the Norman conquest of England. Around 1068, Robert was given the Hastings Castle and the adjacent territories previously owned by Onfroy du Tilleul. According to the Domesday Book, Robert and his son William each possessed lands in separate counties. The sum of the annual income generated by the lands of the two men amounted to about 690 pounds sterling.

In 1069 he was charged by the king to support Robert, Count of Mortain, to monitor the Danes, whose fleet moored in the mouth of the Humber, while the latter was to repress the revolt initiated by Eadric the Wild the west. When the Danes left their sanctuary to plunder the neighbourhood, the two commanders and their army fell upon them unexpectedly, crushing them, and forcing them to flee by sea.

After the death of King William, Robert followed the party of Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy. Dismayed by his softness and debauchery, he turned, along with several other Norman lords, towards the king William II the Red, from whom he received several garrisons for his castles. During the attempted intervention of the English king in Normandy in February 1091, he was one of his supporters. He died after this episode and his son William II succeeded him as count.

Robert married first Beatrix de Falaise, sister of Arlette de Falaise. Robert and Beatrix had four children:

Raoul d'Eu (d. after 1036)

Robert d'Eu (d. 1149)

Condoha (Condor) (d. after 1087) married in 1058 to Fulk d'Angoulême, and was mother of William V d'Angoulême and grandmother of Wulgrin II d'Angoulême.

William II, who succeeded his father as Count of Eu and Lord of Hastings

Eremburga of Mortain (possible), the second wife of Roger i, Count of Sicily.

Armand of Mortain (possible), married to Beatrix, daughter of Tancred of Hauteville.Very devout, he made numerous donations to the Church, notably lands at Fécamp Abbey of Rouen in 1051. After being widowed, he remarried, to Mathilde de Hauteville, daughter of Roger I, Count of Sicily, and Judith of Evreux, a second cousin of William the Conqueror. He repudiated her, however, and in 1080 she was married to Raymond IV of Saint-Gilles, Count of Toulouse and Marquis of Provence.

He was buried in the Abbey of Saint-Michel du Tréport, which he had founded in Tréport, near the town of Eu, between 1057 and 1066, in memory of his first wife. Robert was assisted by the council of Duke William and Maurilius, archbishop of Rouen.

Robert was succeeded as Count of Eu and Lord of Hastings by his son William.

Robert Guérard

Robert Guérard (1641 – 2 January 1715) was a French Benedictine scholar of the Congregation of St. Maur.

Saint Taurinus

Saint Taurinus of Évreux (died ca. 410), also known as Saint Taurin, is venerated as a saint by the Catholic Church. His legend states that he was the first bishop of Évreux. He evangelized the region and died a martyr.

Treaty of Caen

The Treaty of Caen was signed in Caen, France in 1091 between William II of England and his brother, Duke Robert Curthose of Normandy. The treaty was made before the initiation of any military engagements. Based on the terms of the accord, William II and Robert Curthose agreed to cease their rivalry. In the end, England was left with several territories in Normandy such as the counties of Eu, Aumale, and Cherbourg. England also received Fécamp Abbey and the territory of Gournay. The Council of Caen eventually declared all altercations settled in August 1091.

Troarn Abbey

Troarn Abbey (abbaye Saint-Martin de Troarn) was a Benedictine abbey in the French town of Troarn, now in the Calvados department of Lower Normandy. It was dedicated to Martin of Tours and founded by Roger I of Montgomery using twelve monks from Fécamp Abbey in 1022, as a satellite of that house. Around 1050 Roger II of Montgommery replaced this establishment with an independent Benedictine monastery. Its first church was dedicated in 1059. Roger II granted the monastery lands around Troarn, including the marshes and a series of parish churches, whilst his wife Mabille of Bellême granted it all the parish churches in Séez and William I of England added everything he had granted Mabille in England.Between the Norman conquest of England and 1086 it was granted Horsley Priory in Gloucestershire as a satellite of its own - it held onto it until 1260, when it exchanged it with Bruton Priory in Somerset for lands in Normandy. Troarn became the second most important abbey in the Diocese of Bayeux after the Abbey of Saint-Étienne in Caen. It housed forty monks by the 13th century, who played a major part in reclaiming the Dives marshes and developing the pastures of the Auge valley and the vines in the countryside around Caen. It was sold by the French Revolutionary government in 1792 and the church and cloister were demolished. It was classed as a historic monument on 30 April 1921.

Vitalis of Bernay

Vitalis of Creuilly or Vitalis of Bernay (died 19 June 1085) was a Benedictine monk from Normandy. Sources on his life include the early 15th century history of the Abbey by John Flete and the 1751 An history of the Church of St. Peter, Westminster, commonly called Westminster Abbey by Richard Widmore.

He was a monk at Fécamp Abbey before becoming abbot of Bernay Abbey around 1055. On 28 May 1065 he buried his friend Osbern, Abbot of Saint-Evroul, who had died the previous year. He was a confidant of John, abbot of Fecamp, who in 1058 charged him with setting up Saint-Gabriel-Brécy Priory - its establishment had been requested by Vitalis' brother Richard, lord of Creully. Finally he was appointed the third abbot of Westminster Abbey by William I of England on the advice of Lanfranc, the first Norman Archbishop of Canterbury. William also granted Vitalis a manor at Doddington, Lincolnshire, whilst Vitalis' brother Osbern took over at Bernay. Vitalis may have been reluctant to come - Widmore states that William wrote a letter to John of Fecamp demanding his consent to sending Vitalis. Flete states his year of appointment as 1078, but it is stated as 1076 in the Winchester Annals and as 1077 in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

He held the post until his death and continued the building work on the abbey as well as supervising work on Westminster Palace and commissioning the monk Sulcard to write a number of tracts on the Abbey's history. Vitalis was buried beneath a small white stone at the head of Abbot Gislebert in the south cloister of the Abbey - its Latin inscription stated that "He who derived his name from life [vita], Abbot Vitalis, at death's summons passed on and lies here". A tapestry and a silk cloth were placed on his grave annually on 19 June, with two candles burning from Vespers until the end of Requiem Mass on 20th June. His grave is now unmarked.


Saint Waningus (also Vaneng) (born in Rouen, died c. 683) was a nobleman and royal official under Clotaire III, then later a Benedictine abbot and a Christian saint.

Waningus had a son, Desiderius, who was also later venerated as a saint. One night Waningus had a dream in which Saint Eulalia of Barcelona reminded him of the difficulties the rich had in entering Heaven, so he gave up the privileged life to become a Benedictine monk. He founded Fécamp Abbey and is also said to have had a hand, in conjunction with Saint Wandrille, in the foundation of Fontenelle Abbey.

William de Braose, 1st Lord of Bramber

William de Braose (or William de Briouze), First Lord of Bramber (died 1093/1096) was previously lord of Briouze, Normandy. He was granted lands in England by William the Conqueror soon after he and his followers had invaded and controlled Saxon England.

William of Volpiano

Saint William of Volpiano (Italian : Guglielmo da Volpiano ; French : Guillaume de Volpiano; English : William of Dijon, William of Saint Benignus) (June/July 962 – January 1, 1031) was an Italian monastic reformer and architect.

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