History of the Abbey of Saint-Wandrille
On 1 March 649 a mayor of the palace of Clovis II yielded his lordship over a royal domain in the Forest of Brotonne on the banks of the Fontenelle, a tributary of the Seine, to two monks, Wandrille and Gond.Wandrille was a man of great humility and gentleness. He was also characterized by a remarkable obedience towards the bishop of Rouen, Saint Ouen, who had desired the foundation of the monastery. Wandrille built seven churches in the valley of the Fontenelle, dedicating them to Saint Peter, Saint Paul, Saint Lawrence, Saint Pancras, Saint Saturninus, Saint Amand and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Until his death on 22 July 668 he governed a flourishing abbey.
His successors, among whom were Saint Lantbert (+688), later bishop of Lyons, and Saint Ansbert (+695), later bishop of Rouen, presided over an increase in both the size and the merit of the community. Fontenelle, along with its dependent foundations, became a nursery of saints, counting among its members Saint Erembert (+671), Saint Condedus (+680), Saint Wulfram (+c.697), Saint Bain (+710), Saint Hildebert (+701), Saint Sindard, Saint Desiderius, Saint Hermeland (+720), Saint Bagga, Saint Benignus (+724), Saint Milon (+730), Saint Hugues (+c.732), Saint Landon (+735), Saint Ermier (+740), Saint Ravenger (+750), Saint Austrulf (+753), Saint Wandon (+754), Blessed Hardouin (+812), and Saint Hartbain.
This time of prosperity lasted until about 740, when a series of lay abbots began to despoil both temporal and spiritual goods. In 823 Saint Ansegisius succeeded Einhard as abbot. He had already reformed various monasteries, including Luxeuil. At Fontenelle he renewed his sons’ fervour, and fostered intellectual achievements as well as the spiritual life, while reinstating the observance of the Rule, rebuilding, and enriching the library and the treasury.
The Gesta Abbatum, written between about 820 and 840, recounts in the style of the Roman Liber Pontificalis the lives and deeds of all the abbots from Wandrille to Ansegisius. It is said to be the most ancient monastic chronicle of the Western Church. It mentions the existence of a bouleuterion or meeting-hall; this is the oldest surviving testimony of a chapter house.
At about the same time as the composition of the Gesta, the seventh century Vita Wandregisili was rewritten, as were the lives of Saint Ansbert and Saint Wulfram. This period also saw the composition of the lives of Saint Ansbert, Saint Condedus, and Saint Hermeland.
But the Vikings put an end to this time of renewed prosperity, first extracting tribute, and then sacking and burning the monastery on 9 January 852. The monks fled with the relics of Saint Wandrille and Saint Ansbert. After lengthly wanderings in northern France, the monks and their relics found a home in Ghent in 944.
In 960, a community which had been set up at Saint Bavo of Ghent arrived under Abbot Maynard to renew the monastic life at Fontenelle. The abbey suffered from his premature departure in 966 in order to reform Mont Saint-Michel.
In 1006 Richard II took up the restoration and appointed Saint Gerard (+1029) abbot. He rebuilt the modest structures left by his predecessors, in particular the refectory and the dorter, thanks to the generous gifts of certain Norman ladies as well as to the development of the cult of Saint Wulfran, whose relics had been discovered in the church in 1008.
The new abbey chuch of Saint Peter was consecrated on 12 September 1031 under Abbot Saint Gradulphe (1048). He and his successors helped in the restoration or foundation of Mont Saint-Catherine near Rouen, Préaux, Grestain, Montivilliers, and Fontenay, near Caen.
The monastery reached the summit of its fortunes under Abbot Gerbert (+1089). Several of his monks became abbots: Durand at Troarn, Onfroy and Geaoffroy at Préaux, Ingulf at Croyland, Gontard at Jumièfes, Gautier at Saint Catherine’s, Rouen. William the Conqueror made the monastery considerable grants of lands in both Normandy and England.
During the twelfth century, the scriptorium developed, the observance of the Rule was kept up, and alms were given generously.
During the thirteenth century, the abbots made more or less serious efforts to reform the abuses which were beginning to appear, the main cause of which was the monks’ appropriation of the various offices along with their income. In 1248 the twelfth century church burnt down, and Abbot Peter Mauviel began to rebuild. His successors Geoffrey de Nointot (+1288), William de Norville (+1304) and William La Douillie (+1342) continued the construction, and most of the work was finished in 1331. At the same time the rebuilding of the cloisters was begun.
However, the Hundred Years’ War heralded a time of troubles. Until 1450, periods of peace during which the construction was continued alternated with periods of strife during which the monks took refuge in their town house in Rouen.
Towards the end of the fifteenth century, commendatory abbots began to come onto the scene. These were absentee clerics appointed by the king, who drew the abbatial revenues and left the community to fend for itself. However, although the observance of the Rule degenerated, the rebuilding went ahead. After 1497, three galleries of the cloisters were rebuilt. They were completed under James Hommet (1505-1523), the last resident abbot.
Afterwards, the commendatory abbots contented themselves with extracting as much money as possible from the abbey.
In May 1562 the monastery was sacked by Calvinists. The diminished revenues were disputed in long and expensive legal proceedings.
Between 1595 and 1690, prelates of the Neufville de Villeroy family exploited the monastery.
On 21 December 1631, the central tower collapsed and destroyed a large part of the church. The abbot then resumed the interrupted negotiations with the Congregation of Saint-Maur. This French Benedictine Congregation, a fruit of the Counter-Reformation, had already been introduced into many abbeys which had fallen into decline. A concordat was signed, and on 14 January 1636, fifteen Maurists took possession of the monastery. The monks of the old foundation remained at the abbey in their own lodgings, and kept their offices for life.
The young and enthusiastic Maurists took up the full observance of the Rule and rebuilt the dilapidated buildings one after another: guesthouse, infirmary, sacristy, chapter house, covered walk, and dorter.
The reorganisation of the library and of the cartulary ushered in a new period of fervour and intellectual activity. Several monks, including Dom A. Féray and Dom A. Bréard, set out to revive the memory of the holiness of their predecessors through the study of their lives and the development of their cult.
From 1666 until the Revolution, Saint-Wandrille was the house of studies for the young Maurists of the province of Normandy and also the noviciate (from1723 until 1739). The subjects taught, the professors, and the students who succeeded each other from year to year, helped maintain a healthy level of observance and activity.
Along with the whole Congregation, Saint-Wandrille was disturbed by the Jansenist crisis after 1720.
Financial prosperity was recovered after the completion of the reconstruction. However, a relaxation of austerity along with the introduction of the ideas of the eighteenth century Enlightenment were felt at Saint-Wandrille as much as elsewhere, even though the number of vocations increased somewhat.
We can add to this a certain spirit of quarrelling and contestation: for example, the penultimate prior was imprisoned in 1783 for protesting in a libel against a royal decree convening an extraordinary general chapter of his congregation; the prior was released only after the chapter was closed, and had to leave the congregation.
Nevertheless, in the years immediately preceding the Revolution, the number of vocations began to recover.
The work of the Mauristes at Saint-Wandrille
Spiritual work: restored ascetic life, intellectual and spiritual vitality thanks to the presence of philosophy, theology and novitiate courses, from 1690, i.e. after the buildings were rebuilt, until 1790. Charitable activities common to all monasteries of the period.
Hagiographic work: research into the early history of the monastery, the cult of local saints and the origins of monasticism in Fontenelle.
- restoration of the church (no longer in existence),
- construction of west building, 1655-1668: hostelry then infirmary,
- construction of the dormitory building, 1672-1680 (after demolition of the former chapter and dormitory),
- construction of enclosure wall, 1680,
- extension of outbuildings (workshops), 1695,
- construction of pavilions and Jarente gate, 1756 (and destruction of Saint-Paul church and abbey dwelling).
The West building, the Jarente gate and the two pavilions.
The promenoir (vaulted walkway) of the East wing
In Normandy, the abbeys of Saint-Ouen de Rouen, Jumièges, Le Bec, Caen, Fécamp, Boscherville, Valmont, Saint-Evroul, Conches etc. belonged to this congregation.
When the Lorraine congregation of Saint-Vanne extended its reforming action in France, in the wake of the Council of Trent, the question of loyalty to the crown arose. This was quickly resolved by the creation of a French Benedictine congregation, which absorbed existing similar movements fairly quickly, with the exception of the Order of Cluny, which did not join Saint-Maur for long.
From 1618 to 1645, 88 monasteries were added, rising to 178 in 1675, 191 in 1766 (some 20 were closed in the 1770s), with 1956 religious. In all, from 1614 to 1790, the congregation had 9261 religious.
What remains of this era and reform? The buildings constructed by the Mauritians are still interesting edifices, and often the headquarters of administrations…
The mass of documents collected or written by the Maurists is still a rich resource in public archives, as are their libraries, with their copies of manuscripts, collations of texts, scholarly works, much of which has yet to be exploited.
Although the Saint-Maur congregation has no saints or blessed, apart from the martyrs of September and those of the Rochefort pontoons, it has known a multitude of “righteous” people whose exemplary lives have been recorded by Dom Martène in his Vie des justes, or even in his Histoire de la congrégation de Saint-Maur. Men inhabited by God, very human in their daily lives, like Dom Grégoire Tarrisse, Claude Martin, Jean Mabillon, Bernard de Montfaucon.
The majority of Maurist monks came from the bourgeoisie, a virtuous and austere bourgeoisie marked by the Catholic reform of the Council of Trent, implemented in France in the first half of the 17th century.
When the congregation declined during the Revolution, a number of religious took the situation and persecution seriously, such as the three martyrs of September – including the Superior General – who were murdered at the Carmes in Paris, and the martyrs of the Rochefort pontoons, who died of exhaustion in 1794.
Six provinces: Normandy, France, Brittany, Burgundy, Toulouse, Chezal-Benoît. Each province has a visitor and a provincial diet, which annually brings together the priors of the monasteries and an elected “conventual”.
Supreme authority was vested in the triennial General Chapter, which appointed the Superior General, Visitors and Prioresses, elected for three-year terms. The seat of the Superior General was at Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris. Each province has its own novitiate and scholasticate.
Maurist monks had their stability fixed in the congregation, and no longer in a given monastery, which allowed frequent transfers from one house to another, favoring from the outset the reform of the monasteries and thus benefiting the efficiency of the congregation. The inevitable result was a standardization of monastic practices in all the Maurist monasteries, to avoid a disparity of life between the houses where all were indifferently called to reside. Each monastery was administered by a prior, assisted by a conventual chapter and a council of four deans. Nothing in the legislation seems to have been left to chance, and everything seems to have been wisely codified.
This abandonment of local stability and abbatial paternity – which had given way to a hierarchical administration – are the greatest shortcomings of the Saint-Maur congregation. These shortcomings, which are qualities of the system practiced in other orders such as the Dominicans or the Society of Jesus, were in fact the only remedies that could be applied to the commendation system, in order to implement the great principles of Catholic reform after the Council of Trent.
The richest development of the Saint-Maur congregation took place between 1660 and 1714. From 1718 to 1735, the congregation experienced a very serious crisis. From 1754 to 1783, the crisis was even more serious, with the royal authorities interfering in the resolution of the crisis. A real recovery began with the French Revolution.
The double interest of this intellectual activity was:
– in keeping with their vocation of solitude, to provide an occupation for the monks
– which contributed to their spiritual progress, and could serve the Church, for example by providing good editions of ancient texts, useful working tools.
The apologetic idea of Counter-Reformation and approaching the Reformed with a view to their conversion was not absent from their intellectual approach.
The seriousness of their studies and publications earned them the respect of literary circles, the King and the Holy See. The Superiors General encouraged and organized the studies. Numerous monasteries were interested in the work, either by providing materials to the team gathered at Saint-Germain-des-Prés, or by exploiting these materials at provincial and local levels.
In each Maurist province, monasteries were set aside specifically for studies. The most brilliant monks were then sent to Saint-Denis or Saint-Germain-des-Prés to work collectively on a long-term publishing project, directed by one monk or a team, or even successive monks (as in the case of the edition of the works of Saint Augustine).
Our scholarly and publishing activities are aimed at:
– the glorification of the Benedictine order, the spiritual edification of monks, through the publication of the texts of the Fathers, from 1650 to 1710, Latin Fathers at the end of the 17th century, Greek Fathers at the beginning of the 18th century,
– the illustration and glorification of French history, from 1710 to 1760, thus placing itself at the service of the State, through scientific collaboration. The congregation has always shone in the field of patristics and history.
Montfaucon’s death in 1741 marked a slowdown in intellectual emulation. It should be noted, however, that research and interpretation of texts and documents continued throughout the life of the congregation: Annales de l’Ordre de saint Benoît, many of which had not been completed by the time of the revolution; Histoire littéraire de la France; Recueil des historiens des Gaules; Gallia christiana.
Through this work, the congregation rendered service to the Church and the State. In the later years, to legitimize a contested monastic life, it became involved in colleges and military schools, taking the place of the suppressed Jesuits.
Hagiography favors asceticism, insisting on mortification of the body and senses, and emphasizing the importance of regularity. The interior life was inspired by Rheno-Flemish mysticism and Theresian mysticism. Devotion and piety remained strong, despite the influence of the Enlightenment. Friendships linked many Mauritians to the leading figures of Jansenism, whose austerity they appreciated. From the time of the Unigenitus bull onwards, the Jansenism of the Maurists became more political than doctrinal.
Dom Hesbert has studied the vocabulary of monastic theology and its “key words” in Dom Martène’s Histoire de la congrégation de Saint-Maur. Twelve keywords stand out: penance, oraison, regularity, austerity, retreat, exactitude, mortification, observance, solitude, silence, duty, separation from the world. They can be grouped into three poles:
1° asceticism, penance, austerity, mortification, either restrictive (abstinence from food and heating) or afflictive (cilice, discipline).
2° monastic discipline:
– in its constitutive aspect, separation from the world, retreat, solitude, silence,
– under the aspect of fidelity to the vows, regularity (conformity to the Rule), exactitude, observance, duty
3° prayer, mental prayer, continual presence of God, Teresian prayer.
The key ideas of Maurist monasticism are as follows:
– there can be no monastic life without separation from the world, both initial separation and ongoing separation;
– there can be no cenobitic monastic life without regular discipline, without a precise organization of common life (including the divine office), ordered to the fulfillment of the soul ;
– there is no monastic life without asceticism;
– there is no monastic life without prayer.
The three main axes of the Maurist monastic reform are regularity, austerity and interiority.
When the French Revolution began in February 1790, and solemn vows and monastic life were abolished by the National Assembly, all the monks at Saint-Wandrille asked to withdraw.
Many took the constitutional oath to become parish priests. The most remarkable case is that of the prior, Dom Alexandre Jean Ruault, who was elected mayor of Saint-Wandrille, resigned on November 7, 1790, became constitutional parish priest of Yvetot, was elected to the Convention in September 1792, was imprisoned for a time, and finally apostatized in a letter to the Convention, declaring that henceforth his French citizenship card would be the only diploma with which he wished to be honored. A civil servant under the Empire, he married and died in Coulommiers in 1824.
Similar is the case of the last commendatory abbot, Cardinal Etienne de Loménie de Brienne (1727-1794), Archbishop of Toulouse and then Sens, Minister of Finance under Louis XVI in 1787 and 1788, who took the constitutional oath, became “Bishop of the Yonne department”, was stripped of his cardinalate by Pope Pius VI in September 1791, then renounced the priesthood in November 1793. His nephew and coadjutor, Martial de Loménie de Brienne, the last abbot of Jumièges, was guillotined on the same day as Madame Elisabeth, sister of Louis XVI.
So we can’t speak of the entire community’s loyalty. Minds had been marked by the currents of thought at the end of the 18th century: rationalism, political Jansenism, Gallicanism… Before 1789, several monks belonged to Freemasonry, and signed as such.
Dom Lebrun’s quiet heroism stands out all the more: he was faithful despite the conditioning of his time, the lack of heroism of his brothers…
One of the pontoon boats.
He entered the novitiate of the Normandy province of the Saint-Maur congregation, located at the Saint-Martin abbey in Sées, and made his monastic profession there on June 10, 1763, at the age of 19. Because of the centralized nature of the congregation, Maurist monks took a vow of stability not for a single monastery, but for a province, and were called to live in the different houses of that province. This is how Father Lebrun arrived in Jumièges in early 1771, as a deacon. He was ordained priest on September 21, 1771.
From then on, we can follow him in the various offices he held. In 1774, he was at Saint-Florentin de Bonneval, and was named prior of Saint-Sulpice de Courbehaye, in Beauce, in the diocese of Chartres, a device which enabled the congregation to receive the income attached to this benefice. He retained this title until the French Revolution.
In 1775, he was transferred to Bec-Hellouin, then became prior of Saint-Martin de Sées in 1778, and of Notre-Dame de Valmont in 1779. In 1781, he became a simple monk at Valmont, then at Saint-Ouen de Rouen. In 1783, he moved to Saint-Georges de Boscherville, where he was elected senieur by the community. In the same year, he again became prior at Bonne-Nouvelle in Rouen, but did not complete his triennium, probably at his own request. In December 1784, he signed on as a monk at Saint-Ouen de Rouen. Finally, he arrived at Saint-Wandrille in September 1788, where he was appointed senieur (dean) by the prior. It is not known what position he may have held in the community.
The prior, Dom Ruault, declared his intention to withdraw, “not knowing the house that would be assigned to him, nor the regime he would be obliged to follow there”. Like the other monks, Dom Lebrun expressed the same intention, affirming “in addition that by adhering to the present declaration, he does not intend to forfeit the faculty granted by the assembly to withdraw to one (sic) of the houses which will be designated by it, if these houses are suitable to his taste for study, such as Bonnes nouvelles (sic) and Saint-Ouen de Rouen, Saint-Germain Després, Saint-Denis, as well as the spiritual and temporal government which will be adopted there”. He also reserved for himself the personal administration of the quarterly pension of 225 livres allocated to former religious, as well as the free disposal of everything that might belong to him.
Dom Lebrun retired to Jumièges, which had become a meeting house for religious of all orders and observances. However, due to the great disorder that reigned there, and after a brief stay at Le Bec, also a meeting house, he withdrew to his family in Rouen in October 1791.
Dom Lebrun had not been required to take the oath of loyalty to the Civil Constitution of the Clergy of July 1790, demanded only of priests and ministers newly established by the regime. When the law of August 10, 1792 introduced the “liberty-equality” oath, payable within eight days by any citizen receiving a state pension, he refused, adhering to the common opinion of ecclesiastics who disapproved of it. As the Rouen Directory was moderate, it was left alone. But the machine was in motion.
But the wheels were in motion. As early as August 28, a general proscription decree provided for the banishment of all non-oathen ecclesiastics: exile or deportation to French Guiana. The decree was reiterated by the Convention on April 21, 1793. Finally, on October 20, 1793, Vendémiaire 29, Year II, there was no way out for the former clerics: the Convention declared that those who had broken the oath had ten days to surrender and be deported. Once this deadline had passed, they and those who had hidden them would be liable to the death penalty within twenty-four hours.
So as not to endanger his sister and brother-in-law, who were taking him in, he gave himself up by letter: “To the citizen administrators of the lower Seine department. Citizens. The Convention having issued a decree on the 29th and 30th days of the 1st month of the second year of the one and indivisible French Republic concerning clergymen subject to deportation (Art. 10. All secular or regular clergymen etc. who have not complied with the decrees of 14 August 1792 and 21 April last etc.) and which orders these same clergymen mentioned in art.10 who have not embarked for French Guiana, to surrender themselves to the administration of their respective departments, which will take the necessary measures for their arrest, embarkation and deportation in accordance with article 12, the citizen Louis François le Brun, a Benedictine monk from the former abbey of St Wandrille in the Caudebec district, having failed to take the aforementioned oath, has just submitted to the department’s orders and declared that he is staying with the citizen Sciaux, surgeon and brother-in-law, rue des charretes n°62. Louis François Le Brun, Rouen, 19 Brumaire, year two of the Republic, one and indivisible.” (Archives départementales de la Seine-Maritime, Rouen, L. 1222).
For several months, orders and counter-orders arrived, deportation projects and counter-projects followed one another, some envisaging a rapid departure for French Guiana, others for West Africa or Madagascar, where the priests would have been unloaded and abandoned to their fate. Dom Lebrun tried to have himself declared unfit by requesting a medical examination, which took place on ventôse 29 with a negative result.
The departure from Rouen took place on Germinal 1st, Year II (March 21, 94). A witness to the departures, M. de Horcholle, former lawyer and prosecutor at the Chambre des Comptes de Normandie, noted on March 6: Fourteen good priests, most of them not public officials, and therefore not included in the strict decree of April 24, 1793, were taken this morning from the Séminaire St Vivien, currently a house of detention and confinement. They were bound and garroted in a cart, like villains, and taken to Rochefort to be shipped off to French Guiana, in South America. These departures continued until and including the 21st of this month (Archives départementales de Rouen, Y.128*, fol. 97 et 98).
Dom Lebrun arrived in Rochefort on Germinal 20, a journey of 503 kilometers, or 129 leagues, via Chartres, Tours and Poitiers, with stops in desecrated churches and prisons.
On Germinal 22nd, he was transferred to a small schooner which, overnight, took him and his fellow captives to a slave ship, Les Deux Associés. The five- to six-hundred-ton vessel was one of two designed to transfer deportees to French Guiana, the other being Le Washington. Père Lebrun first underwent another search before the commander, citoyen Laly, and then the ship was put on a diet.
He found many secular priests, vicars-general, canons and religious there, including twenty-six monks, including Dom Nicolas Dubois, a monk from Fécamp in 1790, who died there, and Dom Jean-Chrysostome Clérot, a clunist from Crépy-en-Valois, one of four surviving monks, who became the first concordat parish priest of Saint-Wandrille. Also on Les Deux Associés was Père Jean-Pierre Fotreau, a Discalced Carmelite under the name of frère Laurent de Saint-Dominique, who was also freed, and in 1814 became the last parish priest of Rançon, before the two communes and the two parishes of Saint-Wandrille and Rançon merged; he died in 1821. But there were also swearing priests whose oaths had not protected them from persecution.
Detention conditions were exceptionally harsh. The day was spent on deck, in a space of around one hundred square meters for four hundred and fifty prisoners. A bulkhead of heavy timbers, the “rembarde”, separated them from the crew, with four cannons loaded with grapeshot perpetually aimed at them, for fear of an uprising.
Inaction was torture. Labiche de Reignefort, a survivor whose testimony is of particular importance, notes: “We lived from day to day, almost entirely occupied, like savages roaming the forests, with providing for our physical needs, and defending ourselves, as best we could, against the cold, hunger, disease and gnawing insects that devoured us. (Pierre-Grégoire Labiche de Reignefort, Relation de ce qu’on souffert pour la Religion les Prêtres français insermentés, déportés en 1794 dans la rade de l’isle d’Aix, près Rochefort, Le Clerc, Paris, 1796).
The worst part of the day was night. The deportees were locked up in the “entrepont”, a veritable dungeon, with thick bars two inches apart, receiving air and light only through the cramped entrance. For twelve hours at a stretch, they had to stay there, “like herring in a caca”, each 44 centimetres wide and 66 centimetres above their outstretched bodies.
This sty became a hellish place when the disease broke out, and the dead and dying were left to mingle with the others. The commander invented a torture procedure, supposedly to disinfect: a morning tar fumigation with red cannonballs, after which the deportees had to leave the steerage, which had become an oven, to go up on deck, to the cold and wind of the ocean.
Yet priests subjected to such torments remained priests to the end. Despite being forbidden to pray, even if only by moving their lips, and the confiscation of objects of piety and signs of religion, particularly books and breviaries, the priests were able to continue a certain life of prayer, particularly sacramental: the sick were administered with the Blessed Sacrament and the holy oils that had escaped the excavations.
The Office was celebrated in common, in secret, as far as possible, with the elements known by heart. A testimony to this desire to maintain a Christian attitude is given to us by the regulations that the first arrivals on Les Deux Associés gave themselves: we find in these nine articles a strong call to hope, to detachment from possessions, including freedom, to the refusal of any revenge or complacency in the memory of the sufferings undergone in the event of liberation.
The living conditions, combined with the deprivation of food and fresh water, led to a deterioration in the health of the inmates: scabies, scurvy, gangrene, dysentery, typhus and other fevers… The pontoons quickly became deathtraps. Some of the most contagious even had to be isolated. Laly obtained one, then two schooners from the port of Rochefort, which were turned into hospitals. Numerous accounts tell us of the atrocious condition of the sick who were transported there, left without care, crammed in with fifty or sixty others where there was only room for twenty. Mortality soon became frightening: six deaths in April on Les Deux Associés, eleven in May, twenty-eight in June, and almost as many by mid-July. The port authorities began to worry, fearing contagion for the crew and the inhabitants of the Isle of Aix, where the victims were buried. They requested a sanitary survey of both ships, particularly Les Deux Associés, where the situation was at its worst. One doctor suggested building a tent hospital on Île Madame, renamed Île Citoyenne after the revolution, to which the most seriously ill could be transferred.
It was not until August 20 that the landing of eighty-three patients began. This took several days, and improved the condition of many of the patients. But the fatigue of the transshipment cost the lives of thirty-six of them, who perished within the first few hours. Among them was Dom Louis-François Lebrun, who gave up the ghost on fructidor 3, An II (August 20, 1794), or the day before, according to Labiche de Reignefort’s account: “He floated for a long time between life and death in the great hospital, and finally perished, just as, having disembarked at Île Citoyenne, as he had wished, it seemed he would soon recover, after having suffered considerably, and always with great resignation. (Relation… 2nd edition, 1801, p. 176.)
He was buried on Île Madame.
A large pebble cross, formed on the ground,
marks the place where the priests were buried.
The only true testimony is that left to us by Labiche de Reignefort when he says: Literator, painter, mathematician, Dom Lebrun was as modest as he was learned, and as pious as he was modest. The gentleness and honesty of his character were evident in all his urbane manners, and even in the touching features of his face (ibid).
A glance at his curriculum vitae reveals a studious man, capable of fulfilling important duties, since he was several times superior. But it seems that his love of learning, which he himself confessed in his declaration of intent in 1790, often led him to ask to be relieved of his priorate and to return to the shadows.
So let’s not think of him as one of those martyrs boiling with life, or even marching valiantly to his death, but as a faithful monk, dragged from his cloister in spite of himself. He was by no means a great ascetic; the life of 18th-century Mauritians had been softened. Doesn’t an invoice from the Caudebec apothecary mention the supply of half a pound of white Candy sugar for D. Lebrun? Snuff and chocolate are also mentioned…
Martyrdom was not envisaged, but when Dom Lebrun had to resist what was an abandonment of his state, his ideals, his faith, he knew how to resist, and resist heroically to the point of martyrdom. Most of his confreres took the oath out of conformism to the spirit of the times and to fit into the new society they thought would last, but our martyr preferred to remain faithful. Is this not the most beautiful message he leaves to all consecrated men and women?
The sufferings of the deportees did not end with the landing of the sick on Île Madame: a harsh winter following a rainy autumn still claimed many victims, even if testimonies show a notable softening of the prisoners’ lot after the fall of Robespierre and the end of the Terror.
Little by little, people began to be moved by the fate of these unjustly confined prisoners. A few swearing priests were released in December, but it wasn’t until February 1795 that the deportees were unloaded. They were transported to Saintes, where they awaited release orders in the disused premises of Our Lady Abbey. By the end of March, all survivors had regained their freedom.
In all, 829 priests were deported to Rochefort, of whom 547 perished between April 1794 and the first weeks of 1795. For a long time, however, this hecatomb was ignored, and even deliberately kept hidden so as not to reawaken the quarrels of the Revolution.
The former deportees themselves, although some published their precious memories, did not seek punishment for their executioners. From 1830, and especially from 1860, the priests’ case was gradually exhumed. In 1911, the trial was opened with the appointment of a postulator.
The cause culminated in the solemn beatification of Blessed Jean-Baptiste Souzy and his companions in October 1995, when the Church recognized sixty-four of the pontoon victims as authentic witnesses to the faith, willingly put to death in hatred of the faith, and consciously accepting their fate.
1791 : The monastery is sold as national property to Cyprien Lenoir, an industrialist from Yvetot.
THE ABBEY IN 1789 – engraving by Hyacinthe et Espérance Langlois (1826)
At the end of 1792, he set up his first factory in the deserted monastery. In March 1793, a brass pin factory occupied the premises. The refectory and chapter house were transformed into workshops. Machines were installed in the “salle aux colonnes” or promenoir (destroyed around 1865).
The many workers housed in the abbey’s buildings, especially in the outbuildings, the bakery pavilion, which was an extension of the outbuildings, and a pavilion in the garden.
The pin factory lasted from 1792 to 1795. At the same time, Nicolas Cyprien Lenoir and his son set up a saltpetre and gunpowder factory in 1793-1794, to meet the needs of the war on France’s borders.
Nicolas Cyprien Lenoir, then in his sixties, was assisted by his son Augustin Bernard Lenoir (1771-1846), who described himself as “workshop manager at Saint-Wandrille”. On June 8, 1794, Lenoir requested that a bell be rung at 5 a.m., noon and 7 a.m., to facilitate the start and end of work for the “large number of workers” he employed.
It was also at this time that the demolition of the monastery’s church began, with the aim of selling off the materials, a “job” that took over forty years.
THE STONE QUARRY – Civeton (1824)
Around 1795, the pin factory was quickly replaced by a tobacco factory, whose abolition under the Empire was considered a calamity for the commune.
We know that in 1811, 10 workers, 6 men and 4 women, were employed by the Lenoirs at the abbey, but 25 were unoccupied, due to the continental blockade that prevented economic activities from flourishing.
From 1811 to 1823, Augustin Bernard Lenoir ran a “large spinning establishment” at the abbey, set up in the Salle aux colonnes or promenoir, which partly overlooked the Fontenelle. They recruited a large workforce, with parents employed as spinners and children as winders. But the number of employees varied greatly according to market needs. Little by little, the mechanization of the textile industry in the big cities dealt the final blow to spinning mills in rural communities.
Augustin Bernard Lenoir became mayor of Saint-Wandrille from 1823 to 1828.
On March 4, 1836, Augustin Bernard Lenoir applied to the Prefecture of Seine-Inférieure for authorization to modify the course of the Fontenelle within the abbey’s enclosure, in order to establish a “wheat, tan or weaving mill” (he was not yet sure of the exact purpose of his mill), at the end of the eastern building he owned. A series of sluice gates would divert the river into a small canal leading to a planned “mill”, complete with waterwheel, in the basement of the former library.
Authorization was granted by royal decree on March 26, 1837. A diversion of the river’s course was established, which remained in place, albeit with modifications, until 1930. A tanning mill was set up in the basement of the north pavilion of the abbey’s east wing, beneath the former library. However, the mill was in poor working order, due to the frequent backflow of water upstream from the Lefebvre-Delabrière mill. During the French Revolution, Delabrière diverted the river between today’s Rue Saint-Jacques and Caudebecquet to create a larger waterfall.
A first lawsuit had already been brought between 1828 and 1832 concerning the Fontenelle’s flow, reduced by the diversion. In 1840, Augustin Bernard Lenoir asked for a sufficient weir to be built at the exit of the abbey, towards the old river bed. He does not appear to have been successful. A plan drawn up in 1842 shows that the dispute had not yet been resolved.
Augustin Bernard Lenoir therefore had to change the motive power of his new factory. Around 1843, he had a six-horsepower steam engine installed to power his weaving mill, rather than using water power. The factory was then run by Augustin Cyprien Lenoir (1804-1862) – son of Augustin Bernard Lenoir – and Alexandre Coquatrix. The latter was related to Louis Alexandre Lebreton, mayor of Saint-Wandrille (died 1856), who had married Augustin Bernard Lenoir’s sister, who owned the western part of the abbey.
The weaving mill was soon closed, between 1847 and 1850, after operating more poorly than well for around ten years.
Both parts of the monastery were sold to the Marquis of Stacpoole in 1863.
Stacpoole in Saint-Wandrille
Having come to Caudebec in 1863 to admire the tidal bore, the Marquis de Stacpoole and his wife visited Fontenelle, and feeling a great admiration for this place which had immediately seduced them both, they resolved to buy the abbey, which at the time was being sold in two lots, which were completed on August 5 and September 11, 1863.
From then on, the Marquis and Marquise de Stacpoole divided their time between the hotel they lived in in Paris, London and Great Britain, where their children were raised, Rome, where they stayed regularly from 1867 onwards, and Saint-Wandrille, where they carried out extensive renovation work from 1863 to 1867, with the aim of transforming the abbey into an English-style summer residence.
He created a forecourt in front of the Porte de Jarente, with a portal in the style of one closing the oval courtyard of the Château de Fontainebleau.
He transformed the refectory: the south-facing windows were walled up, the north-facing bays were transformed, new openings were made, and the Romanesque archway was stripped of its plaster and surmounted by a gallery linking the east and west buildings. The large refectory became a grand hall, with oak parquet flooring, monumental staircase, billiard table and false fireplace. A dining room was added in the western section.
He also undertook to convert the east wing promenoir into a winter garden, but this was a failure and much of the building had to be demolished.
Modifications made by Lord Stacpoole to the east wing, refectory and west wing.
The Marquis de Stacpoole made frequent visits to Normandy with his family. The young marquise, Stanislas’ wife, was very attached to Saint-Wandrille. In her will, drawn up between 1868 and 1872, she told her husband that when he examined her accounts, he would note her annual charities to the “dear Fontenelle”, asking him to ensure that her poor would not suffer in the event of her death.
But the de Stacpoole family had a taste for travel. During a stay in Naples, the young Marquise de Stacpoole caught typhoid fever and died on April 28, 1872 in Rome, leaving a grieving husband aged 43, a 12-year-old son and a 5-year-old daughter.
On his return to Saint-Wandrille, the Marquis undertook further work on the abbey, taking over the north end of the west wing, but here again the work was not completed. In accordance with the wishes expressed by his wife in her will, he had a calvary erected in the old cemetery at the foot of the church, in memory of the marquise who had taken such an interest in the parish during her lifetime. The calvary was blessed on July 6, 1873, in the presence of 3,000 people.
As his visits to Rome multiplied, visits to Saint-Wandrille became less frequent in the following years. Stanislas de Stacpoole was preparing to enter Holy Orders.
In May 1893, the abbey was once again put up for sale, but no buyer was found. In August 1893, Cardinal Thomas, Archbishop of Rouen, attracted by the idea of restoring Benedictine life in his diocese, began talks with the Abbot of Saint-Martin de Ligugé, Dom Joseph Bourigaud, who visited the monastery with his prior Dom Joseph Pothier.
On December 30, 1893, the abbey was sold to the Société civile mobilière et immobilière de Saint-Wandrille. As a result of his participation in the sale, Mgr de Stacpoole waived the life annuity stipulated in the deed of 1889, but in compensation was allowed to retain a large part of the monastery’s west wing for the rest of his life, in return for rent.
On February 13, 1894, Mgr de Stacpoole welcomed the small group of monks from Ligugé who had come to resume monastic life at Saint-Wandrille, and for several weeks provided them with sustenance, as well as showing his generosity by supplying them with liturgical vestments. Later, he gave them relics and reliquaries from Rome.
The new priest had wanted “an abundant distribution of bread and meat to be made to the poor that same day in the abbey, and, in thanksgiving for his priesthood, he undertook to have a chapel dedicated to the Sacred Heart built at his own expense in the parish church of Saint-Wandrille”.
This chapel was built in 1879, along with a private oratory and sacristy, which were completed around 1881. He had three plaques placed in memory of his mother, his wife and all the Fontenelle monks in the chapel of the Virgin, which he had had painted and restored in 1865-1867.
Appointed Canon of Santa Maria in Trastevere, he was later elevated to the dignity of Prelate by Pius IX, and finally appointed Referendary of the Papal Signature of Justice on February 14, 1880 by Pope Leo XIII.
On March 2, 1889, in view of his son’s and especially his daughter-in-law’s lack of interest in Fontenelle, Mgr de Stacpoole, still attached to the site, sold the fully furnished abbey to his daughter and son-in-law, Mr and Mrs Talbot, in return for an annual rent. Monseigneur reserved the use of his apartment and the entire property for one month a year.
George, the young Marquis of Stacpoole, felt aggrieved by this transfer, to which he had not given his consent as heir to the late Marquise. He therefore objected to the sale, which deprived him of a stay in Normandy, which he always seemed to love because of the memories attached to it. As early as 1890, no doubt frightened by the sums required to maintain such a property, Mrs Talbot tried to sell the abbey, where she spent a good part of the year. The sale was unsuccessful, or perhaps she withdrew the offer because her father was opposed.
While in Venice in February 1896, Monsignor de Stacpoole fell into a canal and injured himself. Brought back to Rome, he remained bedridden for a month with an ulcerated shoulder; complications arose, and he died on Sunday March 16, 1896, without a word of his illness reaching the city, such was the discretion of his life.
After his death, in accordance with his last wishes, his body was clothed in the grey habit of the Archconfraternity of the Stigmata, to which he belonged and which never left his side during his many travels, with a white cord around his loins, the insignia of the Confraternity on his chest, a wooden cross in his hands, a large hood over his head and his feet bare, and was displayed in his residence in Piazza Monte d’Oro.
His funeral took place on Wednesday March 19 in the church of San Lorenzo in Lucina; the mourners were led by his son, the young Marquis George de Stacpoole, who had been able to visit his father’s bedside. The coffin was covered with his prelatic insignia and the mantle of his brotherhood. The mass and absolution were accompanied by plainchant and pieces by Palestrina.
On March 26, the monks of Saint-Wandrille sang a solemn Requiem Mass for the repose of his soul, as they had done for the restoration of their monastery.
- L’Abbaye Saint-Wandrille (ASW) 1963, “L’abbaye de 1863 à 1894”, p.18-28.
- Curieuses Recherches de Fontenelle 1964, “L’abbaye de 1863 à 1894”, p. 39-69.
- George de Stacpoole, Irish and other memories, London, Philpot, 1922.
- Hubert de Stacpoole, An account of the de Stacpoole family, 1968.
- The Tablet, Obituary, 28 mars 1896.
- Illustrated London News Obituary, 1896.
- Burke’s Peerage, Foreign titles section.
After several months of negotiations, on February 13, 1894, a few monks, led by Dom Jean Martial Besse, took possession of the abbey again. The founders were keenly aware that they were putting down roots in the abbey’s own monastic tradition, which had known only two breaks in over twelve centuries of existence.
After a difficult start, supported by Dom Hildebrand de Hemptinne, primate abbot of the Benedictine confederation, Dom Joseph Pothier, restorer of Gregorian chant, was appointed prior and then abbot in 1898.
However, only seven years after the monastery’s restoration, the community was forced to abandon it under the pressure of events. The 1901 law banning religious congregations forced the monks into exile once again.
In September 1901, the community’s thirty-seven religious took refuge for 2 years at Vonêche in Belgium, then two and a half years later at Dongelberg Castle in Brabant, and finally at Conques in the Belgian Ardennes.
In August 1914, war was declared. Twelve religious were mobilized, reducing the community to twenty-six monks. The monastery provided shelter during the rout, but soon found itself at the heart of the battle. The buildings were devastated, and the brothers lacked everything.
After 4 terrible years, the monks decided to return to France, but Saint-Wandrille was rented out until 1933, so a solution had to be found. In 1924, they found refuge in a former seminary at Réray, in the diocese of Moulins.
He was appointed coadjutor in 1920 and died in Conques (Namur province) on December 8, 1923.
Text from the obituary of Saint-Wandrille Abbey, on the anniversary of the death of Dom Joseph Pothier, December 8, 1923: “At the former priory of Conques in the Ardennes, death of the Reverend Father Dom Joseph Pothier, first regular abbot of Saint-Wandrille since the establishment of the Commende. Subprior of Solesmes for over twenty-six years, including almost eleven under Dom Guéranger, Dom Pothier worked with his abbot to restore the liturgy in France. After having edited the chant books of the monasteries, he was called to Rome by Pope Pius X, and entrusted with the Vatican edition of the choir books of the Holy Roman Church. In the meantime, Dom Pothier had been appointed prior of Ligugé, then of Saint-Wandrille. Shortly afterwards, he became abbot of our monastery, living up to the name of father rather than master, and always putting mercy before law. In 1901, he had to go into exile with his sons, and in 1912 founded Saint-Benoît-du-Lac in Canada. A few years after the First World War, Dom Pothier fell asleep in the Lord; his body, first buried at Saint-Maurice de Clervaux, now rests at the feet of Our Lady de Fontenelle”.
- Albert Bescond, Le chant grégorien, Buchet-Chastel, Paris, 1972, 318 p
- Jean Claire, “Dom André Mocquereau cinquante ans après sa mort”, in Études grégoriennes, XIX, Solesmes, 1986.
- Pierre Combe, Histoire de la restauration du chant grégorien d’après les documents inédits, Solesmes et l’édition vaticane, Solesmes 1969.
- Lucien David, “La restauration grégorienne et l’édition typique du graduel romain”, in Revue du chant grégorien, 1908, mars-avril p. 125-130, mai-juin p. 154-159, sept-oct p. 23-25, 1909, janv-février p. 88-90 ; “Dom Joseph Pothier abbé de Saint-Wandrille et la restauration du chant grégorien”, in Trav. Acad. de Rouen, 1942-1944, p. 269-302 ; “Dom Joseph Pothier abbé de Saint-Wandrille et la restauration du chant grégorien”, in L’Abbaye Saint-Wandrille (L’ASW) 32-36 (1983-1987).
- Gabriel Gontard, “Le Rme dom Joseph Pothier abbé de Saint-Wandrille 1898-1923”, in L’ASW 2 (1952), p. 3-8.
- Jean Montier, “L’abbaye de 1894 à 1901”, in L’ASW 14 (1964), p. 17-34 ; “L’abbaye de 1901 à 1920”, in L’ASW 15 (1965), p. 10-28.
- Joseph Daoust, art. “Pothier”, in Catholicisme, t. XI, col. 675-678.
From 1907 to 1914, the abbey was home to the writer Maurice Maeterlinck and his muse, the actress Georgette Leblanc, sister of the author of Arsène Lupin.
They move into the west wing. Georgette furnished the large rooms with 18th-century-style bergères and Renaissance stools, while gilded taffeta portières cut through the vast rooms.
On August 29, 1909, Georgette staged a performance of “Macbeth” at the abbey, to benefit the village poor. Georgette selects the actors and extras, and rehearsals begin. Rehearsals last a month, during which time the actors are housed in the cells of the former monastery (probably in the east building). Others stay with local people.
An elite group of spectators had to follow the play as it unfolded, moving through the rooms of the abbey: Macbeth’s banquet in the great refectory, the ghosts of the kings appearing in the cloister gallery…
In 1910, Georgette repeated the event with “Pelléas et Mélisande”.
The Latham family
In 1919, Maeterlinck transferred the lease of Saint-Wandrille to aircraft manufacturer Jean Latham, whose factories were located between the village of Saint-Wandrille and the town of Caudebec. Talks to take over the abbey were initiated at this time by the community, but met with the tenant’s refusal.
The Latham family lived at the abbey for several years afterwards, and the refectory, now a playroom, provided the perfect roller-skating rink for the children of the house.
In 1931, the abbey’s tenant finally agreed to buy back his lease. After an exile of almost 30 years, convent life finally resumed. Forty-six religious made up the community, five of whom resided at the Saint-Benoît du Lac foundation in Canada, founded in 1912.
The community returned to its Normandy monastery on January 26, 1931.
To meet the community’s material needs, an encaustic workshop was set up in 1937, followed in the 1970s by a microcopy workshop, and in the 1990s by a restoration workshop for painted works. Other activities include a monastic crafts store and, in 2016, a brewery.
Dom Gabriel Gontard (+1986), abbot from 1943 to 1962, restored the buildings damaged by a bombing raid in August 1944. It was under his abbatiate that the abbey celebrated its thirteenth centenary in 1949.
His successor Dom Ignace Dalle (+1985), abbot from 1962 to 1969, was an active contributor to the Mont-Saint-Michel millennium in 1966. He endowed his monastery with a new abbey church, a former 13th-century seigniorial barn from the Eure department.
The new church was dedicated on September 12, 1970, following the election of Abbot Dom Antoine Levasseur. Under this abbot’s leadership, the main refectory was restored.
In 1996, Dom Pierre Massein succeeded Dom Levasseur. Under his abbatiat, our guest houses underwent renovation: interior accommodation, Saint-Joseph reception area, refurbishment of the Saint-Paul hall. Major work was also undertaken to modernize the kitchen.
Dom Jean-Charles Nault was elected 82nd abbot of Fontenelle on April 22, 2009, and received the abbatial blessing from Mgr Jean-Charles Descubes on the feast of Saint Vulfran (June 1) of the same year. To mark the fortieth anniversary of the abbey church’s dedication, he undertakes an interior renovation of the building, which begins in August 2010.
Abbots of Fontenelle
1st abbot saint Wandrille
2nd abbot Saint Lantbert (+688)
3rd abbot Saint Ansbert (+695)
4th abbot saint Hildebert I (694-701)
5th abbot Saint Bain (701-710)
6th abbot Saint Bénigne (710-716, then 719-724) 7th abbot Saint Wandon (716-719, then 747-754) 8th abbot Saint Hugues (725-732)
9th abbot Saint Landon (732-735)
10th abbot Teutsinde (735-742)
11th abbot Wido (742-744)
12th abbot Rainfroy (744-747)
13th abbot Saint Austrulf (747-753)
14th abbot Witlaïc (753-787)
15th abbot Saint Gervold (787-806)
16th abbot Trasaire (806-817)
17th abbot Hildebert II (817-818)
18th abbot Eginhard (818-823)
19th abbot Saint Anségise (823-833)
20th abbot Joseph I (833-834, then 841)
21st abbot Saint Foulques (834-841)
22nd abbot Hérimbert (841-850)
23rd abbot Louis (850-867)
In manu regis (867-886)
24th abbot Ebles (886-892)
25th abbot Womar (950-960)
26th abbot Maynard (960-966)
27th abbot name unknown
28th abbot Ensulbert (+ 993)
29th abbot name unknown (993-1006)
30th abbot saint Gérard I (1006-1029)
31st abbot Saint Gradulphe (1029-1048)
32nd abbot Robert I (1048-1063)
33rd abbot Saint Gerbert (1063-1089)
34th abbot Lanfranc (1089-1091)
35th abbot Gérard II (1091-1125)
36th abbot Alain (1125-1137)
37th abbot Saint Gautier (1137-1150)
38th abbot Roger (1150-1165)
39th abbot Anfroy (1165-1178)
40th abbot Gautier II (1178-1187)
41st abbot Geoffroy I (1187-1193)
42nd abbot Robert II (1193-1194)
43rd abbot Reginald (1194-1207)
44th abbot Robert III de Montivilliers (1207-1219)
45th abbot Guillaume I de Bray (1219-1235)
Guillaume de Suille abbot elected in 1235
46th abbot Robert IV d’Hautonne (1235-1244)
47th abbot Pierre I Mauviel (1244-1254)
48th abbot Geoffroy II de Nointot (1254-1288)
49th abbot Guillaume II de Norville (1288-1304)
50th abbot Guillaume III de La Douillie (1304-1342)
51st abbot Jean I de Saint-Léger (1342-1344)
52nd abbot Richard de Chantemerle (1344-1345)
53rd abbot Robert V Balbet (1345-1362)
54th abbot Geoffroy III Savary (1362-1367)
55th abbot Geoffroy IV de Hotot (1367-1389)
56th abbot Jean II de Rochois (1389-1412)
Guillaume de Hotot elected abbot in 1410
57th abbot Jean III de Bouquetot (1412-1418)
Jean Langret beneficiary (1418-1419)
58th abbot Guillaume IV Ferrechat (1419-1430)
Nicolas Lovier beneficiary (1419)
59th abbot Jean IV de Bourbon (1431-1444)
60th abbot Jean de Brametot (1444-1483)
61st cardinal abbot André d’Espinay commendatory abbot (1483-1500)
Pope-appointed Urbain de Fiesque (1483-1485)
Jean VI Mallet abbot elected in 1500, but not confirmed
62nd abbot Philippe de Clèves commendatory abbot (1502-1505)
63rd abbot Jacques Hommet last regular abbot under the ancien régime (1505-1523) Clermont-Lodève appointed by the Pope, his claims rejected
64th abbot Claude de Poitiers commendatory abbot (1523-1546)
65th abbot Michel Bayard (1546-1565)
Gilles Duret guardian and governor of the temporal estate from 1565 to 1567
66th abbot Pierre II Gourreau (1567-1569)
67th Cardinal Abbot Charles de Bourbon (1569-1578)
68th abbot Gilles de Vaugirault (1578-1585)
69th abbot Nicolas de Neufville (1585-1616)
70th abbot Mgr Camille de Neufville (1616-1622)
71st abbot Mgr Ferdinand de Neufville (1622-1690)
72nd abbot Balthazar-Henri de Fourcy (1690-1754)
The abbey was a commissary from 1754 to 1755.
73rd abbot Cardinal Frédéric-Jérôme de Roye de La Rochefoucauld (1755-1757) 74th abbot Mgr Louis-Sextius de Jarente (1757-1785)
75th Cardinal Abbot Etienne-Charles Loménie de Brienne (1785-1790)
dom Jean Martial Besse, dom François Chamard, superiors in 1894
Dom Joseph Bourigaud Abbot of Ligugé, Apostolic Administrator (1895-1898) 76th Abbot Dom Joseph II Pothier Prior Simple (1895-98) then Abbot (1898-1923) 77th Abbot Dom Jean VII Pierdait Coadjutor (1920-1923) then Abbot (1923-1942) 78th Abbot Dom Gabriel Gontard (1943-1962)
79th abbot Dom Ignace Dalle (1962-1969)
80th Abbot Dom Antoine Levasseur (1969-1996)
81st Abbot Dom Pierre III Massein (1996-2009)
82nd abbot dom Jean-Charles Nault (2009- )
dom Charles Fuscien de Lattre, 1637-1639.
dom Hervé Philibert Cotelle, 1639-1645.
dom Jacques Aicadre Picard, 1645-1651.
dom Guillaume Benoît Bonté, 1651-1652.
dom Jean Timothée Bourgeois, 1652-1656.
dom Jean Bernard Hamelin, 1656-1660.
dom Martin Bruno Valles, 1660-1663.
dom Jean Matthieu Jouault, 1663-1666.
dom Vincent Humery, 1666-1669.
dom René Anselme des Rousseaux, 1669-1670.
dom Edme du Monceau, sous-prieur, 1669-1670.
dom Pierre Laurent Hunault, 1670-1674.
dom Pierre Boniface Le Tan, 1674-1675.
dom Claude Carrel, 1675-1678.
dom Marc Rivard, 1678-1684.
dom Pierre Noblet, 1684.
dom Gabriel Dudan, 1684-1687.
dom Guillaume Hue, 1687-1693.
dom Robert Deslandes, 1693.
dom Nicolas Sacquespée, 1693-1696.
dom Gabriel Pouget, 1696-1699.
dom Claude Hémin, 1699-1705.
dom Jean-Baptiste Jouault, 1705.
dom Jacques Joseph Le Paulmier, 1705-1711.
dom Pierre Chevillart, 1711-1714.
dom Martin Filland, 1714-1717.
dom Louis Clouet, 1717-1723.
dom François L’héritier, 1723-1729.
dom Jean Foulques, 1729-1733.
dom Louis Barbe, 1733-1739 et 1740-1745.
dom Pierre Eudes, 1739-1740.
dom Jean Lefebvre, 1745-1748.
dom Jacques Martin Le Sec, 1748-1752.
dom Jean-Baptiste Duval, 1752-1757.
dom François René Desmares, 1757-1761.
dom Nicolas Faverotte, 1761-1768.
dom Louis Valincourt, 1768-1769 et 1775-1778.
dom Noël Nicolas Bourdon, 1769-1775.
dom Philippe Nicolas Dupont, 1778-1781.
dom Jean François Daspres, 1781-1783.
dom Mathurin François Brissier, sous-prieur, 1783.
dom Alexandre Jean Ruault, 1783-1790.