The Abbey

Founded by Saint Wandrille in 649, our abbey has a remarkable spiritual heritage. Indeed, 40 monks from our community are honored as saints and are the object of liturgical worship, which is an immense honor, but also a great demand of sanctity for ourselves.

saint Wandrille

Saint Owen, Bishop of Rouen, former dignitary of King Dagobert devoted himself to monastic causism by helping both St. Wandrille to found the Abbey of Fontanelle and St. Philibert that of Jumièges. Illumination from the 11th century.

Saint Wandrille was a son of nobility from the Verdun region of France. Quite naturally, Wandrille enters the service of King Dagobert. He was a good Administer of the Royal Estates. He seemed most likely to have the highest destinies within reach.

In obedience to his parents, he gets married. However, both spouses aspire to another life that was dedicated to God. The wife, a very young woman, enters a monastery and Wandrille, after having distributed their goods to the poor, joins various hermits. A dream led him to go to Bobbio, an Italian monastery founded by Saint Columban. Wandrille stayed there about 10 years. Later, he went to other Benedictine monasteries, including Romainmôtier in Switzerland. He lived in community and practiced a more interior asceticism.

Having learned that his friend Dadon (Saint Audoen or Saint Owen) St. Owen had been appointed Bishop of Rouen, Wandrille came to join him. He was made subdeacon, deacon, then ordained as priest. Wandrille, the second to St. Owen evangelized the pagans, but this life did not suit him well. He yearned to find solitude again.

In 649, St Owen gave him the opportunity to settle in the valley of Fontanelle. On a marshy and wooded land bought by the young Gond, Wandrille’s nephew. The beginnings of life at the monastery were rough. The land was cleared, the marshes were drained, and even vines were planted near the Chapel of Saint Saturnin. Wandrille built a church dedicated to Saint Peter and oratories dedicated to Saint Paul, Saint Laurent and Pancrace. Soon his nephew Gond, judging his work finished in Fontanel, left him to lead the eremitical life in Champagne.

Wandrille died on the 22nd July 668.



Foundation of Fontenelle Abbey by Saint Wandrille.
His first successors, St Lantbert and St Ansbert, saw the community grow.
This period of prosperity reached its peak under the abbatiate of Anségise (823-833).
But Norman invasions continued to multiply.



Sacking and burning of the abbey by the Vikings.
The monks had to leave, taking with them the relics of their saints.



First exile.



Return of the monks to Fontenelle, with Abbot Maynard de Gand. They set about rebuilding the monastery, which took the name of Saint-Wandrille. Various foundations were established, including Mont-Saint-Michel in 967.
The Hundred Years’ War began in 1337.



Concordat of Bologna between Pope Leo X and Francis I, who now decides on the appointment of abbots. The commendatory abbots were content to run the abbey in their own pecuniary interests, to the detriment of monastic life.
At a time when the abbey was already weakened, the Wars of Religion broke out.



The monastery was sacked by Huguenot troops.



A few lesser Jumièges residents join the community of Saint-Wandrille to introduce the reform of the Benedictine congregation of Saint-Maur. This marked the beginning of a period of intense reconstruction and spiritual renewal. The abbey became a renowned center for philosophical and theological studies.


1790 – 1894

The French Revolution sounded the death knell for convent life. A monk, Louis-François Lebrun (beatified by John Paul II), dies a martyr’s death on the docks at Rochefort.

1791 : The monastery is sold as national property to Cyprien Lenoir, an industrialist from Yvetot. He set up a brass pin factory, followed by a tobacco factory and even a saltpetre and gunpowder workshop. He used the church as a stone quarry and traded in stones. On his death, his children set up a spinning and weaving mill.

1863 : The Marquis of Stacpoole acquires the monastery and the ruins of the church. He transforms the buildings into a “summer house” at great cost and expense.
When he decided to sell, talks began with the Abbé de Ligugé.



Monastic life resumes at Saint-Wandrille Abbey with a few monks from Ligugé.



Dom Joseph Pothier is appointed abbot. He was a great restorer of Gregorian chant.


1901 – 1931

The 1901 law banning religious congregations forces monks to leave. Second exile.

1907-1912 : Belgian writer Maeterlinck occupies the abbey with actress Georgette Leblanc. The couple staged a production of Macbeth in the abbey, followed by Pélléas et Mélisande the following year.

1919 : Maeterlinck sells his lease to aircraft manufacturer Jean Latham.

1931 : Jean Latham accepts the buyout of his lease by the exiled community.



Monks return to Saint-Wandrille


August 1944

Bombing of the monastery. Reconstruction work lasted from 1948 to 1957.


1967 – 1969

Construction of the new abbey church.



The community of thirty Benedictine brothers continues this tradition of prayer and work, silence and simplicity. The Most Reverend Father Dom Jean-Charles Nault is the 82nd abbot.


Map of the Abbey

The Association

The friends of the Abbey Association is a group of more than 300 members who give both moral and financial support to the community. Notably, they help in projects of restoration of our buildings. Always with the perspective of welcoming greatly all who come, large in number, drawn by the sign of a community of men completely given and dedicated to the service of God.

The Contributions are:
– Benefactor: starting from 75 euros
– Titulaire: starting from 25 euros
– Subscriber: starting from 5 euros

If you would like to become a member of the association, choose the method of payment you would like to use. Complete the formula which will be given to you online, if your payment is by credit card or print out a formula, if you choose to register by check. Then, follow the instructions which are given.

Under current French legislation, membership fees are tax-deductible up to 66% of the amount of the donation, up to a limit of 20% of taxable income We’ll be happy to send a tax receipt corresponding to their contribution to any Friends who request one.

Gesta magazine

GESTA is the title of an account of the first two centuries of Saint-Wandrille Abbey, written by one of its monks around 840. The Gesta, or deeds of the holy fathers of the Fontenelle monastery, is the oldest monastic chronicle in the West.

Each issue of this forty-eight-page quarterly features:
– the chronicle of the monastery, the fabric of our monastic life, which guests, faithful and tourists come to share in their own way,
– a homily delivered at the abbey,
– two or three articles by monks or authors we’ve invited to write about monastic spirituality, Sacred Scripture, episodes in the life of the Church today or in the past, local or more general monastic history, reflections on and in-depth study of major texts of the Church’s Magisterium, reading notes on works dealing with religious life or the Church in general.

By subscribing, you demonstrate your friendship and interest in the life of our community. You’ll share in the richness of our Christian heritage and monastic charism, better understanding and deepening the spiritual challenges of our religious presence.
You expand our circle of friends by supporting our publication.

The annual subscription (4 issues per year) costs €22 (outside the European Union: €24). All our subscriptions run from January to December. On receipt of your payment, we will send you the issues already published, unless you request that your subscription start next year.

Subscription to Gesta magazine:

If you would like to subscribe, please select the payment method you would like to use. Complete the formula which will be given to you online, if your payment is by credit card or print out a formula, if you choose to register by check. Then, follow the instructions which are given.

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