Abbey History

Abbey Blanchelande - postcard dated 1907

 

The Abbey in 1950.

Abbey Blanchelande is a historic monument of the Manche , located in Neufmesnil, France.

The abbey owes its name to its locality Blanche Lande . It was founded in 1154 by the baron of La Haye-du-Puits and given to the Premonstratensians in 1161. The Premonstratensians or Norbertines, also known as the White Canons in Britain and Ireland, are a religious order of the Catholic Church founded in Prémontré near Laon in 1120 by Norbert of Xanten, who later became Archbishop of Magdeburg.

The abbey was built in the 12th century, altered in the 14th century and was abandoned in the 18th century.

The Abbey endures and survives the conflicts which plagued France from 1337-1598 with 261 years of turmoil - the Hundred Years War with England and the Wars of the League between Catholics and Protestants.

Further turmoil and danger for the abbey with the French Revolution in 1789 till 1799. In May, 1940 Germany occupies France until June, 1944 when the allies land on the Normandy beaches with The Abbey being occupied by both the German and Allied forces during WW2.

Hundred Years War: The Hundred Years' War (1337–1453) was a series of conflicts fought between England and France over succession to the French throne. It lasted 116 years and saw many major battles from the battle of Crécy in 1346 to the battle of Agincourt in 1415, which was a major English victory over the French. The English under King John were evicted from France in 1204 except for Gascony and the rout was finalised in 1453 under Charles V11 of France.

War of the Leagues: After a series of bloody clashes, the French Wars of Religion (1562–1598), between Catholics and Protestants, the Catholic League formed in an attempt to break the power of the Calvinist gentry once and for all. The Catholic League saw the French throne under Henry III as too conciliatory towards the Protestant Huguenots.

During the wars of religion on February 28, 1587, the abbey was pillaged and buildings were partially destroyed and its titles and archives burned.

The French Revolution: this was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France and its colonies beginning in 1789 and ending in 1799. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic resulting in violent periods of political turmoil and retribution, and finally culminating in a dictatorship under Napoleon. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution made a profound impression on the course of modern history, triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history.

Amidst the turmoil of the French Revolution in 1790, the abbey was declared national property and the monks of the religious order were evicted resulting in the partial demolition of the convent buildings the abbey church and the bell tower.

The 19th Century: In 1845, the abbey church was completely destroyed and in 1857 Madame de Robersart, daughter of the Duke of Praslin, bought the abbey and restored the home which was built in 1740. Blanchelande is reborn with the abbey home being restored with a richly decorated living room and a dining room with beautifully carved woodwork. The countess lived at Blanchelande for 40 years.

In 1880 a new religious community was reinstated at The Abbey with Madame de Robersart offering the helping sisters of the Souls of Purgatory, residence. At the countess' passing in 1897, she bequeathed the abbey to the sisters where they stayed for over a century.

With the decline in religious fervour over the next 100 years and having fewer and fewer nuns to work the abbey farm and support the order and it's finances, an abbey the size of Blanchelande could not be maintained, and thus the nuns and the order of the Souls of Purgatory had to depart the abbey in 1982.

The Abbey has been listed as a Historic Monument since 2000.

Chronology

• 1154 : foundation of the abbey by Richard de la Haye and his wife Mathilde de Vernon, following a vow.

• 1337 : the One Hundred Years War.

• 1453 : end of the war.

• 1562 : the War of the Leagues.

• 1598 : end of the war.

• 1789 : the French Revolution.

• 1791 : sale of The Abbey as national property to farmers. The monks had occupied the abbey for 635 years.

• 1799 : end of the Revolution.

• 1845 : the abbey church is destroyed, with the exception of the bell tower. Some important elements of the abbey are saved by the mayor of Neufmesnil and placed in the parish church.

• 1857 : acquisition by the Countess of Robersart, daughter of the Duke of Praslin. Restoration of the park and the interior of the abbey home, built in 1740.

• 1880 : arrival of the auxiliary sisters from Purgatory.

• 1888 : creation of the Lemperière hospice.

• 1897 : death of Madame de Robersart. Sharing of goods. The countess stayed 40 years in Blanchelande.

• 1898 : purchase of the abbey buildings by Adèle-Pauline Lesaffre, widow of Louis Alphonse Bonduelle, heir to the Lesaffre-Bonduelle group, and of the two farms by Mr. Fonty de Brocquebeuf.

• 1940 - 1944 : the abbey is occupied by the German army, then, after the landing, by the American army.

• 1982 : the auxiliary sisters leave the abbey after 102 years of occupation.

 

This truly is a Historic Monument having survived political turmoil and wars for 866 years.

Help me save this wonderful antiquity.

 

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