Viking raiders did devastate the Dark Ages Jumièges Abbey in the mid 9th century. As these Norsemen settled in Normandy and turned to Christianity, one of their early leaders, William Longsword, reinstituted a monastery here from the mid 10th century. In 1040, building began on the vast abbey, often described as the first major Romanesque building in northern France. The enterprise was overseen by Robert Champart, who would also become Bishop of London, then Archbishop of Canterbury for a brief time. This was under King Edward the Confessor. Robert Champart’s cross-Channel roles recall the important facts that Edward the Confessor was, via his Norman mother, the grandson of Duke Richard of Normandy, and that he was in good part brought up in Normandy.
Edward the Confessor’s eventual successor, William the Conqueror, came as both Duke of Normandy and newly crowned King of England to the consecration of Jumièges Abbey’s church in 1067. Jumièges established itself as a great centre of medieval learning. William of Jumièges, a contemporary of William the Conqueror, wrote a significant history of the Norman dukes. The abbey church was given a Gothic choir end in the 13th century, when it was at the height of its power. Although clearly a very rich religious institution, signalled by its immense grandeur, it was renowned for its care for the poor.
From the 16th century French Wars of Religion, Jumièges went into rapid decline. The monks ran from fanatical Protestants who looted the place, wreaking devastation. After a small-scale revival, at the Revolution, large amounts of stone were sold off. The ruins that remain to this day recall the abbey’s greatness.