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The extraordinary legacy of the Middle Ages in the Manche gives us great churches like the Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel and Coutances cathedral, but also lesser known beauties like Pirou castle and Cerisy-la- Forêt.
THE ABBEY OF MONT-SAINT-MICHEL
Let us head for one of the great centres of medieval pilgrimage. After tramping up the cobbled streets and climbing 350 steps, we come to the “Merveille”. The Benedictine Abbey was mostly built in the XIth, XIIIth and XVth centuries and only closed in 1790. From the nearby Chausey Islands the stone was brought by boat: an extraordinary technical and artistic achievement by the monks and masons of their day.
Abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel
50170 Le Mont-Saint-Michel
THE SCRIPTORIAL OF AVRANCHES
The Abbeys were great centres of learning, of writing and of illumination. The “ scriptorium” was the (heated) room for transcription and illumination on parchment and in its time the Abbey must have produced many tens of thousands of manuscripts. A few hundred remain, exhibited here in Avranches where the techniques and materials of writing from papyrus to printing are described. Turn the pages of history!
Scriptorial d’Avranches, manuscript museum of Mont-Saint-Michel
THE ABBEY OF OUR LADY, HAMBYE
Founded in the XIIth century, this too was a Benedictine Abbey until it was closed by the French Revolution. Like all abbeys, it became state property and it, together with its contents, was sold off at auction. The last few decades have seen a painstaking restoration which has preserved the skeletal framework of its early gothic architecture. There are a number of footpaths in the countryside around it which enable you to see it from different picturesque perspectives.
Abbaye Notre-Dame de Hambye
7 route de l’abbaye
50 450 Hambye
THE ABBEY OF LUCERNE D’OUTREMER
The second half of the XIIth century saw a transition between the Late Romanesque and the Early Gothic style. The Abbey illustrates this perfectly with its heavy, horizontality and imposing tower, but with openings and ribbed vaults in the pointed style of the gothic. It a perfect place for contemplation both within and outside in the grounds.
Abbaye de la Lucerne d’Outremer
50320 La Lucerne d’Outremer
A quaint local legend has it that the besieged occupants of this site had themselves magicked away in the form of geese to escape the Vikings on their rampages. The Vikings were not expected to waste their time on a wild goose chase! This XIIth century castle underwent major modifications in the XVIIth century and enjoys a picture postcard beauty. Château fort de Pirou 50 770 Pirou
Château fort de Pirou
THE ABBEY OF CERISY-LA-FORÊT
The Abbey church dates from the time of William the Conqueror, and its robust Romanesque form is echoed in the Norman rebuilding of so many parish churches in England. The lantern tower rising above the roof line is typical of churches of the period – and later – in Normandy. However the triple levels of window openings is unique.
Abbaye de Cerisy-la-Forêt
THE ABBEY OF THE HOLY TRINITY OF LESSAY
The Abbey of the Holy Trinity of Lessay is a Benedictine Abbey dating back to the XIth century Its greatest prosperity was in the XIIth century. Since when it’s been knocked about a bit, pillaged by the Protestants and ransacked by the Catholics in the Wars of Religion, sold off in the French Revolution and totally destroyed by Allied bombing in 1944. The rebuilding has retained the purity and severity of the style of its heyday.
Abbaye Sainte-Trinité de Lessay
Rue Paul Jeanson
THE CATHEDRAL OF OUR LADY IN COUTANCES
The Cathedral of Our Lady in Coutances conceals its Norman nave and towers a cladding of XIIIth century gothic, an extraordinary technical achievement and a lesson in the contrasting architecture of the Romanesque and the Anglo-Norman gothic. The great towers and spires can be seen for miles around. Visit the upper levels of the structure, the forest of shaped timber, the lantern tower, the stained glass, it will make your stay in Normandy memorable! Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Coutances 1 rue du puits Notre-Dame 50 200 Coutances
Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Coutances
1 rue du puits Notre-Dame