In the heart of Lyons forest lies Mortemer Abbey, a former Cistercian monastery.

Built in 1134 by Henry the first Beauclerc, first Duke of Normandy, King of England and fourth son of William the Conqueror, Mortemer Abbey takes its name after the Latin expression “mortum mare” which means “dead sea” because of the vast swamps flooding the area. The abbey was at that time very powerful, its influence and role in the region being undeniable. Also, the monks lived in complete autarky, thanks to the pigeons raised in the dovecote, the lampreys, perches and tenches fished in the ponds and the wine and honey produced by the monks.

Over the centuries, the abbey slowly fell into decline and disrepair. Such decline became irreversible and by 1790, during the French Revolution, only four monks remained.

The 17th-century dovecote, which displays a noticeable chestnut wood structure, was also used as a jail in the 18th and 19th centuries as the abbot was allowed to render justice. Accordingly, the dovecote is adorned with the strip justice which is still visible nowadays with the protruding stones around the building.

From the church of the 12th century, remain today only a few sections: the support of the north transept and its rose, the pantry and a piece of yard.

In the center of the property, a building, which was built in the late 18th century, houses a museum.

The path of the Normandy Dukes displays the sculptures of thirteen Normandy dukes and two duchesses. Near to the statues, crosses represent the ducal family, legitimate wives, and important figures of the ducal Normandy history.

The abbey has the reputation to be the most haunted abbey in France, despite its exorcism in 1921. Numerous legends and ghosts’ stories surround the abbey. Matilda of England is said to haunt the place and is known as the White Lady of the region. The last four monks of the abbey were murdered during the French Revolution and their ghosts are also said to haunt the abbey (which makes the place pretty crowded, right).

August 14, 2020

Mortemer Abbey