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Bec Abbey

Bec Abbey

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Bec Abbey in Le Bec Hellouin, Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

, France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, once the most influential abbey
An abbey is a Catholic monastery or convent, under the authority of an Abbot or an Abbess, who serves as the spiritual father or mother of the community.The term can also refer to an establishment which has long ceased to function as an abbey,...

 in the Anglo-Norman
The Anglo-Normans were mainly the descendants of the Normans who ruled England following the Norman conquest by William the Conqueror in 1066. A small number of Normans were already settled in England prior to the conquest...

 kingdom of the twelfth century, is a Benedictine
Order of Saint Benedict
The Order of Saint Benedict is a Roman Catholic religious order of independent monastic communities that observe the Rule of St. Benedict. Within the order, each individual community maintains its own autonomy, while the organization as a whole exists to represent their mutual interests...

 monastic foundation in the Eure
Eure is a department in the north of France named after the river Eure.- History :Eure is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790...

 département, in the Bec valley midway between the cities of Rouen
Rouen , in northern France on the River Seine, is the capital of the Haute-Normandie region and the historic capital city of Normandy. Once one of the largest and most prosperous cities of medieval Europe , it was the seat of the Exchequer of Normandy in the Middle Ages...

 and Bernay
Bernay, Eure
Bernay is a commune in the west of the Eure department about fifty km from Évreux in northern France. The city is in the Pays d'Ouche and the Lieuvin...


Like all abbeys, Bec maintained annals of the house, but uniquely its first abbots also received individual biographies, brought together by the monk of Bec, Milo Crispin
Milo Crispin
Milo Crispin was cantor of the Benedictine Abbey of Bec. He wrote the lives of five of its abbots: Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, Gulielmus de Bellomonte, Boso, Theobaldus and Letardus.-Biography and works:...

. Because of the abbey's cross-Channel influence, these vita
Vita or VITA may refer to:Things:*Vita , a brief biography, often that of a saint * Vita , a character in the anime series, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's* A curriculum vitae...

sometimes disclose historical information of more than local importance.

First foundation

The abbey was founded in 1034 by Herluin, a Norman
The Normans were the people who gave their name to Normandy, a region in northern France. They were descended from Norse Viking conquerors of the territory and the native population of Frankish and Gallo-Roman stock...

 knight who in about 1031 left the court of Gilbert, Count of Brionne
Gilbert, Count of Brionne
Gilbert was a Norman noble, Count of Eu, and Count of Brionne in northern France.-Parentage:Gilbert was son of Geoffrey, Count of Eu who was an illegitimate child of Richard the Fearless.-Life:...

, to devote himself to a life of religion: the commune of Le Bec Hellouin preserves his name. One hundred thirty-six monks made their profession while Herluin was in charge.

With the arrival of Lanfranc of Pavia
Lanfranc was Archbishop of Canterbury, and a Lombard by birth.-Early life:Lanfranc was born in the early years of the 11th century at Pavia, where later tradition held that his father, Hanbald, held a rank broadly equivalent to magistrate...

, Bec became a focus of 11th century intellectual life. Lanfranc, who was already famous for his lectures at Avranches
Avranches is a commune in the Manche department in the Basse-Normandie region in north-western France. It is a sub-prefecture of the department. The inhabitants are called Avranchinais.-History:...

, came to teach as prior and master of the monastic school, but left in 1062, to become abbot of St. Stephen's Abbey, Caen
Caen is a commune in northwestern France. It is the prefecture of the Calvados department and the capital of the Basse-Normandie region. It is located inland from the English Channel....

, and later Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. In his role as head of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop leads the third largest group...

. He was followed as abbot by Anselm
Anselm of Canterbury
Anselm of Canterbury , also called of Aosta for his birthplace, and of Bec for his home monastery, was a Benedictine monk, a philosopher, and a prelate of the church who held the office of Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 to 1109...

, also later an Archbishop of Canterbury, as was the fifth abbot, Theobald of Bec
Theobald of Bec
Theobald was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1139 to 1161. He was a Norman; his exact birth date is unknown. Some time in the late 11th or early 12th century Theobald became a monk at the Abbey of Bec, rising to the position of abbot in 1137. King Stephen of England chose him to be Archbishop of...

. Many distinguished ecclesiastics, probably including the future Pope Alexander II
Pope Alexander II
Pope Alexander II , born Anselmo da Baggio, was Pope from 1061 to 1073.He was born in Milan. As bishop of Lucca he had been an energetic coadjutor with Hildebrand of Sovana in endeavouring to suppress simony, and to enforce the celibacy of the clergy...

 and Saint Ivo of Chartres
Ivo of Chartres
Saint Ivo ' of Chartres was the Bishop of Chartres from 1090 until his death and an important canon lawyer during the Investiture Crisis....

, were educated in the school at Bec.

The life of the founder (Vita Herluini) was written by Gilbert Crispin
Gilbert Crispin
Gilbert Crispin was a Christian author and Anglo-Norman monk, appointed by Archbishop Lanfranc in 1085 to be the abbot, proctor and servant of Westminster Abbey, England...

, Abbot of Westminster. Archbishop Lanfranc also wrote a Chronicon Beccense of the life of Herluin, and of the first four abbots, which was published at Paris in 1648.

The followers of William the Conqueror supported the abbey, enriching it with extensive properties in England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

. Bec also owned and managed St Neots Priory
St Neots Priory
St Neots Priory was a Benedictine monastery in what is now the town of St Neots in the English county of Cambridgeshire within the district of Huntingdonshire.-Anglo-Saxon monastery:...

 as well as a number of other British foundations, including Goldcliff Priory
Goldcliff, Newport
Goldcliff is a village and community parish to the south east of the city of Newport in South Wales. It lies within the Newport city boundaries, in the historic county of Monmouthshire and the preserved county of Gwent.- Origin of the name :...

 in Monmouthshire
Monmouthshire is a county in south east Wales. The name derives from the historic county of Monmouthshire which covered a much larger area. The largest town is Abergavenny. There are many castles in Monmouthshire .-Historic county:...

 founded in 1113 by Robert de Chandos. The village of Tooting Bec
Tooting Bec
Tooting Bec is a place in the London Borough of Wandsworth in south London.It is named after Bec Abbey in Normandy, which was given land in this area after the Norman Conquest. Saint Anselm, the second Abbot of Bec, is reputed to have been a visitor to Tooting Bec long before he succeeded...

, now a London suburb, is so named because the abbey owned the land.

Bec Abbey was damaged during the Wars of Religion
French Wars of Religion
The French Wars of Religion is the name given to a period of civil infighting and military operations, primarily fought between French Catholics and Protestants . The conflict involved the factional disputes between the aristocratic houses of France, such as the House of Bourbon and House of Guise...

 and left a ruin in the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

 but the 15th century Tour Saint-Nicolas ("St, Nicholas's Tower") from the medieval monastery is still standing.http://www.oginet.com/Chronicles/bec.htm

Second foundation

In 1948 the site was re-settled as the Abbaye de Notre-Dame du Bec by Olivetan monks led by Dom Grammont, who effected some restorations. The abbey is known for its links with Anglicanism
Anglicanism is a tradition within Christianity comprising churches with historical connections to the Church of England or similar beliefs, worship and church structures. The word Anglican originates in ecclesia anglicana, a medieval Latin phrase dating to at least 1246 that means the English...

and has been visited by successive archbishops of Canterbury. The abbey library contains the John Graham Bishop deposit of 5,000 works concerning Anglicanism.

In modern day, the Abbey is best known for the pottery the monks produce.

External links

Abbaye de Notre-Dame du Bec: official website Le Bec Hellouin: official website gite site with details and photos