Through Writing Lille
Just as the Scarpe, in the Nord department, was dotted with abbeys, likewiseAuthie bathed in the Pas de Calais, the walls of several monastic sites. We take you roam their remains.
That of Valloires (Cistercian) remains of course the best preserved, the most open and the most visited. But how many others have had an important influence during centuries in this sector known as the “Seven valleys”! Why has the memory of so many religious sites more or less faded, between the Val d’Authie and the Canche valley: in Tortefontaine, in Gouy-Saint-André, in Auchy-lès-Hesdin etc., and near their many monastic censuses, in Bloville, Brunehautpré, Val Restaud etc.
Certainly, reserved on the border between Artois and Picardy, these abbeys have suffered wars (English, Spaniards, Burgundians, Huguenots etc.)
But after their violent secularization from 1790-1791, they were either razed (stone quarries), or transformed into industrial sites or farms, their new owners being hardly inclined to recall the conditions of their acquisition. Indeed, as much the nobles (military, and / or not very accessible to the virtues of sharing?) Often recovered their goods during the Restoration, as much the new rich did everything to make people forget that the monks had “stretched the left cheek” to their persecutors.
Before the Revolution, France, it is said, more than a thousand abbeys (the powerful majority of landowners). Nowadays, less than half of them would remain… more or less standing and penniless! Barely 80 are still “alive”, in other words inhabited by religious men / women … But specialists remain cautious about the figures because they depend on the definition of the word “abbey”.
If we count the priories, the provosts, the monastic “barns” (tithe or not), the monasteries of Orders with tiny numbers, the humble subsidiaries of famous abbeys-mothers, the urban convents … then, the Ancien Régime rather choose ten thousand! Roughly speaking, a tight mesh of 1 monastic establishment every 3 municipalities!
But, before the anticlerical laws of the Revolution and the devastating fury of the populations, the degeneration of the Church in Europe of the Age of Enlightenment had been sanctioned by the monarchs themselves. They authoritatively suppressed many “abbeys” which were alive: almost half of the total! (cf. under Louis XV, the “Commission of Regulars” from 1766, or the closures decreed by Emperor Joseph II of Austria…)
The abbey of St-Josse-au-Bois
The Saint-Josse abbey, was founded between Douriez and Mouriez, in 1131, in Saint-Josse-au-Bois, hermitage of the eponymous saint in the 7th century. (Not to be confused with that, quite close, of Saint-Josse-sur-Mer, closed for lack of Benedictines in 1772.)
Today, it is a wooded hamlet where traces of the monastic site can still be seen, isolated on a plateau (once a thick forest) blown by the wind and bristling with dozens of wind turbines. From there, the abbey was transferred in 1161, 4 km to the south, to a place called Dommartin, on the left (the North hill) of the Authie valley, in the village of Tortefontaine.
The abbey of St-André-au-Bois
The monastic enclosure with an area of 17 ha is surrounded by a white stone and brick wall, still visible (almost 5 km in circumference) built at the beginning of the 16th century. The St Josse de Dommartin abbey is one of the first foundations of the Order born in Prémontré (near Coucy), which had a hundred in France (more than 600 in Europe), often very rich.
The “Norbertines” were in fact not monks but regular canons (most of the priests of the surrounding parishes), observing the Rule of Saint Augustine, desired by their founder Saint Norbert de Xanten (1080-1134, archbishop of Magdeburg).
The last (54th) abbot of Dommartin, Joseph Oblin, had to undergo in 1792 the destruction of the cloister buildings (superb abbey church 90 m long, with bell tower 80 m high) and a plunder which lasted two days, including of the library crowded with treasures.
Two monumental gates, erected in 1747, still open today onto an area that is both agricultural, residential and cultural: square farmyard (late 17th century), long barns (early 18th century), beautiful ruins in the park in valuation course by the Drac.
Not far north-east of Gouy-Saint-André, this abbey was first founded in Maresquel (Ecquemicourt), by the Premonstratensians of Dommartin, on the banks of the Canche, in 1135. It was named “Saint Abbey”. -André de l’Aulnoye ”, because of the many alders in this valley.
Triumphal arch portal
Twenty years later, the canons received help – as everywhere then – from local lords inclined to want to “save their soul and gain paradise” by pious donations before going to war. Indeed, many benefactor knights, such as the Sires of Beaurain, Brimeu, Maintenay, Créqui etc., left to “cross paths” in the Holy Land.
Origin of the land fortune of many abbeys in the Middle Ages! Thus, the “white canons” transported their establishment nearby, and they prospered (a series of 38 “mitred abbots”) on the edge of a wood where the remains of this abbey still stand.
The vast farmyard and the farm date from a reconstruction campaign of 1752-1758. After a triumphal arch portal, a vast courtyard in the shape of a “lying T”, is bordered by long brick and stone farm buildings, topped with slate. All the religious buildings (church, cloister, etc.), restored in the 18th century, and therefore new, were demolished during the Revolution, the stones “sold by auction and by the yardstick. “
Only there, as elsewhere, the remaining utilitarian buildings did not benefit from the “village roosters” (upstart peasants) or the bourgeois not fearing “divine wrath” by buying “Church goods” (at a low price?).
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