Monday, 16 February 2015

Abbey of Notre-Dame at La Couronne

In May last year, we visited the ruined Abbey of Notre-Dame at La Couronne,  a small town near Angouleme. Bizarrely, some would say outrageously, contraposed only a few metres from a giant Lafarge cement works, the contrasts in building type, construction and  800 years of passing history are stark. You can see this in the fifth photo down, but as this is a blog about the abbey and not the cement works, I have tried to keep the latter out of the pictures! It's not all that easy; as one cannot walk around inside the building, snapping has to be done from the perimeter. Not only is it private property, but I guess the danger from falling stones is quite high! The decision to site the cement works here is not, however, as ridiculous as one might think. I'll reveal how it happened at the end of the blog!

The first stone was laid, it is said, on 12 May 1118, the works proceeded quickly and a monk named Lambert was elected abbot of the first, primitive, church on Easter day 1122.
The abbey proved to be very successful and further building work  proceeded over the next 80 years, the slow pace due to wars and famines, but a second, more elaborate, church was consecrated in 1201. The building and rebuilding went on; cloisters, an infirmary and refectory were added or rebuilt.
There's a distant connection between this abbey and the English royal lineage. Isabelle of Angouleme, the widow of King John (he of  Magna Carta and  lost treasure fame) was buried here, but her son Henry III of England) exhumed the body and had it reburied in the Kings' cemetery at an abbey in the Loire valley.
The monks were dispersed during the 100 Years War but for a brief period after that, more rebuilding was carried out until 1514, when it ceased.
The cement works silo looms over the ancient stonework. 
The wars of religion, lasting 36 years in the late 16th century, badly affected the abbey, parts of which were burnt and pillaged. At this time it was occupied by only eight men of faith, following the Jesuit order.

A last work programme of improvements occupied the years between 1750 and 1778 but following the great upheaval of the French Revolution which took place shortly afterwards, the site became national property and was sold in 1807 as a source of building stone. 
The beautiful stone work and carvings were dismantled, presumably in an uncontrolled fashion, over the next 120 years.

Magnificent  centuries-old abbey gateway, standing now adjacent to a suburban street in this mixed industrial, residential and rather surreal area.
Masonry and carving detail, craftsmanship of the highest order........
And now, the answer to the puzzle of the cement works! In 1928, Lafarge bought the building land for a new plant, but as a consequence of this, it also acquired the abbey, ending all the years of pillaging of stone by the local population. Since then, Lafarge has restored and looked after the building and the park. As part of its social responsibility programme, the company works with the local community to restore life to the abbey through cultural events and to provide the opportunity for the discovery of its historical heritage. So, without the deal between Lafarge and the authorities, there might well be nothing left for us to marvel at today!

Thanks to Nigel for all his research and writing the article to go with my photos.


See also my daily Photo Diary Here
My Life Before Charente  - New post 11/02/2015

62 comments:

  1. Interesting post, Diane! I was amazed by Notre Dame in Paris and what remains of this abbey would be amazing to see also. That is definitely quite a contrast in the 5th picture with the cement works, and nothing quite compares to the great ornate architecture of hundreds of years ago. All the many years it took to build the abbey and then to be nearly destroyed like so many other great buildings from back then is sad. But, kudos to Lafarge for restoring and looking after it now! Have a good week!

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    1. Pam thanks for your comments. It is sad that we cannot see this place as it would have been, I can imagine though. Yes the 5th picture shows a huge contrast, but it seems without Lefarge there would not be any ruins left to see. Keep well Diane

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  2. One's initial reaction would be dismay at the concrete plant next door to the ruins of this church, but it actually is the reason the church remains at all? That's amazing. It proves that progress and business need not be counter to saving heritage. Thanks for another beautiful tour, Diane, and special thanks to Nigel for his research.

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    1. Marjie I agree, we were horrified at the sight of the cement works next to these beautiful ruins, but then we discovered if they were not there, then probably there would be nothing left for us to see today. I would love to go inside to walk around, but it is better that they are closed to the public to stop the destruction. Will pass the message on to Nigel. Thanks Marjie.

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  3. Absolutely Beautiful! What a Blessing it would be to see it in person.

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    1. Thanks Hickory Hill for your visit and comment. It is a stunning place to see and amazing that we can see it at all. Have a good week Diane

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  4. What a place it must have been! Those transposed gates would take a lot of living up to!

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    1. Fly it would have been great to see it in its heyday, we are lucky though to be able to see it at all it seems. Those gates are amazing. Hope you are both well. Diane

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  5. Hi Diane!
    Thanks for those amazing photos! It amazes me how all these wonderful abbeys and chateaux were built in that faraway time. Not many modern buildings stack up well beside them.

    Hope you are well!

    Denise :-)

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    1. Denise you are right, today's buildings just do not last like the old ones used to. They were built properly in those days without all the machinery to speed things up that we have nowadays!. We are well and I hope you are as well. Have a good week, Diane

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  6. A truly fascinating post and your photos are gorgeous!

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    1. Thanks Linda for your visit and comment, it is an amazing place. Hope your week is a good one Diane

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  7. It must have been magnificent in its heyday. Well done Lafarge for saving it!

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    1. Sarah I will go along with that. Although the cement works are not pretty, without them we would not have the pleasure of seeing the ruins. Hope you are well Diane

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  8. it looks like a romantic place to walk around, I can imagine a beatiful wedding there:)

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    1. Ola a wedding with that stone work in the background would be amazing :-) Keep well Diane

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  9. What a beautiful place, and possibly much lovelier because it is now a ruin, which lends an enchantment which perhaps the complete house would not have had.

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    1. Vera you are probably right, ruins that were beautiful, and you can still see the beauty that was there, have an interest of what might have been. Have a good week Diane

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  10. Most interesting, thanks Diane (and Nigel of course!). I'm with Fly, those gates are a real statement. Wonderful ruins.

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    1. Thanks Craig, with a little imagination it is easy to picture what it was all like before. Bonne journée, Diane

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  11. What a magnificent ruin this is. I always have a hard time wrapping my mind around how something so ancient could still survive in the modern world for us to see. Thank you for sharing this and it's history with us. There are so many things to see in France it would take one years, perhaps longer, to see it all.
    Sam

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    1. Sam we think that we have seen everything close by then suddenly we find another piece of history that we did not existed. Europe is quite incredible and it is so good that they try to preserve their past. Take care Diane

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  12. Hello Diane,

    An uneasy marriage this one between the Abbey ruins and the cement works, but it certainly seems to be a good partnership in keeping everything going.

    The tracery of the ruins against the skyline is dramatically beautiful, we can well imagine that it is a very atmospheric place to be.

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    1. Hello Jane and Lance, yes you are right, but it seems the abbey would have disappeared if it were not for the cement works! It is not easy taking photos and avoiding the modern world in the background, but it is certainly worth a visit for anyone in the area. If you let the imagination take over the back ground blurs into the distance. Have a good week. Diane

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  13. I bet that was a stunning building in its day. But even though the cement works isnt attractive, at least the owners are helping to keep the building alive x

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    1. Kerry I would loved to have seen it in its heyday but it is still interesting to see. Good that it is being looked after :) Have a good day, Diane

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  14. Hi Diane , these were the next photos for me to sort out :-) I am grateful to you and Nigel for showing me the fabulous places and here on your blog , sharing all the history. I found a little bit but thanks to Nigel's research , the history is amazing. So Thank you NIgel. I wonder what different photos I got to you this time :-) Take care xoxo Anne ,

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    1. Hi Anne looking forward to seeing your photos. It is surprising how we walk around together but see different things. Keep warm Diane xox

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  15. What an interesting post! Your photos are excellent and show the beauty of this ancient abbey. It is nice to know that there is interest in saving it from more destruction.

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    1. I could not agree more. The cement works are not very pretty but without them the abbey would have been lost it seems. Hope you are both well Diane

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  16. Hi Diane - what an interesting Abbey and thanks to you both for finding about its history ... I'm glad that through purchase Lafarge have stabilised the Abbey's remains. Incredible workmanship ... the craftsmen of yore were amazing. Lafarge is an interesting organisation ... And I loved this post ... Cheers from a hip recovering (well) Hilary!!

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    1. Hilary sorry I must have missed a post and did not realise that you had actually had your hip done. Glad to hear you are recovering well.
      You are right, Lefarge seems to be doing lots of good things around the world, long may it last.
      Hope the hip keeps improving, keep well Diane

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  17. Thanks Diane for share these amazing pictures. Always yours pictures touched me Diane!
    Thanks by yours words in my last post!!
    xo

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    1. Thanks Gloria, always good to hear from you. Have a great weekend Diane x

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  18. It's hard to comprehend that some of the stonework of the Abbey have been standing there for so long Diane, awesome really. Thank heavens for Lafarge, makes a change from new business overriding historical treasures and actually valueing their relevance. Beautiful images as always.

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    1. It is hard to understand I agree, especially as new building do not last as long!!! Lefarge seem to be doing good work worldwide which good. Hope you are well. Diane

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  19. WOW! Once again I'm blown away by the architecture and really glad someone stepped in to save what's left. Being a cement plant should help in restoration.

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    1. European history and architecture is amazing Gaelyn, The more I see the more I am surprised, Lefarge seem to be doing a good job. Keep well Diane

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  20. Thankfully enough remains to give witness to such amazing craftsmanship and architecture for something this old. Wow.

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    1. I have to agree with that Rick, thank goodness someone is looking after it for us to see. Can you imagine the hours, days, months and years that went into the original building of this place! Keep well Diane

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  21. Diane, I love your tour. What an amazing place. I have always been a little crazy about ruins and these are just magnificent. I'd go on your tours any day!!

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    1. Deana I would never make a tour guide, I would never remember everything!! I also love old ruins. Havea good week Diane

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  22. Un lieu beau et chargé d'histoire. J'aime beaucoup.
    A bientôt

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  23. An amazing ruin. To be still standing after all these years and trials it has been through. It is great to hear that someone is now taking care of it. Can you imagine any buildings been built today will still be standing in 900 years?

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    1. Diane nothing much lasts nowadays!!! I do have an old jerkin of my brothers, probably bought around 1955, and it is still in good condition and I wear it from time to time! Doubt though if it would last for 900 years! Have a good week t'other Diane

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  24. A stark contrast indeed! Great photos as always, hope you are both keeping well Diane.

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    1. Very much so Linda but at least they are looking after the old building. Have a good week Diane

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  25. The kind of place I would spend hours at. Terrific shots, Diane.

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    1. Thanks José, It in a very interesting place with masses of history. Keep well Diane

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  26. Amazing place and photos!!!

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    1. Thanks Pam, I have to agree with your comment about the place, thanks for the comment on the photos. Hope you are well Diane

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  27. Wonderful architecture, Diane. You do have a superb talent for capturing such architectural beauty. I'd be interested to know what your photographic equipment is.

    Sorry not to have commented before now. I felt sure that I'd already commented on this post, but I must have got distracted!

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    1. Thanks Richard for your kind comment. I have answered the camera query on your blog. Keep well Diane

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  28. Εκπληκτικές φωτογραφίες αγαπητή μου Diane!!!
    Έχεις καλλιτεχνικό ταλέντο! Μπράβο στην εταιρία που υποστηρίζει το Αββαείο!!!
    Χαιρετισμούς πολλούς!

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    1. Many thanks Magda for your kind comment. much appreciated. Have a good day.

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  29. What great photos, Diane. Thank you for sharing them with us, Hugs and blessings...Mary.

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  30. Dear Diane,

    I wanted to wish you a very Happy Easter. Hope you are doing well. Hugs.

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    1. Thanks Linda, it has taken me a while to catch up! Take care Diane

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  31. Encore un beau voyage. J'aime beaucoup.
    A bientôt

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