Tuesday 21 February 2012

Recycled Abbey

With brilliant blue skies if chilly temperatures, Shrove Tuesday invited us to do more than just eat pancakes. It mobilised us go and have a nose round a place we've been meaning to investigate for ages.
refectory early 13th cent. with trifoil windows
We've often driven through Cormery, a small place on the river Indre between Loches and Tours; indeed when we first arrived it seemed like we were schlepping up to Tours so often the car could have driven itself! Yet, even then we'd noticed the slightly worn signs pointing towards 'L'Abbaye de Cormery'.
back of chapel of the virgin,
flamboyant gothic and the half timbering
of the abbot's house
To anyone who is used to seeing ruined abbeys in remote locations such as is often the case in the UK; for example Fountains Abbey [Cistercian] or Mount Grace [Carthusian], this location might come as a bit of a surprise. Cormery Abbey, as a Benedictine foundation, is very much part of the town--in more ways than one!
13th cent. arcading of the chapterhouse;
now part of a 1950's house
It is as if a child had thrown mediaeval Lego in amongst the modern blocks and then proceeded to build things. Though the abbey may now be a jumble, or the ultimate recycle if you prefer, it did provide us with a fascinating puzzle to explore.
front of the abbot's house, 15th cent.
It also has a lovely York connection which we appreciate. The abbey was founded by Ithier, abbot of St Martin of Tours in 791AD. He installed 5 monks in a small cell on the banks of the river Indre and obtained a foundation charter from Charlemagne. He wanted somewhere remote where he could retreat and meditate well away from the hustle and bustle of the abbey of Tours. Over time a small town grew up alongside the abbey at Cormery and the remote river-ford location became a bustling place.
 chapel of the virgin, late 15th cent
chapel of the virgin,
flamboyant gothic late 15th cent.;
house window later addition!


In 800, when Ithier died, Charlemagne appointed Alcuin of York to succeed him as abbot of St Martin of Tours. A key figure of the Carolingian Renaissance, Alcuin set about reforming the teaching at Tours and 20 Benedictine monks were dispatched to Cormery. Alcuin died in 804. By 821 there were more than 40 monks. Cormery remained an important daughter house of the abbey of Tours.
remnants of the cloister early 13th cent.;
porch tower in the background, late 11th cent
The abbey suffered heavily from Viking depredations in the 9th century and the building remnants seen today are all from the 11th century rebuild or later. Cormery, like many other Touraine foundations also suffered under the Anjou dynasty during the 12th century; during 100 Years War [14th/15th century] and again in the French Wars of Religion [16th].
late 11th cent. porch tower; the nave is now the street

The town still has good evidence of the fortifications built to protect the abbey enclosure during these upheavals. Many bits of wall and tower are now incorporated into houses. By the advent of the French Revolution it was a shadow of its former self, and in 1799 the buildings were sold off by the state.


Diane said...

Thanks so much for the tour. Another hidden gem with lots of interesting history. Love seeing these places through your eyes. Diane

Susan said...

I believe one of the bells of St Gatien in Tours originally belonged to Cormery (but I think the parish church, not the abbey). The story is (from what I recall) that the bell was pronounced too big and grand for little Cormery and the authorities had it forcibly relocated in the face of strong protests from the residents of Cormery.

Vera said...

Lovely place, and it was a pleasure to see it through your eyes.

The Broad said...

Fascinating history -- I love the fact that the nave is now the road! You have a way of making history gleam!

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Diane - you're welcome :-) it's an interesting puzzle

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Susan - would not be surprised. The parish church is unusually grand for 'mere' locals.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Broad - on the one hand it is of course a shame that so much has been lost after all the depredations and assimilations. On the other it makes for a great puzzle tour.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Vera - our pleasure; literally :-)

the fly in the web said...

Great! An Alcuin link!
What a fascinating puzzle to explore and what a super light for photography.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Fly - The minute Ithier died and Charlemagne put him in charge Alcuin started sorting things out. Once a modernising teacher always a modernising teacher :-). His correspondence from his time at St Martin survives.

We're having some lovely bright sunny days right now.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Fly - noticed that you have the same surname as my mother's maiden name :-)

Perpetua said...

A fascinating post with gorgeous photos. That light! As you might guess from my other interests, I love ecclesiastical architecture of all kinds and enjoyed the way the remains here have not been allowed to go to waste.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Perpetua - Thanks! Architectural history is a life-long love affair which began for both of us many years ago in York :-)

ladybird said...

We stopped in Cormery once to have lunch at the Auberge du Mail (great food btw). We weren't aware of the beauty of the village. Hope I can fit it in this year's busy schedule. Thank you for sharing. Martine

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Martine - we thought the restaurant looked good. Have made a note for the future.

Kirby said...

awesome. interesting place to visit. its like old houses ive always seen this in some kind of movie. the history will leave forever.
have fun always dear.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Kirby - thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment :-) We always find history great fun!

LindyLouMac said...

Great fun exploring places like this even virtually, thanks for sharing.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@LindyLou - you're welcome. I think we'll be going back as there are still loads of smaller traces to investigate.

sandrala said...

I'm very curious about this Abbey... Saw a note that in 1079, the Pons/Poynz (of Wm the Conqueror's genera) granted a church to the Abbey. Was this about the time of the rebuild after its destruction by the Normans?

Also noting that Fort Montbazen was built nearby,and there was conflict over that, I've often wondered if it may have been compromised to become the area of MontComery...or later Montgomery.