Abbaye de la Sauve-Majeure
La Sauve, FRANCE
We visited the Abbaye de la Sauve Majeure in 2004 and were taken with the beauty the remains of the Benedictine Abbey.
Gérard de Corbie founded the Abbey in 1079 and it was one of the most significant abbeys in the South-West Region of France. As we walked through the ruins, the size and magnitude of what remains made us wonder just how impressive the whole structure would have been back in 1079.
Saint Gerald awarded the tract of forest by William VIII of Acquitaine and on this land he established the Abbey and became its first abbot. The name refers to the Silva Major, the forest that occupied the region.
The abbaye prospered from generous benefactors that included the Kings of England and France. Abbot Gerald was buried at the abbaye in 1095 and Pope Celestine III canonised him in 1197.
The abbey became a major stop for pilgrims on the the road to St. James of Compostella. By the 12th century there were about 300 monks living in the abbey, and indicate of the size and statue of the abbey.
There were hard times for the abbey. The abbey was very wealthy and this attracted bandits who robbed the abbey a number of times. Also, people of the town of La Sauve rebelled against the abbey because of the wealth of the monks. During the Hundred Years' War (1337-1453) damage to the abbey occurred and in the 16th century, although fortified, the abbey started to decline. In 1665 a major storm damages the roof of the church, the dormitories and the refectory. The bell tower collapsed at the end of the 17th century. In 1759 an earthquake weaken the structure of the church.
With all of this, the assets of the abbey were confiscated during the French Revolution and by 1793 the buildings that remained were being used as a prison. In 1908 the roof the church fell in and for years after that, the complex fell to the state of a quarry for the local village. In 1837 a Jesuit College was established on the site but a fire in 1910 destroyed the school. Between 1914 and 1918 the buildings that remained were used as a military hospital.