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Visiting Jumièges Abbey: Are These the Most Beautiful Ruins in France?

To the north of the meandering Seine River, in the small Normandy town of Jumièges are the ruins of a once powerful and important abbey. Although in ruins, the abbey is well worth a visit. Founded in 654 AD, this is one of the oldest Benedictine abbeys in Normandy. Much later, following the French Revolution, it was sold for its ready supply of dressed stone. It is said a gallery from he cloister is now in Bournemouth. What remains are still impressive – the towers of the church are over 50 m high.

The picturesque, ruined Jumièges Abbey was described by 19th century historians ‘as the most beautiful ruins in France’. And few could disagree.

These peaceful monastic ruins once made up the monastery of a powerful religious community that originated in the seventh century. An abbey was founded on the site in 654 by Saint Philibert, which soon became prosperous and the largest and most influential of the Benedictine abbeys in Normandy. By the time of the second Abbot, there were around a thousand monks in Jumiéges. 

With the Viking raids along the Seine River, as far up stream as Paris, towards the end of the ninth century, the abbey was pillaged and burned to the ground. But a new, and much bigger abbey was rebuilt and consecrated in 1067 in the presence of William the Conqueror. The Abbey became an important religious and educational institution, while the abbots took part in the affairs of the church and the State. And for this reason it was a target for the revolutionaries in the late 18th century. The destruction of the abbey during the French Revolution would be the monastery’s final undoing, and the abbey was dissolved leaving the beautiful ruins we see today.

There is a programme of restoration on various buildings, consequently there could be restricted access to certain areas. A guided tour of the monastic ruins is available, but in French only; it lasts an hour.

Where is Jumièges Abbey?

The ruins are still set in large grounds that do much to create the picturesque atmosphere. Now surrounded by the small town of Jumiéges, with restaurants and cafés nearby, that is located in one of the meandering loops of the Seine River just before it enters into La Manche (English Channel). The area is designated as the Parc naturel régional des Boucles de la Seine normande – an area of natural beauty that also has an interesting cultural and historical heritage.

Guided Tours of Jumièges Abbey

Archaeology Travel Writer

Thomas Dowson

With a professional background in archaeology and a passion for travel, I founded Archaeology Travel to help more people explore our world’s fascinating pasts. Born in Zambia, I trained as an archaeologist at the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa) and taught archaeology at the universities of Southampton and Manchester (England). Read More

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