Maubuisson Abbey

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Maubuisson Abbey
Abbaye de Maubuisson
Abbaye de Maubuisson-batiment général.JPG
The southeastern side of the abbey
SectAncient Order of Cistercians
RegionÎle-de-France, France
LocationSaint-Ouen-l'Aumône, Val-d'Oise
Maubuisson Abbey is located in Île-de-France (region)
Maubuisson Abbey
Shown within Île-de-France (region)
Geographic coordinates49°02′46″N 2°07′00″E / 49.04611°N 2.11667°E / 49.04611; 2.11667Coordinates: 49°02′46″N 2°07′00″E / 49.04611°N 2.11667°E / 49.04611; 2.11667
StyleCistercian architecture

Maubuisson Abbey (French: Abbaye de Maubuisson or Notre-Dame-la-Royale) is a Cistercian nunnery at Saint-Ouen-l'Aumône, in the Val-d'Oise department of France. It was founded in A.D. 1236 by Blanche of Castile. who may have been buried there in 1252.[1] The site is now within the north-western suburbs of Paris. The surviving buildings are listed as a monument historique.


The abbey was founded in 1236 by Blanche of Castile, the queen consort of Louis VIII. It thrived financially under royal patronage until the Hundred Years War.

In the fifteenth century the nuns twice supported rival abbesses.

After a century of decline the abbey was disbanded in 1787 by order of Louis XVI.

From foundation to the Hundred Years War[edit]

As part of an effort to strengthen the ties between royalty and the abbeys, Blanche of Castile decided to finance and build her own abbey. In 1236 she annexed the lands of Pontoise and Saint-Ouen, which only became Saint-Ouen-l'Aumône much later. These lands had the advantage of being close to the castle at Pontoise, at the confluence of the River Oise and the Liesse stream.

She built Maubuisson Abbey between the villages of Saint-Ouen and Épluches, on the left bank of the Oise. According to local legend, the name "Maubuisson" was translated from Latin as French: Maudit buisson ("Cursed bush"), because of the prevalence of bandits in the surrounding woodland. However, this story is not confirmed by local archaeologists researching Saint-Ouen-l'Aumône archives.

The abbey's enclosure of land covered 32 hectares (79 acres).

To breathe life into the abbey, from 1237 until 1242 Blanche of Castile devoted herself to a chapter of the Cistercians, and in 1242 she installed, in barely-finished buildings, a group of nuns from Saint-Antoine near Paris. She named the abbey "Notre-Dame-la-Royale", in honour of the Virgin Mary, patron saint of the Kingdom of France, but the name "Maubuisson" has been used from the start.

After the groundbreaking in 1241, it became attached to the Order of Cistercians in 1244. Because of its royal connections it was well protected, and played an important role in the local economy.

Blanche of Castile gave the Abbey three well-defined roles:

  1. As a gathering-place for young noblewomen
  2. As a royal residence
  3. As a royal necropolis: Bonne of Luxemburg was interred there; his son Charles V had his own tomb built; and in 1599 Gabrielle d'Estrées was interred in the chapel choir.

In 1307, King Philip IV of France annihilated the Knights Templar, to whom he was deeply indebted. On 14 September 1307 – the day of celebration of the True Cross – he issued the order for the trials of the Knights Templar from the abbey.[2]

From 5 to 8 September 1463, while touring the villes de la Somme [fr], King Louis XI (born 1423; reigned 1461–1483) stayed at Pontoise, and awarded Royal protection to Maubuisson Abbey by means of Letters Patent,[3] doing so again in December 1474.[4]

The abbey's robust budget let it survive the Hundred Years War.

From 16th to 18th centuries[edit]

The tithe barn on the northwest side of the Abbey

At the start of the 16th century, under the auspices of Abbess Antoinette de Dinteville (1482 – 1523), new wings were constructed and the abbey numbered 120 nuns. However, it was a trying time as the French Wars of Religion progressed: at least twice, in 1566 and 1588, the abbey and its associated land and buildings were ransacked by Protestant troops.

In 1597, Angélique d'Estrées, sister of Gabrielle d'Estrées, was appointed Mother Superior of the Royal Abbey by Henri IV. The abbey's doctrine diverged from that of the Rule of Saint Benedict and the spirit of Saint Bernard. The French: vicaire général of the Cistercians gave Angélique Arnauld orders to leave the Abbey of Port-Royal des Champs and go to reform that at Maubuisson. She found d'Estrées and her entourage troublesome. With the intervention of the Parliament of Paris, the prévôt of Île-de-France removed them, and installed Arnauld as abbess. François de Sales made several visits to the new abbess.

Later, Arnauld was replaced by Madame de Soissons, but, in Racine's words, she "did not take" (French: "n'avoit pas pris"):

un fort grand soin d'y entretenir la régularité que la Mère Angélique y avoit établie
A great effort was made to keep the routine that Mother Angélique had put in place

de Soissons died in 1627. Her successor Marie Suireau, known as Marie des Anges ("Mary of the Angels"), was chosen (on Arnauld's proposal) as Maubuisson's leader, a position she held until 1648. From 1628, she fought against the influence of Molinism on some of the sisters, but with two nuns suspected of this heresy having been ejected, the orthodoxy and canons of the Cistercian Order were affirmed.

Louise Hollandine of the Palatinate (1622 – 1709), daughter of Frederick V of the Palatinate and aunt of Elizabeth Charlotte of Bavaria, second sister-in-law of Louis XIV, also served as Abbess of Maubuisson.

On 27 April 1769, Archbishop Christophe de Beaumont, the Duke of Saint-Cloud, visited the abbey to restore friendly relations between the abbess and her nuns.

In the 18th century, the abbey shrank in numbers, from 70 nuns in 1720 to only 18 in 1780. In 1786, Louis XVI decided to disband it.

Before the French Revolution, the Abbess earned around 5,000 livres in tithes.[5]


Plan of the abbey, from the Dictionnaire raisonné de l’architecture française by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc (1856).
In grey, buildings partially or wholly demolished.
1242 1275 Guillemette I
1275 1276 Agnès de Laval
1276 1309 Blanche de Brienne d'Eu
1309 1345 Isabelle de Montmorency
1345 1362 Marguerite I de Moncy
1362 1390 Philippa Paynel of Hambye
1390 1391 Catherine I of Flins
1391 1406 Jeanne d'Ivry
1406 1456 Catherine II of Estouteville
1456 1461 Madeleine I
1461 1473 Marguerite II Danes
1473 1482 Guillemette II Martine
1482 1523 Antoinette of Dinteville des Chenets
1523 1524 Henriette de Villers la Faye
1524 1543 Mary of Montmorency
1543 1546 Mary II of Annebault
1546 1574 Mary III of Pisseleu d'Heilly
1574 1594 Madeleine II Tiercelin of Brosses
1594 1597 Françoise Tiercelin de Brosses
1597 1618 Angélique d'Estrées
1618 1621 Interim of the Abbess of Port-Royal des Champs
1623 1626 Charlotte I of Bourbon-Soissons
1626 1648 Mary IV Suireau of Rocheren
1648 1652 Suzanne of Hénin-Liétard de Roches
1652 1653 Marguerite III of Béthune of Orval
1653 1664 Catherine III Angélique of Valois-Orléans-Longueville
1664 1709 Louise Hollandine of the Palatinate
1709 1719 Charlotte II Joubert of the Bastide of Chateaumorand
1719 1765 Charlotte III of Colbert-Croissy
1765 1766 Mary V Margaret of Jarente of Senas d'Orgeval
1766 1780 Venture-Gabrielle of Pontevès of Maubousquet
1780 1786 Gabrielle-Césarine of Beynac

After the Revolution[edit]

An avenue of sycamores in the abbey's grounds

In 1786, Louis XVI decreed that the abbey had lost its religious function, and the French Revolution only entrenched that view. In 1793 it became a military hospital, and then served as a stone quarry at the start of the 19th century. Such buildings as were still useful by the mid-19th century either became part of a textile mill or were closed.

In 1947 the abbey was classed as a monument historique,[6] and became the property of the Departmental Council of Val-d'Oise in 1979. For two years, until 1981, there were some exploratory archaeological digs, followed by important restorative works, in particular to the tower of the tithe barn.

Centre of Contemporary Arts[edit]

As of 2018, the abbey houses a Centre of Contemporary Arts which stages exhibitions. Since 2001, it has specialised in plastic and visual art. Artists are invited based on their relevance and newsworthiness, but also for their capacity to explore a space of such unique heritage.

Large specialist exhibitions take place each year, lasting from two to eight months. They are dedicated to the production of original works and reflect the richness and diversity of contemporary installation art, video, photography, sculpture, painting, digital arts, sound, and so on. The abbey is a project incubator lab: all year, it develops research, production and direction programmes along the three axes which make up its identity: architectural heritage, contemporary works, and natural history.

The abbey takes part in Tram (Contemporary Art) [fr], a federated network of contemporary art producers in Île-de-France, which facilitates dialogue between art practitioners.



According to the writings of Noel Tallepied, dated 1584, the abbey church was an extremely tall building:

il possédait deux ailes et un petit clocher pour remplacer un plus imposant détruit en 1540 par un incendie déclenché par la foudre

It had two wings and a small bell-tower, which burnt down in 1540 when struck by lightning

Grilles and woodwork separated the cloisters from the nunnery. The high altar was adorned with a white marble altarpiece, donated by Jeanne d'Évreux in 1340. It was demolished during the French Revolution. The centrepiece, a relief of the Last Supper, is preserved at the Saint-Joseph-des-Carmes church in Paris. Other features include a reliquary of the Madonna and Child, situated near the side altar. Dating from the 16th century, it is 140 cm (4 ft 7 in) tall, carved from walnut, painted and gilded. The Virgin Mary is sitting, holding the infant Jesus on her knee. This forms the middle of a triptych composed of three hollow parts, each subdivided into boxes with wooden columns and statuettes representing Paradise, Hell, Purgatory and scenes from the Old and New Testaments.

In 1792, the nuns entrusted it to their groundkeeper, and in 1839, it was given to the church of Saint-Ouen in Saint-Ouen-l'Aumône. It had lost its original statuettes, that of the Twelve Apostles at Calvary being replaced around 1840.[7][8][9] It was classified on 13 May 1897 and stolen on 13 April 1973.


Until the end of the 15th century, the church served as a necropolis for royalty and nobility, as well as for the abbesses who are buried there. There are five burial grounds within the abbey:

Abbey church

This was reserved for the Royal Family and others of high class.

In April 1599, the body of Gabrielle d'Estrées was interred in the choir by his sister Angelique, then abbess, together with her child.

The remains of Charles IV, husband of Blanche of Burgundy, and his second daughterJeanne d'Évreux (1372), in recumbent works by Jean de Liège, are at the Louvre in Paris.

Chapel, east and south wings

These are dedicated to the nobility and bourgeoisie. The tomb of the first abbess is also located here.

  • Guillemette I governed the abbey for nearly thirty years and was named as "Saint Guillemette". She feigned being a cousin of Louis IX of France and niece of Blanche of Castile, but her mother is unknown. She converted large numbers of people, and is attributed with performing miracles both in life and after death. Her tomb and epitaph are very modest.[15]
Cloister and gallery adjoining the boarding-house

These are dedicated to the burial of active and retired nuns.

Abbey cemetery

This was dedicated to nuns. It was razed in the 17th century to make room for the cloister gallery.

Saint-Michel church and its cemetery

This small church is located to the south-west of the abbey church, and the graveyard is dedicated to the abbey's benefactors, be they laity, priests, religious or other servants.

  • On 25 October 1766 Abbot Grassis, priest from the diocese of Lizieux and royal chaplain of Maubuisson, was buried here.[16]


The cloisters were enclosed by the abbey church, the chapel (built over the dormitory), the boilerhouse, the kitchen and the refectory, which were all enlarged.


Latrine outhouse and drainage channel

As with all mediaeval abbeys, Maubuisson was built with a complex system of plumbing. The presence of two nearby watercourses would have influenced Blanche of Castile's decision to site the abbey there. Drainage channels serviced the latrines and also let the water be reused to turn the mill.

The latrines, built over a drainage channel, consisted of 38 back-to-back seats. The whole was enclosed by a 20-arched roof, 14 m (46 ft) high.


This and the refectory no longer exist. The chauffoir was the only place where hot food could be cooked.


This was the only place where nuns could talk directly with the Mother Superior. They could speak only of spiritual and material matters related to their religious community.


The chapter was a room in which, every day, the nuns would take confession from the abbess or her deputy, and listen to a sermon of Saint Benedict, to whom the room was dedicated. The Mother Superior would then discuss the sermon. The nuns could also discuss it, together with matters concerning the community: sales and purchases, contracts, and so on.


  1. ^ a b Klaniczay 2002, p. 236.
  2. ^ According to Julien Théry, this choice of date has a religious significance, since the accusations of the royal prosecutors were mainly those of direct or indirect offences against Christ. According to prosecutors, the Knights Templar "crucified our Lord once more", and in 1308 the lawyer Guillaume de Plaisians affirmed before the Pope that the arrest of the "perfidious Templars" by the King of France was "the greatest victory won by Christ since his death on the Cross".
    Théry, Julien (2013). "Une hérésie d'État. Philippe le Bel, le procès des 'perfides templiers' et la pontificalisation de la royauté française". La Vie en Champagne. Les templiers dans l'Aube (in French). Troyes. pp. 201–202.
  3. ^ Lettres patentes de Louis XI (in Latin). Pontoise. September 1463. Retrieved 15 December 2018.
  4. ^ Lettres patentes de Louis XI (in Latin). Mitry. December 1474. Retrieved 15 December 2018.
  5. ^ de La Martinière, Bruzen (1768). "Book IV". Grand Dictionnaire Géographique Historique et critique… (in French). 1 (Nouvelle ed.). Paris. p. 597.
  6. ^ "Notice no PA00080199". Base Mérimée (in French). Ministry of Culture (France). Retrieved 15 December 2018.
  7. ^ "Vierge à l'Enfant" [Virgin with Child]. Base Palissy (in French). Ministry of Culture (France). Retrieved 16 December 2018.
  8. ^ Depoin 1884, pp. 13–23
  9. ^ Régnier 1922, p. 120
  10. ^ de Combault Auteuil, Charles (1644). Blanche infante de Castille, mère de St. Louis, reyne et régente de France (in French). de Sommaville: de Sommaville. Retrieved 16 December 2018. On déposa le Corps de la Regente dans l'Abbaye de Maubuisson avec les prières & les solennités accoutumées à ces rencontres. Mais au mois de Mars ensuivant le Cœur de la Princesse ce cœur généreux & magnanime fut reporté solennellement de Pontoise en l'Abbaye du Lys prés Melun par Y Abbesse de ce Monastère iadis Comtesse de Mascon à qui selon le témoignage de l Evesque de Paris la Regente auoit accordé cette grace tant
  11. ^ a b c Perrot, G.; Reinach, S., eds. (1907). "[no title]". Revue archéologique (in French). Ernest Leroux. 4.9 (July–December 1907): 448–449.
  12. ^ Obituaires de Sens Tome I. 2 de l'abbaye de Maubuisson, p. 655
  13. ^ Married in 1251 or 1252 to Marie de Coucy, widow of King Alexander II of Scotland, and daughter of Enguerrand III de Coucy
  14. ^ Patou, Étienne (2005–2016). Maison de Brienne (PDF).CS1 maint: date format (link)
  15. ^ de Voyer de Paulmy d'Argenson, Marc Antoine René (1784). Mélanges tirés d'une grande bibliothèque de lecture de livre françois (in French). 42. Paris: Moutard. p. 76.
  16. ^ Le Charpentier, Henri (1883). "Notes de Mr Le Vallois, curé de Saint-Maclou de Pontoise de 1744 à 1779". Mémoires de la Société historique et archéologique de l'arrondissement de Pontoise et du Vexin (in French). Pontoise. IV: 93.


  • Klaniczay, Gábor (2002). Holy rulers and blessed princesses: dynastic cults in medieval central Europe. Cambridge University Press.
  • Depoin, Joseph (1884). "La Vierge ouvrante de Maubuisson - Notice historique". Mémoires de la Société historique et archéologique de l'arrondissement de Pontoise et du Vexin (in French). Pontoise. 4 (1883): 13–23. ISSN 1148-8107. Retrieved 16 December 2018.
  • Régnier, Louis (1922). "Abbaye de Maubuisson". Excursions archéologiques dans le Vexin français. 1 (in French). Évreux: Imprimerie de l'Eure: 123–133. Retrieved 16 December 2018.
  • Racine, Jean (1767). Abrégé de l'histoire de Port-Royal. Paris. pp. 9 et seq. Retrieved 16 December 2018. (Racine's last book, written clandestinely.)
  • Archaeological excavations made in 1979 by the Service Archéologique du Val d'Oise (SDAVO)

Further reading[edit]

  • Depoin, J.; Dutilleux, A. "Mémoire des corps qui sont inhumés en l'église Notre-Dame-la-Royale de Maubuisson". Copy of 18th century text (in French). Archives départementales du Val-d'Oise. 1. 72 H 167 item 14.
  • Depoin, J.; Dutilleux, A. (1882). L'abbaye de Maubuisson (Notre-Dame-la-Royale) histoire et cartulaire (in French). Pontoise.
  • Depoin, Joseph (1884). "La Vierge ouvrante de Maubuisson - Notice historique". Mémoires de la Société historique et archéologique de l'arrondissement de Pontoise et du Vexin (in French). Pontoise. 4 (1883): 13–23. ISSN 1148-8107. Retrieved 16 September 2014.
  • Liot, Thierry (1994). L'Abbaye de Maubuisson, Val d'Oise (in French). Nouvelles Éditions Latines.
  • Histoire et archéologie à l’abbaye royale et cistercienne de Maubuisson, Saint-Ouen-l’Aumône, Val d’Oise (in French). Conseil général du Val d’Oise. 1988.
  • Wabont, Monique (1988). Restauration à l'abbaye royale et cistercienne de Maubuisson, Saint-Ouen-l'Aumône – Val d'Oise (in French). Conseil général du Val d’Oise.
  • Maubuisson au fil de l'eau... Les réseaux hydrauliques de l'abbaye du XVIIIe siècle (in French). Conseil général du Val d’Oise. 1992.
  • Histoires de femmes, les très riches heures de Maubuisson (in French). Conseil général du Val d’Oise.
  • Abbaye cistercienne de Maubuisson (Saint-Ouen-l’Aumône, Val d’Oise). La formation du temporel (1236 à 1356) (in French). Conseil général du Val d’Oise. 1990.
  • Milhet, Guillaume. "Tombeau de l'église de Maubuisson, chapitre de l'église de Maubuisson". Copy of 18th century text. Archives départementales du Val-d'Oise. 72 H 167 item 6.

External links[edit]