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The Abbey of Le Bec Hellouin

Built on the current site in 1039 by the Knight Herluin, the abbey of Bec-Hellouin had a great intellectual influence in the 11th century, led by the monks Lanfranc and Saint Anselme. Ties with the Church in England were very close, with the abbey supplying three arch-bishops of Canterbury as well as Bishops of Rochester. The abbey was fortified during the 100 years war and overrun by the English in 1418. Before the 100 years war, the Abbey of Le Bec had extensive properties in England, including Tooting Bec in London and several other places that include "Bec" in their name. The manors of Ogbourne St George and Ogbourne St Andrew in Wiltshire were given to the abbey by Maud of Wallingford before 1133. These property rights were abolished by King Henry V in 1414 as part of his suppression of "alien priories" during the 100 years war.

Reconstruction of the abbey commenced in 1450 and was not completed until 1515. In 1626 the rule of the abbey was reformed by the congregation of Saint-Maur, followed in 1644 by the construction of the cloister. The abbots lodging was built in 1735 and is now privately owned. In 1792, during the revolution, the monks were expelled and the Abbey was closed.

From 1802, the abbey of Bec-Hellouin was used as military stables and then seriously damaged. Quarry rights to the Abbey Church were sold in 1809 and by 1811 only the foundations (visible today) remained. During the second World War, the abbey was occupied by different army corps, then abandoned after 1945. Since 1948, the buildings have been occupied by a community of Olivetan Benedictine monks who have managed to bring them back to life, with the help of the Historical Monuments Fund (Caisse des Monuments Historiques). In 1959, the remains of Herluin were reburied in the new Abbey Church - situated in the old refectory. The 48th Abbot - Dom Paul-Emmanuel Clénet - was elected in 1996.

The Abbey still dominates much of the village of Le Bec Hellouin, with the 15th century bell tower visible from most of the village. The Abbey grounds are open, and guided tours are available. Details of the tours can be obtained from the Abbey. The monks make pottery which is on sale in the Abbey shop and will make an excellent souvenir of your visit to Le Bec Hellouin.

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