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Abbey of Fontenelle

A Benedictine monastery in Normandy Seine-Inferieure), near Caudebec-en-Caux

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Fontenelle, Abbey of (or Abbey of Saint-WAN-DRILLE), a Benedictine monastery in Normandy Seine-Inferieure), near Caudebec-en-Caux. It was ounded by Saint-Wandrille (Wandregesilus; d. July 22, 667), the land being obtained through the influ-!nce of his friend St-Ouen (Audoenus), Archbishop of tuen. St-Wandrille was of the royal family of Ausrasia and held a high position at the court of his kinsnan, Dagobert I, but being desirous of devoting his ife to God, he retired to the Abbey of Montfaucon, in;hampagne, in 629. Later on he went to Bobbio and hen to Romain-Mo itiers, where he remained ten years. In 648 he returned to Normandy and founded he monastery which afterwards bore his name. He ommenced by building a great basilica dedicated to St. Peter, nearly three hundred feet long, which was consecrated by St-Ouen in 657. This church was detroyed by fire in 756 and rebuilt by Abbot Ansegisus (823-833), who added a narthex and tower. About 62 it was wrecked by Danish pirates and the monks were obliged to flee for safety. After sojourning at Chartres, Boulogne, St-Omer, and other places for over a century, the community was at length brought back to Fontenelle by Abbot Maynard in 966 and a restoration of the buildings was again undertaken. A new church was built by Abbot Gerard, but was hardly finished when it was destroyed by lightning in 1012. Undaunted by this disaster the monks once more set to work and another church was consecrated in 1033. Two centuries later, in 1250, this was burnt to the ground, but Abbot Pierre Mauviel at once commenced a new one. The work was hampered by want of funds and it was not until 1331 that the building was finished. Meanwhile the monastery attained a position of great importance and celebrity. It was reknowned for the fervor, no less than for the learning of its monks, who during its periods of greatest proserity numbered over three hundred. Many saints and scholars proceeded from its cloisters. It was especially noted for its library and school, where letters the fine arts, the sciences, and above all calligraphy, were assiduously cultivated.

One of the most notable of its early copyists was ardouin, a celebrated mathematician (d. 811), and ho wrote with his own hand four copies of the Gospels, one of St. Paul’s Epistles, a Psalter, three Sacraentaries, and many other volumes of homilies and Tes of the saints, besides numerous mathematical orks. The Fontenelle “Capitularies” were comled under Abbot Ansegisus in the eighth century. ae monks of St-Wandrille enjoyed many rights and ivileges, amongst which were exemption from all ver-tolls on the Seine, and the right to exact taxes the town of Caudebec.—The charter, dated 1319, in which were enumerated their chief privileges, was coned by Henry V of England and Normandy, in 20, and by the Council of Basle, in 1436. Commen-Ltory abbots were introduced at Fontenelle in the (teenth century and as a result the prosperity of the they began to decline. In 1631 the central tower the church suddenly fell, ruining all the adjacent rts, but fortunately without injuring the beautiful) inters or the conventual buildings.

It was just at this time that the newly formed Congreegation of St-Maur was revivifying the monasticism France, and the commendatory abbot Ferdinand Neufville invited the Maurists to take over the abbey and do for it what he himself was unable to accomplish. They accepted the offer, and in 1636 set about building not only the damaged portion of the church, but also other parts of the monastery as well. They added new wings and gateways and also built a great chapter-hall for the meetings of the general chapter of the Maurist congregation. They infused new life into the abbey, which for the next hundred and fifty years again enjoyed some of its former celebrity. Then came the Revolution, and with it the extinction of monasticism in France. St-Wandrille was suppressed in 1791 and sold by auction the following year. The church was allowed to fall into ruins, but the rest of the buildings served for some time as a factory. Later on they passed into the possession of the de Stacpoole family, and were turned to domestic uses. The Duke de Stacpoole, who had become a priest and a domestic prelate of the pope, and who lived at Fontenelle until his death, in 1896, restored the entire property to the French Benedictines (Solesmes congregation), and a colony of monks from Liguge settled there in 1893, under Dom Pothier as superior. This community was expelled by the French government in 1901, and is at present located in Belgium. Besides the chief basilica, St-Wandrille built several other churches or oratories, both within and without the monastic enclosure. All of these have either perished in course of time, or been replaced by others of later date, except one, the chapel of St-Saturnin, which stands on the hillside overlooking the abbey. It is one of the most ancient ecclesiastical buildings now existing and, though restored from time to time, is still substantially the original erection of St-Wandrille. It is cruciform, with a central tower and eastern apse, and is a unique example of a seventh-century chapel. The parish church of the village of St-Wandrille also dates from the Saint’s time, but it has been so altered and restored that little of the original structure now remains.

G. CYPRIAN ALSTON


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