© Spurensucher - 30. April 2019

Hambye: Abbey devastated, castle destroyed



On my wanderings through Normandy I don't want to ignore this impressive abbey church, which is a little bit in the hinterland. The travel guide teaches us that it was built in 1145. Notre Dame von Hambye is described in the guide as "primitive gothic architecture“.





An impressive atmosphere inside the abbey church. She would certainly have a lot to say if she could speak.


In fact, it is a ruin, as the roof, windows and a few walls are missing, especially in the entrance area. Strangely enough, the abbey church was supposedly sold in 1810 by imperial decree and converted into a quarry. The façade and part of the nave were demolished. The same applies to two columns of the choir, which over time put it in danger of collapsing. In 1860, the bishop of Coutances paid for two coarse stone pillars to save this part of the building. Obviously there was nothing more to be done by the church at that time …




Numerous intact arches; which part was renovated in the last century can be guessed in places. In the second half of the last century, the wealthy Beck family took care of the partial restoration of the dilapidated building.




What happened in between? Notre-Dame de Hambye and the nearby monastery building were used by Benedictine monks, but left in time before the French Revolution. Until the 15th century, the monastery benefited from booming income: rents, tithes, donors from the country, general church allocations ... one scooped from the full. Supposedly, long periods of decline followed afterwards, which was not further explained and in time before the dechristianization (French revolution) the monks are said to have finally searched the far reaches.








Wikipedia says in this context: "In the 18th century the abbey was finally closed... during the French Revolution (1789-1799) the monastery was sold and then used for agricultural purposes". How is it that, after the reconstitution of the Catholic Church and its "settlements", no one from the clergy was interested in the building and its preservation? If one looks at the idyllic location of the estate, one is a little surprised why the clergy did not buy back the property.



Some openings have been carefully bricked up.




Are we dealing here with a door or another window? Or was this door just a lot bigger? I'm guessing a former window.



This window area from the outside clearly shows me that we are at least 2-3 meters above the actual abbey base. For my part, I don't know any other church or cathedral whose gothic window starts only 50 cm above the ground.



Here, too, one can see very clearly that the earth is much higher on the outside than on the inside. The window starts at a height of about 40 cm above the turf. How much soil is needed to fill the outside area? There is absolutely nothing in the historical records about this. Was there a flood of mud or another natural event here that was not further discussed? Next photo: View through the same window to explain that the earth level is much lower here. This phenomenon has nothing to do with so-called "cultural layers“.




In the 19th century, the rule of Hambye was passed on by Jeanne Paynel (an Anglo-Norman noblewoman) to her husband Louis d'Estouteville, a glorious defender of Mont Saint-Michel. Then, under the patronage of the abbey, she went to the aristocratic houses of Orléans-Longueville, later Matignon-Grimaldi, who became Princes of Monaco. This is also explained by the sign at the entrance to this abbey. In terms of the development of the castle, this prince plays a somewhat dubious role, as he allegedly ordered its demolition, as we will see below.


In my opinion, there are numerous white explanatory spots here, especially if you take a closer look at the walls. This is certainly not an "individual fate", if one thinks, for example, of the Jumière Abbey, which I will visit later as well.



Here in the upper picture there are traces of fire in my opinion up to the former roof regions, which were not historically documented.



I for my part see traces of fire along the outer walls up to the upper area. Where these came from is uncertain and not the subject of any further research by me. Careful traces of demolition for the use of the stones look different to me.




It goes on underground. It is said that archaeological foundation excavations were carried out. I estimate that in the following picture we are also dealing with earth that has been filled up and that would release further remains of the wall if work were continued here.




Completely removed: The Chateau


Sourcepiece: Atlas of the Société des Antiquaires de Normandie; Wikipedia-Autor Ch. de Vauquelin

(Link to the picture)


The story of the neighbouring Chateau de Hambye is also puzzling, since it was devastated from one moment to the next and nobody has a proper explanation for this fact. Not even a ruin testifies to the existence of this castle, which disappeared completely at the beginning of the 19th century. "Hambye Castle was one of the largest, most beautiful and best located in the département. "[5] Quote Gerville, 1826. "Unfortunately, its remains were removed in 1830 in people's jubilation!.." (further descriptions see below).


Here are some translated sources from the past about the whereabouts of the castle:
"Once upon a time in Hambye, the storytellers of the vigil say, there were three princesses, three sisters, who wanted to leave a great memory of their power on earth. The oldest built the abbey, whose location inspired Octave Feuillet at the beginning of La Petite Comtesse. The second built the castle, whose legend was told by Auguste Vaquerie, under the roof of Victor Hugo in Guernsey, in Les Miettes de l'Histoire. The third dug the stately fountain, "which descended into the other world." [1] The whole thing at first sounds extremely mysterious, especially the mystical description of the fountain.

"There is nothing left of the medieval castle of the Lords of Hambye (the Peaceful), companion of William the Conqueror in the Battle of Hastings, whose last heiress, Jeanne Paisnel, was married to Louis d'Estouteville, captain and heroic defender of Mont-Saint-Michel during the Hundred Years' War. The bride herself is the daughter of Guillaume Paisnel, the former captain of Mont-Saint-Michel. " [2] ... all nobles by the way.

"It no longer attracted the attention of its owners and was therefore gradually demolished from 1730 - ... the town council was responsible for removing the most remarkable elements by demolishing the keep and the Moyon Tower. The newspaper "L'Echo du département de la Manche" of 11 April 1830 reports: "Antique dealers are told with regret that the last tower of Hambye Castle had to be demolished on Tuesday afternoon at 2 pm. The local drummer and messenger had announced it the week before, and the crowd celebrated when twelve landmines were used to demolish the old building at the same time. " [3] A very strange legend ... just because of the traditional beauty of this castle.


In addition there is a further description of the ruin from the beginning of the 19th century:
Hambye Castle was one of the largest, most beautiful and best located in the section: its walls were still intact at the beginning of the Revolution; the keep and another tower that still exist today are still sufficient to give a good idea of this fortress.


Its location majestically dominates the village of Hambye. On all sides its ruins are very picturesque. The tower is very well preserved (this was reported in 1823. Looking back in December 1825 it did not exist anymore). Among all the old castles of the country we have no comparable one. The beautiful preservation of this tower, its height, the battlements (?) crowning its top make it a perfect object for a designer. This tower is the most modern; I would not be surprised if it had been completed by Louis d'Estouville and Jeanne Paisnel, his wife, whose splendour is remarkable in all their buildings, especially Hambye. The fountain of this castle is extraordinarily wide and deep, it was dug in the rocks with so much effort and work that, according to local tradition, the costs were as high as the construction of the magnificent choir of the abbey church.

The keep is square: it is at least a hundred feet high; it is flanked by towers, the most important of which is the one containing the staircase. Under the first landing is a room that was probably used as a cistern.
The chapel was on the ground floor of this tower. On the upper floors there is a simple dwelling, solid and without mouldings or decorations. All these apartments are vaulted.
At the top there is a spacious platform. The castle keeps are located at the four corners of this platform; they protrude and are supported by consoles. The coronation of this tower is still very complete; its battlements and consoles are beautiful.
Another tower, also well preserved, is completely round. Externally it is decorated with ribs marking the different floors. The top of this tower has been demolished; there are no vaults or floors inside. [4]


So all in all a mixture of neglect, revolution and final thorough demolition rage? Personally, I find this development quite mysterious for a building once so praised.


A restitution examination at the end of the 1930s is said to have resulted in the following: Their disappearance took place in two steps: In the 1730s, Jacques-François-Léonor de Matignon - Grimaldi, Prince of Monaco - and distant heir of Estouteville - demolished most of the buildings, leaving behind only the keep and the so-called Moyon Tower, which was sold to Jeanne Godeuil and Thomas Grente in 1805.
In 1820 the widow Grente proposed the purchase to the town council, which applied to the prefect of La Manche for a grant of 1,000 francs. Against the background of the unfavourable report of a departmental architect van Cléampatte, who found nothing unusual in the ruins of the castle (and the neighbouring abbey) and suggested making illustrations to preserve his memory, the prefect refused the requested help. The keep was therefore destroyed in 1825 and the Moyon Tower in 1830. As far as the abbey was concerned, its isolation saved it from the same fate. [5]


So are we really dealing here with lapidary neglect and the usual quotes? What is remarkable for me in this context is that important periods of time can hardly or not at all be researched. In so far, the periods from the 16th to the 18th century are of great importance to me. I will come back to this in other articles. Do we perhaps have to do here with deliberate veiling? Have completely different forces been at work here than the usually quoted revoltists in the time of the "Enlightenment“?



Sources (among others):


1] Extrait des Mémoires de la Société académique du Cotentin : archéologie, belles-lettres, sciences et beaux-arts, tome 14, 1898 http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k5658254j
[2] Extrait de wikipédia
[3] Extrait de La voix du patrimoine de Sienne, 2013, No 63.
4] Excerpts from the memoirs of the Society of Antiquarian Booksellers of Normandy, 1824: In the old castles of the Manche department, addressed to the Count d'Estourmel, prefect of this department; by Mr de Gerville (read at the meeting of 3 April 1826.)
5] Extrait de https://www.cairn.info/revue-annales-de-normandie-2012-2-page-277.htm#re4no4