Abbaye de Hambye, a Historic Treasure
Situated in the Normandy region of France, the Abbaye de Hambye is a Benedictine monastery founded in the mid-12th century, whose ancient buildings and picturesque ruins are open to visitors. The monastery's golden age lasted from its inception into the 14th century when its decline began until it fell into disuse in the 18th century. It has changed hands numerous times since then. Most of the original furnishings were sold at auction. The buildings themselves have even served as source of construction materials for their stones in the 19th century, but since 1900, the Abbaye de Hambye has been the beneficiary of active restoration efforts on the part of private donors and of the French government.
Today, a number of buildings remain from the original complex. The sanctuary itself has lost its roof, but most of the structure remains and displays its magnificent mixture of Romanesque and Gothic architecture. On the first floor of the novices' building, a permanent exhibit, "From Prayer to Fields, the Economic Life of a Medieval Abbey" illustrates the daily existence of the Benedictine monks.
Additional buildings have survived, such as the Scriptorium (where manuscripts were copied), the Chapter House (where the brethren gathered daily), the Sacristy, as well as some remarkable frescoes. Altogether, the historical complex at the Abbaye de Hambye is the largest and most complete monastic monument in France, second only to the famous Mont Saint Michel, which is still an active religious community.
The Abbey of Hambye is open to visitors from April to October, and by special reservation the rest of the year. The site is best accessed by car, an easy drive from Paris. The nearest railroad station is 15 km (9 miles) away, but car rental facilities abound in the area. Admission fees are reasonable, with discounts for children, students, and groups.