Jumièges Abbey in Normandy is one of the most beautiful, romantic and outstanding ruins in France. It’s just west of the Normandy capital of Rouen in a bend of the Lower Seine, in the tiny village of Jumièges.
It has an extraordinary quality, so visit, if you can, when the only sounds are of rooks crowing and the wind gently rustling in the trees. Then you can really appreciate the soaring vaults open to the skies and the ruined walls and columns that once held up the mighty buildings set in a green parkland.
A Little bit of History
Once one of the great Benedictine abbeys of France, Jumièges was founded in 654 by Saint Philibert and within 50 years housed 700 monks and 1,500 lay brothers. The Abbey was extraordinarily wealthy. Inevitably, such a rich institution was a target and Jumièges was attacked regularly by Viking raiders between 841 and 940.
Rebuilt in the 11th century and consecrated in the presence of William the Conqueror in 1067, it once again became rich and powerful, as well as a major intellectual centre known for its Scriptorium where monks worked at their stunning illuminated manuscripts.
Destruction came with the Wars of Religion (1562–98) between catholics and protestants and then the French Revolution which effectively meant the end of the Abbey. In 1793 the abbey was sold at auction to a timber merchant who wanted it for its stones. The chancel and lantern-tower were blown up and more vandalism followed. In 1852 it was rescued by the Lepel-Cointet family who rebuilt the entrance lodge and landscaped the park before selling it to the State in 1946.
What You See
Pick up the small leaflet at the entrance to guide you through the ruins, or take the iPad to plug into the informative app. With this you can walk through what seems to be the former buildings. You'll find that easily, your pace slows down as you take in the extent of Jumièges Abbey which is one of my top 10 abbeys of France.
You start at the reconstructed gatehouse. Walk through the 14th century porch and to your left you see the church of Notre-Dame. It was built on an impressive scale with towers 46 metres (150 feet) high and a 27 metre (88 feet) high nave. You cannot get inside so walk to your right, past the old hospice where wealthy and important visitors were housed to the smaller Saint-Pierre church. Then either continue round to the back of the huge Notre-Dame church or walk up through the park to a small formal terrace for a good overall view.
Abbey de Jumièges
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 35 37 24 02
Mid-April to mid-September daily 9:30am-6:30pm
Mid-September to Mid-April 9:30am-1pm, 2:30-5:30pm
Adults 5 euros, 18-25 year olds 3.50 euros, free for under 18s
Jumièges is in the Boucles de la Seine Normandy Regional Park. It is 165 kilometers (102.5 miles) north west of Paris, on the D143 which is just off the D982, and 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) west of Rouen.
Where to Eat in Jumièges
L’Auberge des Ruines
17 pl de la Mairie
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 35 37 24 05
Right opposite the Abbey with a summer terrace, young chef/proprietor Loic Henry uses local seasonal produce.
Where to Stay in Jumièges
Le Clos des Fontaines
19 rue des Fontaines
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 35 33 96 96
Charming Normandy half timbered hotel with both classic and contemporary rooms and a heated outdoor swimming pool.