Le Bec-Hellouin is a village north of Brionne. Bec is the name of a beck and it means beck, the word has Proto-Indo-European roots. Hellouin is the colloquial version of the name Herluin. Herluin was a knight at the court of Brionne, until he had some kind of religious experience on the battlefield and became Benedictine monk. He founded an abbey at the river Risle in 1034 but the place was inundated and therefore he went 1039 to the Bec to found the abbey there anew. He also founded the village in the same year and built the church Saint-André (Saint Andrew) in the village. The village is one of the most beautiful French villages. It had 413 inhabitants in 2006.
The church Saint-André, the village and the Abbey burnt down in 1264. Saint-Andre and the houses were rebbuilt. Damaged 1417 during the 100 Years War. Nave and bell tower of the church were rebuilt in the 18th century.
During the French revolution the monks were forced to leave, and they brougt a lot of statues in the church of the village and even transferred the tomb of Herluin. The church was plundered by the government 3 years later and the valuable artifacts and bells were brought to Bernay. Church service was forbidden, which led to a riot by 150 women in 1795.
The Church Saint-André still contains a lot of statues, reliefs and sculptures.
The Abbey was always in contact with the St Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury, until St Augustine’s dissolution in 1535. The Archbishop of Canterbury still visits Bec Abbey once a year.
Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) was the second abbot of Bec Abbey, before he became archbishop of Canterbury.
Empress Matilda (1102–1167) was buried in Bec Abbey.
The oldest parts of the abbey that were conserved, are the tower St Nicolas (15th century) and some gothis parts of the cloister.
The rest of the abbey was rebuilt in Regency style in the 18th century.
The tower Saint-Nicolas (Saint Nicholas) domintaes the buildings, it is squarish and was built in 15th century in Anglo-Norman style. It was supposed to become a bell tower, but had never a bell.
During the whole 19th century the french army used the abbey as a horse stable.
The monks run a pottery in the abbey nowadays.
The photos in the article
Bec Abbey are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Based on a work at stanzebla.wordpress.com.