Visit Le Bec-Hellouin (Normandy, France)
The village of Le Bec-Hellouin is situated about 40 kilometres south-west of Rouen, in the gently rolling pastoral countryside of the Eure department of Upper Normandy. This picturesque village is classed among the 'most beautiful villages in France and well known for the substantial Abbey of Bec-Hellouin.
The name of the village derives from the stream that passes the village (stream = bec) and the 11th century founder of the benedictine abbey, a knight called Herluin.
Exploring Le Bec-Hellouin
While the abbey is likely to be the focus of your visit, first spend some time in the village centre, which is very picturesque with a good number of colourful painted half-timbered houses to admire - very photogenic!
The Church of Saint-Andre in the village has its origins in the 11th century but the original church burned down and was rebuilt in the 12th century only to be damaged again during the Hundred Years War. As a result a significant part of the church we can visit today is an 18th century reconstruction, and the windows are replacements added in the 1950's after the original windows suffered bomb damage during the Second World War.
Inside the church you can see various items that were brought here from the abbey church when it was destroyed at the beginning of the 19th century.
Abbey of Bec-Hellouin
The abbey was founded in the first half of the 11th century and at that time the influence of the abbey exceeded that of the better known abbeys such as the abbey at Jumieges. This was largely due to highly reputed monks such as Lanfranc being based here, and attracting an audience of devotees from all across Europe (in particular from England).
This period was to come to an abrupt end with the Hundred Years war, during which the English seized the abbey. The building was damaged as a result of the war and substantial rebuilding was required in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, and the cloisters added in the middle of the 17th century. Following the French revolution the abbey, as with all such communities in France, was closed down.
The following period saw the abbey suffering by its use as a local quarry - hence there is now little of the original abbey church except its foundations.
The belltower - the Saint-Nicolas Tower - was built in the 15th century and is the oldest part of the original building that remains, with most of the surrounding buildings being additions from the 17th and 18th centuries. On the outside of the square tower you can see some statues of saints, and it is possible to ascend the stairs in the tower to a terrace that overlooks the surrounding village and buildings.
You can also see the ornate stonework and carvings in the cloisters and around the entrance to the original abbey church. The remaining parts of the abbey are quite extensive and typical of 18th century architecture.
A happy ending: since 1948 a community of monks have reestablished themselves in Bec-Hellouin Abbey and created a new church in the original abbey refectory. The presence of the monks also adds a special atmosphere to a visit.
The Abbey at Bec-Hellouin is one of less than 100 listed National Monuments in France. During a visit you can explore at your own pace or take a guided tour (French only).
Photos taken within 10 km
Address: Bec-Hellouin, Brionne, Bernay, Eure, Normandy, 27800 || GPS: latitude 49.2325, longitude 0.721667
Map of Le Bec-Hellouin & places nearby
Highlights close by
La Bouille 20km
Jumieges Abbey 24km
Suggested tourist attractions to visit near Le Bec-Hellouin, France
- Abbey of Bec-Hellouin - national monument
- Arboretum d'Harcourt - remarkable garden (8km)
- Jardins du château du Champ de Bataille - remarkable garden (12km)
- Pont-Audemer - recommended detour (20km)
- Elbeuf - town of art and history (22km)
- Abbaye de Jumièges (Jumieges) - religious monument (23km)
- Parc du manoir de Villers - remarkable garden (24km)
- Abbaye Saint Georges de Boscherville (Saint-Martin-de-Boscherville) - religious monument (29km)
- Abbaye Saint-Georges - remarkable garden (29km)
- Parc zoologique de Lisieux - zoo or wildlife park (30km)
The French version of this page is at Le Bec-Hellouin (Francais)