Beauport Abbey, Cotes-d'Armor visitors guide
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Beauport Abbey is a charming abbey in northern Brittany, just a few kilometres from Paimpol and in the Cotes-d'Armor department. It is one of the most visited - and most impressive - abbeys n Brittany and an interesting example of the early use of gothic style architecture.
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France This Way comment: we almost didn't have time to visit this abbey but are pleased we did: it is a lovely abbey with substantial parts of the buildings and rooms remaining, and extensive well-maintaned gardens
The abbey was originally founded here in the 13th century, in an imposing location overlookng Paimpol Bay and covering an area of almost 125 hectares (300 acres). It was an influential abbey that controlled extensive lands both in Brittany and in England (these were a gift to the founder of the abbey from William the Conqueror, because of his help in the conquering of England).
The abbey also had income from local farmers and from trade in Paimpol Bay, so became quite wealthy for several hundred years.
Beauport Abbey contiued to be a successful monastery until the 16th century, when its fortune started to decline. The decline continued until the abbey was successfully reformed in the second half of the 17th century, and it once again became prosperous. At this time the buildings were renovated and the gardens were expanded.
The monastery lasted until the French revolution, when it was dissolved, and after which the buildings were used for various purposes including a Town Hall, a school, a manor house and a cider press.
In 1992 the Conservatoire du Littoral acquired Beauport Abbey and spent around 20 years carrying out work to ensure the future of the abbey and its grounds. These works had two goals: to preserve the buildings and to protect the wildlife that had become established in the grounds. The abbey was then opened to the public.
There are several interesting parts of the abbey to see during a visit. You enter the abbey through the wing that housed the lay workers: the members of the abbey that carred out the manual work and farming, rather than the monks who carried out religious duties. The upstairs of this wing is the dormitory where the lay brothers slept.
From here you enter the cloister. Originally this had covered galleries on each side but these are now lost. At Beauport abbey the cloister followed the traditional layout with the south wing used for prayers, the east for accommodation, the north for eating and the west for guests. It is now a large open square with plants and trees surrounded by the cloister walls. The windows are a 17th century addition to replace the earlier medieval windows.
The abbey church is on the south side of the cloisters. Although the roof has been lost, the walls of the nave are largely intact and the most imposing part of Beauport abbey as well as being very pretty because of the flowers and shrubs that have been planted here.
On the south wall of the cloister the main buildings are the sacristy and the Chapter House, where the monks had their daily meetings and discussions.
Just outside the north-east corner there is a large manor house called the Ducal House. This is thought to have been used as accomodation for visiting dignitaries, and has a large and imposing main room that is now used for various concerts and performances.
Next to the Ducal House there is a large walled garden that is now used for growing various types of apples, and retains a French style layout with formal patterns and lines. This is because in the 18th century apples were grown here for producing cider, and during renovation it seemed appropriate to preserve this historic element of the gardens. The main challenge of a visit is avoiding the temptation to steal one of these apples!
After the gardens, you return to the abbey through the refectory (canteen) which also has access to the kitchens and cellars. Although these are now quite empty apart from small areas of garden, their size gives us an idea of the importance of the abbey in medieval times.
At the end of the refectory there is a large gothic style window that has lovely views across Paimpol Bay.
The principal town nearby is Paimpol, where you can take a walk around the port and in the historic centre.
Map of Beauport Abbey and places nearby
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Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby
- Abbaye de Beauport: site of natural beauty
- Paimpol: recommended detour (2 km)
- Jardin du château de la Roche-Jagu: remarkable garden (10 km)
- Pontrieux: ville fleurie 4* (13 km)
- Sillon de Talbert: site of natural beauty (13 km)
- Jardins de Kerdalo: remarkable garden (13 km)
- Maison Ernest Renan: national monument (16 km)
- Treguier: secteur sauvegarde (16 km)
- Jardin du Kestellic: remarkable garden (16 km)
- Zooparc de Trégomeur: zoo or wildlife park (23 km)
- Baie de Saint-Brieuc: site of natural beauty (29 km)
- Menez Bré: site of natural beauty (30 km)
The French version of this page is at Beauport Abbey (Francais)