Royaumont Abbey visitor guide

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Royaumont Abbey is an abbey in Asnières-sur-Oise, in the north of the Val d'Oise department, about 40 kilometres north of Paris.

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France This Way review: although the abbey church no longer exists you can still get a good impression of the importance of the original abbey at Royaumont, the site is very well maintained and a visit is interesting

Cloisters in the Abbaye de Royaumont

History of Royaumont Abbey

Construction of the abbey took place over a seven year period from 1227 to 1235, during the reign of King Louis IX (often called Saint Louis), as one of the final wishes of his father, King Louis VIII.

Louis VIII financed the construction with the sale of jewels and crowns, a very expensive venture costing more than half of the annual revenues of the Crown.

It was a very important cistercian abbey during the years that followed, especially in the decades around the end of the 13th century.

The decline of the abbey started in the mid 14th century, with the start of the Hundred Years War. In the following centuries the cistercian order was also subject to political interference, mismanagement of assets and internal divisions over policies, all of which contributed to the decline of the fortunes of Royaumont abbey.

Another important change for the abbeys took place in 1549 when it was decided that the King could appoint the bishops and abbots for the abbeys, as a way of rewarding nobles for their services even if the appointment was inconsistent with cistercian beliefs, and these abbots often made a priority of withdrawing assets from the abbey for their own personal gain.

A further major event too place in 1760 when lightning struck the monastery and a great fire caused a great deal of damage, including the destruction of the belltower. Some of the parts destroyed were rebuilt over the following few years, although in a reduced form compared to the original.

Royaumont Abbey maintained its role, in a very diminished form with only about 20 monks resident here, until the revolution, after which abbeys were dissolved and the building was sold and converted into a factory.

The abbey regained its original role for about 40 years at the end of the 19th century, before again being dissolved and sold, this time to be used as a cultural centre.It is now owned by the Royaumont Foundation, founded to ensure the ongoing maintenance and success of the abbey.


Royaumont abbey today

Despite the loss of the abbey church most of the other buildings at Royaumont abbey remain, either original or rebuilt in the 18th century, to enable you to easily appreciate the original layout of the abbey.

Among the main buildings that you will see as part of a visit, as well as some small remnants of the original abbey church such as the south wall, are the cloisters, the kitchens with their impressive arched ceilings, and the monks dormitory and refectory, overlooking a canal.

The cloisters is an impressive structure on two levels, with large gothic style arches separated by numerous round columns at the bases of the arches and rib vaulting in the ceilings. There are formal gardens in the centre of the cloisters.

The original 'batiment des latrines' can be visited, and is an imposing building on two levels. This building also contains two large halls for work on the ground floor.

This structure was subsequently used as home to the prior when the number of monks in the abbey had reduced considerably, and also later as an orangery (the large openings in the ground floor were added to allow its use as an orangery) and, after the revolution, as a textile factory (at which time the water wheel was added). 

You can also see the tombstones of two of the grandsons of Saint Louis, evoking the early history of Royaumont abbey, and there are parts of columns and capital stons as well as other artefacts at various places around the site.

Another important building on the site is the Royaumont abbey palace, built in the late 18th century, although this is not open to visitors.

Gardens of Royaumont Abbey

Attractions nearby

Another important historic monument close to here is the Chateau de Chantilly, an imposing castle with a moat. At the town of Senlis you can explore the cobbled streets and the cathedral.

You can find more travel ideas in the Paris region guide.

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The French version of this page is at Royaumont Abbey (Francais)