Heritage Days: Longues Abbey, a family affair

They have the abbey in their blood. Since that day in 1964 when Georges d’Anglejan acquired this Norman building located a stone’s throw from the landing beaches, the family has lived there as they have lived in the abbey. This is what strikes the visitor when Jérôme – the son – and his wife Isabelle, who have taken care of it since 2012, take you on a tour of the owner, on a rather gray September day. “It’s a huge burden and a great opportunity”says Jerome. “She is beyond us”adds his wife.

First mass for 240 years

Credit where credit is due, the visit begins with the chapel. Thanks to the Loto du patrimoine directed by Stéphane Bern, it now has a roof which has given it a second life. Its windows, cleared of their stones, let in light again thanks to their temporary panes – while waiting for stained glass. This is where the Mass of the Assumption took place on August 15, the first celebration in… 240 years. Jérôme shows us red traces on the walls with a certain emotion. “These are frescoes, very old; we discovered them this week. » We will see frescoes of the same color but in much better condition in the refectory, where our hosts take us. The latter explain to us how they support their abbey, which is a money pit. “We opened a bed and breakfast to have a source of income, and we had many patrons: the Bern Mission, but also the Vieilles Maisons Françaises association, the Historic Residence, the French Heritage Society, etc. It is a considerable work. To obtain a prize, it is necessary to constitute ten files. These are sleepless nights in front of the computer. »

Thanks to the Heritage Loto, directed by Stéphane Bern, the abbey chapel is undergoing work of repair. It is now out of water, and the balusters (resembling those of Bayeux Cathedral) will be restored.

The Sainte-Marie abbey has a fairly chaotic past, but it has suffered the vagaries of history without experiencing too much damage. Founded in 1168, it was first flourishing, housing up to twenty-one monks during its heyday at the end of the Middle Ages, before experiencing a slow and gradual decline under the effect of the disastrous commendation system – the commendatory abbots did not live on the spot, contenting themselves with receiving the income. The abbey, where only one monk lived, was closed in 1782 by the Bishop of Bayeux, went through the Revolution without too much damage – a few frescoes were pounded all the same –, then was taken over by farmers who serve as the chapel and the (very large) refectory as agricultural buildings. This allowed him to survive. Passing from hand to hand, it escaped dismantling stone by stone in order to be rebuilt in the Paris region, was classified as a historical monument in 1915, and found itself in the ownership of an American family in 1932, the Deweys, who began the restoration in an intelligent and respectful manner. Until she decides to part with it and a doctor from Versailles, father of four children, sets his sights on her. “My parents immediately fell in love with it.notes their son Jérôme. Even if they didn’t realize the burden they were putting on their shoulders. »

A mass was held at the abbey on August 15, the first for 240 years. An event for the inhabitants of the region, attached to this monument.

However, the flame not only did not go out over time, but the owner at the time, who is still alive, was able to pass it on to his children. And the grandchildren, in turn, caught the virus. “We are just passingemphasizes Jérôme. We see ourselves as custodians, heirs to a history that is beyond us and that we are doing everything to continue. » Its objective: to give whoever takes over the abbey the keys to an economically balanced whole. “And who knows, maybe there will be monks again one day”dreams Isabelle.

Heritage Days: Longues Abbey, a family affair