The Abbey of Lonlay was Founded by William de Belleme at the beginning of the eleventh century. The Abbey Church was damaged during bombing in 1944 but many early architectural features can still be seen after substantial restoration as a national monument.

It was a surprise to see the Green Man carved on one of the capitals. This is sometimes found in British churches and illustrates how the religious festivals and beliefs of pre-Christian times were absorbed into the Christian culture.

Lonlay Abbey is part of a peaceful village community with a lovely riverside setting.

William de Braose I intended to give the church of Briouze to Lonlay Abbey in about 1073 so that its monks could establish a priory there. Had his plans succeeded, much of his Norman estates and his increasing wealth in England would have benefited Lonlay. The Abbot, however, refused to comply with William de Braose's conditions that should the priory prosper it would one day become an abbey. The Lonlay monks who had already begun work at Briouze abandoned the church shortly afterwards.

The de Braoses gave their patronage to the Abbey of Saint Florent in Saumur instead. In 1080 the Abbot of Lonlay challenged this in the court of William the Conqueror, claiming that William de Braose had broken a solemn oath to award his gifts to Lonlay. Lonlay lost the case, but revived its claims in 1093. This time the Abbey appealed to Robert, Duke of Normandy. During the hearing the Abbot of Lonlay, to his dismay, realised that William de Braose already had the sympathy of the Duke. The Abbot and his monks deserted the Duke's court, much to the fury of the Duke Robert. See also Briouze.

Lonlay's Benedictine monks were supported by other wealthy benefactors and the Abbey prospered for many centuries, though not without difficulty. Only nine kilometers from Domfront, it was often in the front line of hostilities and abbeys were prone to pillage by passing armies. The monks, reduced to only three, finally left Lonlay during the French Revolution.

Today Lonlay is famous for its abbey biscuits - delicious!

© Lynda Denyer, Steyning, 2000