Liste des sites de l'Avranchin et du Mortainais

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(canton of Mortain, Manche)


    The "Abbaye-Blanche" (White Abbey  was founded in 1112 by Adeline, sister of saint Vital for the members of the order of Savigny. Vital, a former chaplain to count Robert of Mortain, half-brother of William the Conqueror, in 1095 retired from his role and retired to the "desert" in the forests of Passais and Fougères. He lived there for eighteen years, before founding the Ordre de Savigny. He was, along with Robert d'Arbrissel and Bernard de Tiron, one of the " magistri et principes eremitarum " who in c. 1100 sought to reform the Church. They established new and original Benedictine congregations, in the wake of the Cistercians, to which Savigny attached itself in 1147.
The architecture of the church faithfully follows the Cistercian ground plans: a Latin cross, single nave and wide transept sheltering two square chapels, and a choir with a flat east end. The style was that of early gothic: fully arched bays, double broken arches with double archivolt, thick ribs descending onto truncated columns and bases, bulging vaults in the Angevin mode of the Plantagenets. The decorative style was sacrificed to Cistercian austerity: simplicity of the openings, capitals with bare basket or flat leaf patterns.
Of the 12th century convent the chapter house, cellar and Romanesque cloister survive.
The chapter house, which is rectangular, opening onto the cloisters through large fully vaulted bays, is divided into two naves whose ribbed vaults descend onto a line of pillars. It dates from the 1170s. Its original plan, which can also be seen at La Lucerne, belongs to the Norman gothic school (Hambye, Notre-Dame-du-Vœu, Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives, Le Plessis-Grimoult...) and its English equivalent (Kirkstall).
The cloister which has two further galleries (but only eleven of the arches are truly of the end of the 12th century) is made up of narrow fully vaulted arches descending onto small columns which give it a strong sensation of lightness.

Bernard Beck


- Blouet, Louis. " Mortain ", in Art de Basse-Normandie, N° 12, 1958
- Beck, Bernard. " Recherches sur les salles capitulaires en Normandie ", in Bulletin de la Société des Antiquaires de Normandie, t. LVIII, années 1965-66, Caen, 1969