In last week’s I Saw Sunday post I promised pictures of our visit to the Abbey at Hambye, one of the treasures of our region, and part of the Route des Abbayes which was a pilgrimage route from Rouen to Mont St Michel in the Middle Ages.
The Benedictine Abbey was built during the twelfth century and was an essential part of the life of the region until the end of the eighteenth century. Napoleon did it a lot of no good and the buildings were sold in 1810 and used as a quarry for the stone, leaving the abbey church at the mercy of the elements as well as vandals until it was classed as a historic monument at the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1956 Elisabeth Beck bought it and devoted the rest of her life to its restoration until her death last year.
We have been to some wonderful concerts and exhibitions in the Abbey buildings and a few years ago a spectacular pageant with son et lumière, horses, battles, specially written music and ending with fireworks. It had rained heavily all that day, and we debated whether or not to go, but the sky cleared in the early evening and so we took our garden chairs, cushions, rugs and bin bags for emergency waterproofs just in case. We had been warned to go early, so we were lucky to set up our ‘camp’ only a few rows back from thestage, set at the West end of the roofless church. By the time darkness fell and the first actors appeared, the whole Abbey grounds were heaving with the eager and friendly audience. A magical experience.
While touring the exhibition in the monks’ dortoir, I was scared we’d get thrown out when Fraser dismantled the model of the buildings, but it turned out that was its purpose, and he managed to get it all back together again.
The mediaeval crane was fascinating – the weights being lifted by a rope raised by men walking the wooden wheel. We were most impressed with its state of repair after so many centuries, only to discover that it had been re-constructed from scratch three years ago for a television documentary!