For lovers of history
The Royal Moncel Abbey is a unique monument in Oise due to the remarkable preservation of its conventual buildings. Founded in 1309 upon the initiative of King Philip the Fair, in the vicinity of his Fécamp Castle, the abbey was placed under the Order of Saint Clare, founded by the friend and follower of Saint Francis of Assisi.
While little documentation exists concerning the abbey's construction, we do know that the abbey church was consecrated in 1337.
Already little spared by the Hundred Years' War, in 1525 the abbey suffered a fire that damaged the abbey church and a portion of the conventual buildings. In 1591, during the French Wars of Religion and following the assassination of Duke Henry of Guise and the formation of the Catholic League, the abbey was pillaged and the nuns forced to flee to Compiègne. In 1709, King Louis XIV donated Château du Moncel and its outbuildings to the abbey, thereby enriching the convent's resources. A large protective wall was also built around the conventual property.
In 1792, the last nuns were expelled and the abbey was put up for sale. The buildings were eventually reconverted to house a military hospital, but the abbey church was finally demolished in 1795. All that remained were the conventual buildings sold to a wine merchant.
In 1923, the bishopric of Beauvais became the owner of the abbey and there installed a small seminary. Transformed into a prison camp by the Germans during the Second World War, the site once again became a religious school following the war and would remain as such up until 1982. Since 1984, the Moncel Abbey has been managed by the Club du Vieux Manoir, which ensures its restoration and oversees its year-long programme of cultural activities.
Did you know ?
In the midst of war pitting the Kingdom of France against the Empire of Charles V, the warring parties' queens met at the abbey to prepare a peace treaty that would later be signed in Cambrai in 1529 and would come to be known as the Paix des Dames ("Peace of the Ladies").
In the courtyard of the ancient cloister – only one wing of which remains, restored following the fire of 1525 – visitors can get an idea of the size and importance of the old conventual buildings once occupied by the nuns. Numbering 12 at the abbey's foundation, from the records of proceedings held in 1549 we learn that the number of nuns had grown to 79 by this date, assisted by ten female servants, ten male servants and four friars for the religious service.
The abbey's cellars cover 2,000 m2. Visitors can admire their barrel vaults or intersecting ribs, depending on the building. Today, the cellars are rented out for private banquets and meetings.
The upstairs dormitories – whose framework is comprised of oak from the Halatte Forest – constitute the most significant illustration of such architecture dating from this time to be found in France or even Europe. In the western wing, the framework's timber and trusses differ markedly in size, testifying to the restoration work carried out following the fire of 1525.