From the fifth century until today, the role played by the abbeys and churches of Normandy has been significant, not only spiritually, intellectually and artistically, but also politically and economically. At the height of their glory there were one hundred and twenty in the region, and with their incomparable beauty and magnificence, the sixty which have survived the centuries represent a priceless architectural heritage.
Two religious orders were of equal importance in Normandy: the Benedictines, who followed the rule of Saint Benedict (with monasteries at Fécamp, Lessay, Lonlay, and Mont-Saint-Michel) and the "Prémontrés" monks, whose rule is attributed to Saint Augustine (monasteries at Ardenne and La Lucerne).
Today, some abbeys are still monasteries, of which the most illustrious are at Le Bec-Hellouin, a living history of Normandy, St-Wandrille, the Trappist monastery in Soligny, and Mondaye ; others are grandiose ruins (Jumièges, Hambye) or have become simple parish churches (St- Martin-de-Boscherville, St Vigor de Cerisy-la Forêt).
Finally, some have become splendid town halls, such as that in Caen, in the former Abbaye aux Hommes, founded by William the Conqueror, or that of Rouen which was dedicated to Saint-Ouen.
With its numerous abbeys, cathedrals, collegiate churches or simple country churches, and magnificent stained glass windows in such numbers that together they constitute one of the largest glazed areas in France, Normandy is one of France's richest regions in terms of religious art.
Here the distinctive Norman style, which is to be found in England, in southern Italy and in the Middle East, reaches the heights of its expression in the unique masterpieces of the cathedrals of Rouen, Evreux, Bayeux, Coutances, Sées and Lisieux Basilica and in the wonder of Mont-Saint-Michel.
You will find a full description of the abbeys and all the latest news about Norman abbeys on the Internet site of the Norman Abbey Circuit Association : http://www.abbayes-normandes.com
The main places to visit in Normandy are all in the brochure Normandy's Heritage.