Guided tour: monks in the great mountains!

For the first time on the occasion of the JEP, the friends of the abbey invite you to discover the excavations, to attend a conference on its history and to enjoy accompanied walks.

  • Visite commentée / Conférence
  • Patrimoine et éducation
  • Gratuit
© Gilles Valleton

For the first time on the occasion of the JEP, the friends of the abbey invite you to discover the excavations, to attend a conference on its history and to enjoy accompanied walks.

  • Programme of visits:
    Friday 18: 14:00 - 16:30: Reception of school children.
    Saturday 19:
  • 10h30 - 11h00: Presentation: L'ordre de Grandmont (SASSAG).
  • 11h30 - 12h00: Conference.
  • 14h00 - 14h30: Presentation: L'ordre de Grandmont (SASSAG).
  • 15h00 - 16h00: Visit of the site with the archaeologists
  • 16h30 - 18h00: Discovery walk, circuit of ponds (SASSAG and Christophe Cloquier, underwater archaeologist).
    Sunday 20:
  • 10h30 - 11h00: Presentation: L'ordre de Grandmont (SASSAG).
  • 11h30 - 12h00: Conference
  • 14h00- 15h00: Visit of the site with the archaeologists
  • 15h30 - 17h00: Discovery walk, pond circuit (SASSAG)
    Age of target audience: any audience
    No accessibility accommodations
  • Grandmont Abbey: a heritage to rediscover
    As part of its first participation in the Heritage Days, the Société des Amis de Saint-Sylvestre et de l'Abbaye de Grandmont (SASSAG, www.sassag.com) organizes the reception of visitors on the site of the Abbey of Grandmont and the discovery of its natural environment.
    Of conference tours will allow visitors to discover the remains of the abbey rediscovered since 2013, on the site belonging to the association, thanks to archaeological excavations conducted each year by a team of the University of Picardy Jules Verne, under the direction of Professor Philippe Racinet.
    Since 1820 and its complete demolition by a contractor of the building, nothing visible remained of this immense abbey but a chapel built with stones from the demolition and the few objects of worship that had been transported there.
    After initial surveys in 2013, the excavations cleared the base of the walls and the floor of the nave of the early church. Many tombs have been discovered in the axis of it, in particular that of one of the two bishops whose chronicles mention burial in the church. The magnificent construction of the bedside then appeared further east. A separate burial area in several different period areas has resulted in the updating of a large number of burials with different types of construction. In 2018 and 2019, an exceptional group of lead vials was discovered in place in more than thirty open graves at the bedside of the church.
    On the south side of the church, part of the cloister was cleared, cloister that continues on the other side of the road traced in the twentieth century through the enclosure of the abbey. The north and east galleries of the cloister are now visible. In the northern one, which gave access to the church, the ground was covered with tombstones, each covering several superimposed burials. The southern one is entirely intersected by an impressive wall made up of huge blocks and perfectly cut.
    It is indeed the remains of the last reconstruction of the abbey, from 1760, that are necessary when one enters the site for the first time. Of an exceptional quality, these walls overlap all the previous structures and complicate their legibility. For archaeologists, it is a question of separating constructions spread over six centuries and kept on the same plane and understanding the articulation.
    Visitors will be able to walk in the middle of a set of carved stones, especially tombstones, which were discovered during the excavations. This first presentation is the beginning of a lapidary garden that SASSAG wishes to set up in the enclosure of the abbey.
    The visits will be completed by presentations on the history of the Order of Grandmont and its imposing treasure which was dispersed during the dissolution of the order shortly before the Revolution. Despite the destruction, sales and thefts, this dispersion eventually allowed the preservation of many pieces that are still found in various churches of the diocese, at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Limoges, in Paris and in other major art museums around the world.
  • Archaeological excavations: what are the problems?
    These planned excavations, supported by the Regional Directorate of Cultural Affairs contribute to the training of students in archaeology who have the opportunity, for five weeks each summer, work with specialists from the many disciplines involved in medieval archaeology research. Together with SASSAG and the support of local communities, they contribute to the development of the cultural site in interaction with its natural environment.
    From a scientific point of view, the project aims to establish the different stages of the development of the Grandmont site by the monks. Was the site deserted or not when they arrived in 1125? What was the layout and appearance of their first constructions after their arrival? How many reconstructions took place at the time of the splendour of the abbey at the turn of the 13th century? What impression did the Plantagenets have on the organization of a building where they lived frequently and where they had considered a time to be buried? Can we find the constructions associated with their stays that are mentioned in the chronicles? Were new works undertaken between the Middle Ages and the great 18th century reconstruction project? Until what time did the monks continue to use the medieval buildings? What was the progress of the project when the site was abandoned in 1788?
    These excavations also aim to reconstruct the footprint of the great centre of power that constituted the monastery over the entire region. What improvements have they been able to bring, thanks to their financial means and to the tenants over whom they exercised seigneurial power, to an environment little favoured by nature? How were organized on the ground their multiple economic activities, both in the "franchise", a territory of about 700 hectares on which abbots and monks exercised sovereign power, But also over the entire surrounding region where their feudal power came into competition with neighbouring powers, secular like the Dognon Châtellenie or ecclesiastical like the bishopric of Limoges?

About the venue

Grandmont, 87240 Saint-Sylvestre
  • Monument historique
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  • First participation
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  • Édifice religieux

Grandmont est un village situé au cœur des monts d'Ambazac qui s'est développé autour de l'abbaye et a longtemps bénéficié des retombées économiques de celle-ci. Jusqu'au XVIIIe siècle, y résidaient notaires et juges en lien avec le pouvoir souverain qu'exerçaient les Grandmontains sur un territoire d'environ 700 hectares entourant l'abbaye, dénommé la "Franchise". Des artisans travaillaient pour l'abbaye et l'ensemble du village tirait profit du passage des pèlerins et des visiteurs souvent illustres qui y faisaient étape ou y séjournaient. Jusqu'au début du XIXe siècle, le village était le groupement le plus peuplé de la commune avant de décliner dans le courant du même siècle.

Construit au XIIe siècle, le monastère devient le centre de l’ordre de Grandmont. Jouant un rôle diplomatique important dans une région frontière entre les domaines du roi de France et l'Aquitaine sous domination anglaise, le site reçoit la visite de personnages prestigieux, plusieurs papes et les rois d'Angleterre Henri II, Jean sans Terre et Richard Cœur de Lion, plus tard du roi de France Charles VII. Les Plantagenêts sont les principaux protecteurs de l'ordre, ils financent largement la construction de l'abbaye et l'acquisition d'un trésor groupant de nombreuses reliques dans des châsses magnifiques groupées autour des restes du fondateur canonisé en 1189. Cent ans après sa fondation, l'ordre de Grandmont n'a plus grand-chose à voir avoir avec l'idéal d'austérité voulu par son fondateur. À la splendeur des débuts, succède une lente décadence jusque vers 1730, date à laquelle les bâtiments menacent ruine. Un ingénieur du Roi est envoyé et conclut que l'abbaye n'est pas réparable et doit être reconstruite. Un plan immense est conçu pour un édifice grandiose dans le goût du XVIIIe siècle.

La dissolution de l'ordre intervient alors que les travaux de reconstruction sont bien avancés mais loin d'être terminés. Ordonnée par le Pape en 1772, elle doit encore être enregistrée par les autorités françaises mais le dernier abbé engage un combat juridique acharné pour empêcher la dissolution. Ce n'est qu'en 1784 qu'il doit s’incliner, mais il obtient que la prise d'effet soit retardée jusqu'à son décès, qui se produit le 11 avril 1787. À partir de novembre 1788 tout ce qui était vendable fut dispersé. Seul le caractère sacré des multiples reliques et des châsses qui les protégeaient les sauva de la ruine. L'ensemble des bâtiments resta à l'abandon pendant la Révolution, divers projets portés par les habitants d'y installer une activité industrielle n'aboutirent pas. Ce n'est qu'en 1820 que la démolition complète des bâtiments paracheva la fin de l'ordre de Grandmont.

Access: Accès uniquement par véhicules particuliers. Possibilité de parking sur place et sur terrain herbeux.

Abbaye de Grandmont © Thomas Creissen, Eveha