A monastery in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives for more than a thousand years
The earliest records of a monastery in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives date back to 1011, when Countess Lesceline had her château transformed into a monastery to house a community of nuns. The nuns were soon replaced by Benedictine monks from Rouen. An abbey church was then added to the monastery, creating an abbey. Consecrated in 1067, this church was destroyed in a fire in 1106. The construction of a new building would begin two years later and take more than a hundred years to complete.
The abbey church, monastery buildings and cloister
The spires of the abbey church dominate the landscape of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives, between the Plain of Caen and the Pays d’Auge. The buildings of the former monastery, attached to the abbey church, form a “C” shape and create a cloister. At the end of the French Revolution, the monastery was sold as national property and the abbey church was transformed into a parish church.
The tomb of Countess Lesceline
Countess Lesceline, the founder of the abbey, died in 1057. She was the great-aunt of William the Conqueror, then Duke of Normandy and future King of England. She was buried in the abbey church and her tomb can be found there today.
This secular device is a rare example in France. A line is carved into the floor from north to south and divides the earth into two hemispheres. In line with the meridian, a small hole has been drilled into the stained glass. When the sun passes through this hole (called a “gromon”), its rays illuminate a zodiacal sign on the floor according to the season.
An incredible ceramic floor in the church choir
The choir of the abbey church features an exceptional Pré d’Auge ceramic floor dating from the end of the 12th century, a rare testimony to the art of terracotta flooring. The tomette tiles are arranged in an alternating pattern of fleurs-de-lis and fantastical animals with a three-metre wide rosette in the centre of the composition.