Our last abbey visit of the Norbertine heritage tour was to the small abbey of Mondaye, just outside of Bayeux.
The buildings at Mondaye Abbey date from the 18th century and reflect a French Classical style, but the abbey itself is far older. It was founded in 1202; like many abbeys, sadly, it suffered frequently over the centuries from the plague and war, and nothing remains of the original structures.
That said, the “new” buildings of the 1700’s are quite beautiful. The Rev. Dominique Marie, O.Praem., our tour guide, led us through the church, refectory, cloister, library and other parts of the abbey. The church was impressive, and designed in traditional Premonstratensian (Norbertine) fashion, with the altar at the center and an especially long transept (the “arms” of the church extending out to either side of the altar). Also impressive was the church’s beautiful organ, dating from 1741.
The abbey library houses 40,000 volumes, many extremely rare, with some dating back to the 16th century. I was especially interested to see early scientific treatises: St. Norbert College cherishes both faith and reason, and it was reaffirming to see how deeply rooted that idea is in the Norbertine tradition itself.
Being from The Dairy State, I was also interested to learn that for centuries, until recently, the abbey operated a working dairy farm and sold yogurt to the local communities. (Between this and the many abbey breweries, it’s hardly surprising the Norbertines chose Wisconsin for their first American home; they seem to be made for each other!)
With our tour complete, Father Dominique Marie bid us farewell and we boarded the bus for Paris, the last stop on what has been a remarkable trip.