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Frigolet Abbey (Abbaye Saint-Michel de Frigolet) is a Premonstratensian monastery, originally Benedictine, in southern France. It is located on the territory of the commune of Tarascon, in the region of the Montagnette, the parishes of which are served by the canons of the monastery.
The monastery, dedicated to Saint Michael, was founded about 960 at Frigolet by Conrad the Pacific, King of Arles, on one of the numerous hills which lie between Tarascon and Avignon. It was successively occupied by the Benedictines of Montmajour Abbey, the Augustinians, the Hieronymites, and finally by the Reformed Augustinians.
At the time of the French Revolution, it was suppressed and sold by the French Republic.
Premonstratensians: 19th century to the present
From that time it changed hands frequently, and was acquired, at length, by the Reverend Edmund Boulbon who purchased it from the Reverend T. Delestrac. Edmund Boulbon, born on 14 January 1817, entered the Abbey of Our Lady of La Trappe at Bricquebec in 1850, wishing to lead a more active Catholic life. Acting on the advice of his superiors, he left the Trappists and undertook the restoration of the Premonstratensian Order, or Order of St. Norbert, in France.
On 6 June, the feast of Saint Norbert, he received the white habit from the hands of Paul-Armand de Cardon de Garsignies, Bishop of Soissons, at Prémontré Abbey. Pope Pius IX approved the project in an audience which he granted to Father Edmund on 4 December 1856.
With the consent of Georges-Claude-Louis-Pie Chalandon, Archbishop of Aix, Father Edmund took possession of Frigolet and, having admitted several novices, commenced community life there. In honour of Our Lady Conceived without Sin he erected a magnificent church, which was solemnly consecrated on 6 October 1866. The monastery was canonically erected as a priory on 28 August 1868, and as an abbey in September 1869, with the Right Reverend Edmund Boulbon as its first abbot.
On 8 November 1880, under the French anti-clerical laws, the abbey of Frigolet was seized and the religious expelled. Eventually, however, they were permitted to return.
Abbot Boulbon died on 2 March 1883. His successor, Paulinus Boniface, named abbot on 10 June 1883, undid by poor administration the work begun by Abbot Boulbon; but, after a canonical visitation by François Xavier Gouthe-Soulard, Archbishop of Aix, he was deposed, and the direction of the abbey entrusted to the Reverend Denis Bonnefoy. Up to this time, Frigolet Abbey with the priories it had founded had formed, as it were, a separate congregation with an organization of its own, having no connexion with the other abbeys or the general chapter of the Premonstratensian order. This state of affairs was changed by a decree of the Sacred Congregation of Bishops and Regulars, dated 17 September 1898, when the congregation of Frigolet was incorporated with the order.
Denis Bonnefoy, who was made abbot on 21 March 1899, died on 20 September of the same year. The religious of Frigolet then chose for their abbot Godfrey Madelaine, then prior of Mondaye Abbey, Calvados, France, the author of "L'histoire de S. Norbert" and other books. Frigolet Abbey sent missionaries to Madagascar, and founded priories at Conques and Etoile in France, and at Storrington and Bedworth in England. Meanwhile, the French Republic had framed new laws against all religious institutions, and on 5 April 1903, the canons, again expelled from their abbey, took refuge either in Belgium, in the ruined former Norbertine Leffe Abbey near Dinant, or in the priory at Storrington in England.
The community at Leffe suffered severely from the German occupation during World War I: some were killed, and the rest were driven into further exile. Frigolet was reoccupied by the Premonstratensians in 1923, and remains in operation, although the communities at Leffe and Storrington also continued.
The abbot of Frigolet from 1946 was P. Norbert Calmels, later distinguished as the Abbot-General of the Premonstratensian Order from 1961 to 1981, during which time he participated in Vatican II.
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