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The abbey was founded in 1118 when Simon de Neauffle and his wife Eve donated the land for this foundation to the monks of Savigny Abbey, in order to have a monastery built in honour of the Mother of God and St. John the Baptist. Vital, Abbot of Savigny accepted their offer, and sent a band of monks under the direction of Arnaud, who became their first abbot. Besides their first benefactors, others of the nobility came to the aid of the new community.
As soon as they were well established, many postulants were admitted, thus making it possible for the foundation of Breuil-Benoit Abbey (1137) within the Diocese of Evreux. In 1148 Vaux-de-Cernay, together with the entire Congregation of Savigny, they entered the Order of Cîteaux and became an affiliation of Clairvaux Abbey. From this time on they prospered, building a church in the simple Cistercian style. Over time, additional buildings were constructed.
Many of its abbots became well known. Andrew, the fourth, died in the role of Bishop of Arras; Guy of Vaux-de-Cernay, the sixth, was delegated by the General Chapter to accompany the Fourth Crusade in 1203. Three years later he was one of the principal figures in the Albigensian Crusade, which fought against the Cathars. In recognition of his service he was made Bishop of Carcassonne (1211) and is commemorated in the Cistercian Menology. His nephew Peter of Vaux-de-Cernay, also a monk of the Abbey, accompanied him on this crusade, and left a chronicle of both the Cathars and the war.
It was under his successor, Abbot Thoas, that Porrois Abbey, a monastery of Cistercian nuns (later on the famous Abbey of Port-Royal), was founded and placed under the direction of the abbots of Vaux-de-Cernay. The ninth abbot, Thibault de Marley (1235-47), a descendant of the Montmerency family was canonized.
Towards the end of the fourteenth century the monastery began losing its fervour, both on account of its wealth and because of the disturbed state of the Ile-de-France during the Hundred Years' War. But after the introduction of commendatory abbots (1542) there was little left besides the name of the monks. In the seventeenth century it was restored in spirit by embracing the Reform of the Strict Observance of Denis Largentier. It was during this time its commendatory abbot was John Casimir, King of Poland. The monastery was suppressed in 1791 during the French Revolution and its members (twelve priests) were dispersed.
The buildings, after passing through various hands, were partly restored. The site was bought by Charlotte de Rothschild in the 1880s who saved the ruins of the church and part of the buildings, fully restoring the abbey. Today the buildings are a 1200 person hotel complete with restaurant and heliport, but still using the nearby spring as the monks did centuries before.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Medieval France: An Encyclopedia By William W. Kibler retrieved 20 March 2008
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Catholic Encyclopedia article retrieved 20 March 2008
- ↑ L'Abbaye des Vaux de Cernay. Monographie publiée par M. Marcel Aubert pour M. le Baron Henri de Rothschild (1931).
- ↑ All free photos
- ↑ abbayedecernay.com retrieved 20 March 2008
- Gallia Christiana, VII;
- Caspar Jongelinus, Notitia Abbatiarum, O. Cisterciensis (Cologne, 1640);
- Bertrand Tissier, Bibliotheca Patrum Cisterciensium, VII (Paris, 1669);
- MERLET and MOUTIER, Cartulaire de l'Abbaye de N. D., des Vaux-de-Cernay, I-III (Paris, 1857-58);
- MORIZE, Etude archeologique sur l'Abbaye des Vaux-de-Cernay with introduction by DE DION (Tours, 1889);
- DE DION, Cartulaire de Porrois plus connue sous le nom mystique de Port-Royal (Paris, 1903);
- Charles Beaunier, Recueil historique des archeveches, eveches, abbayes et prieures de France, province ecclesiastique de Paris (Paris, 1905);
- Angel Manrique, Annales Cistercienses (Lyons, 1642-59);
- Edmond Martène and Ursin Durand, Veterum Scriptorum et Monumentorum amplissima collectio, II (Paris, 1724);
- Petrus Sarniensis, Historia Albigensium (Troyes, 1615);
- Leopold Janauschek, Originum Cisterciensium, I (Vienna, 1877).
- This article incorporates text from the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913, a publication now in the public domain.