No country in Europe is home to so many important abbeys as France, but most did not survive the French Revolution. This tour of abbeys in Normandy and the Ile de France begins at the splendid ruin of the great Jumieges Abbey, west of Rouen. Few ruins are as impressive and eloquent as this one, which is all that remains of the abbey church that was consecrated in the presence of William the Conqueror in the 11th century and sold as state property during the French revolution.

Your personal bilingual driver/guide will accompany you through what remains of its Notre Dame and St. Peter Churches, as well as the Chapter house, sacristy, cloisters, gardens, the abbot’s home, and the St. Valentine parish church.

Our next stop will be at the Abbaye des Vaux de Cernay, west of Paris in the Yvelines department, a less important Abbey that dates from the early 12th century, but which fell into decline from the 14th century, and since 1873 has belonged to the Rothschild family, who have restored the buildings and converted it into a hotel. We will dine in the ancient refectory, now an elegant restaurant, after which we will visit the different elements of the abbey, where the interest is in the combination of old structures with modern refurbishing.

We then drive to near Chantilly, where we will visit the Abbaye de Royaumont, another ruin, but one in far better condition and one which reveals the vast wealth and power that the French abbeys had become. Royaumont is named in honour of St. Louis, who consecrated it in 1228 and endowed it richly. We will visit the ruins of the church, the cloisters, a beautiful garden, the refectory, the old kitchens and the abbot’s home. Royaumont is frequently the site of charming concerts, which can be included in the itinerary if desired.