Bernay, Abbey of
BERNAY, ABBEY OF
Benedictine monastery in Lower Normandy, France, formerly in the Diocese of Lisieux (today Évreux). It was founded by Judith, wife of Duke Richard II of Normandy (1010–15), with the counsel of Abbot William of Dijon, who sent the first monks from fÉcamp. On Judith's death (1017) her husband confirmed the donations in a charter signed also by their three sons and by bishops and lords of Normandy (1025). Thierry and Ralph were guardian priors who administered the abbey after 1028. The first abbot, Vital of Fécamp, was promoted to abbot of west minster (1075). Begon of Murat was rector of the Cluniac college of St. Martial in Avignon, procurator general, vicar of Abbot John of Cluny, and visitor for the reform of Cluniac monasteries (1384–95). François Bohier, dean of Tours and provost of Normandy, was the delegate of the Regent Louise of Savoy to the comitia of Normandy (1525–26) and became bishop of Saint-Malo (1535–69). Drogon Hennequin de Villenoce, canon of Paris and commendatory abbot (1598–1651), rebuilt church and buildings and introduced the Maurist reform (1628). Léon Potier de Gesvres (d. 1744) was abbot of Bernay (1666) and aurillac (1679), archbishop of Bourges (1693), cardinal (1719), and abbot of saintamand-lÈs-eaux (1720) and saint-remi (1729). Bernay was pillaged by both sides in the Hundred Years' War. In the Wars of Religion, Calvinists took it, killed the priests, burned the charter room and treasury, and left it in ruins (1562–63). Rebuilt, it was burned by the League (1590–96).
The abbey church (220 feet by 64 feet by 54 feet) was built in three stages (1020–55), determined by the style of the capitals. The nave had seven bays with aisles and a prominent transept topped by a massive tower; the transept had cross aisles terminated by apsidal chapels. In the 16th century the oven-shaped apse was replaced by a five-sided chevet; and its apsidal chapels, by straight walls pierced by windows with flamboyant tracery. The Maurists replaced two bays with a monumental façade and redid the vaulting. Chevet and tower were destroyed in the French Revolution; the church, an interesting Romanesque monument of Normandy, noteworthy for capitals influenced by those of the Burgundian Saint-Benigné in Dijon, continues to be secularized.
Bibliography: Gallia Christiana (Paris 1715–85) 11:830–834. j. bilson, "La Date et la construction de l'église abbatiale de Bernay," Bulletin Monumental 75 (1909) 403–422. a. a. porÉe, "L'Église abbatiale de Bernay," Congrès archéologique de France 75 (1910) 588–614. g. bonnenfant, Histoire générale du diocèse d'Evreux, 2 v. (Paris 1933), passim. l. grodecki, "Les Débuts de la sculpture romane en Normandie: Bernay," Bulletin Monumental 108 (1950) 7–67. p. calendini, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart et al. (Paris 1912–) 8:812–815.