Saint-Maixent, Abbey of
SAINT-MAIXENT, ABBEY OF
Former Benedictine abbey, in the town of Saint-Maixent, Deux-Sèvres, France, Diocese of Poitiers. In addition to being one of the most renowned benedictine monasteries in medieval France, Saint-Maixent was a favorite shrine for French pilgrims in the early Middle Ages due to the fame of its first abbot, Maxentius (d. c. 515), and that of the 7th-century abbot St. Leger, who became bishop of Autun. By the reign of Charlemagne pious donations had made Saint-Maixent one of the richest houses in France, a position which was weakened by Viking attacks in the 9th century and by the feudalization of its domains in the 10th and 11th centuries. Expansion ceased in the 13th century, and deterioration set in during the Hundred Years' War. This was climaxed by the destruction of the abbey church in 1568 during the wars of religion. The maurist reform movement of the early 17th century arrested the decline until the suppression of the monastery in 1791 during the French Revolution, when the medieval church dedicated to Leger was transformed into a Protestant church. In 1879 the crumbling edifice was restored as a national monument.
Bibliography: a. richard, ed., Chartes et documents pour servir à l'histoire de l'Abbaye de Saint-Maixent, 3 v. (Poitiers 1887). "Chronicon abbatiae S. Maxentii Pictavensis," Chroniques des églises d'Anjou, ed. p. marchegay and É. mabille (Paris 1869) 349–433. h. ravan, Essai historique sur l'Abbaye de Saint-Maixent et sur ses abbés depuis l'année 459 jusqu'en 1791 (Niort, France 1864). l. h. cottineau, Répertoire topobibliographique des abbayes et prieurés, 2 v. (Mâcon 1935–39) 2:2775–77. h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienneet de liturgie, ed. f. cabrol, h. leclercq and h. i. marrou, 15 v. (Paris 1907–53) 15.1:508–511. p. heliot, Les Églises abbatiales de Saint-Maixent (Poitiers 1955).
[g. t. beech]