In 1121, a small community of Christians settled in Ardenne, on an ancient Gallic place of worship. The new community was quickly entrusted to the Premonstratensian canons of nearby Lucerne Abbey. In 1160, the small priory became an independent abbey. In 1206, Ardenne Abbot was elected the General Abbot of the Order of the Prémontré.
The Ardenne estate consists of conventual priories, obedientiary priories and chapels, which are dependencies of the abbey. For instance, The Priory of Saint-Vincent de Lebisey, in the nearby parish of Hérouville, became part of its estate in 1291, and the Priory of Saint-Thomas, at Lion-sur-Mer, in 1328. The influence of the abbey extended beyond the nearby districts: the heads of the twelve parishes located in Calvados and Orne were appointed by Ardenne and four parish churches were under its patronage.
In the 15th century, the abbey fared much better during the Hundred Years’ War than Mondaye, Lucerne or Silly abbeys. However, Ardenne Abbey was not entirely spared: On 14th December 1417, it was attacked and looted, forcing the monks to seek refuge in their property in Caen. In 1450, the English had taken over Caen. When French King Charles VII came to retake the city, he settled in Ardenne during the siege. This was the climax of the abbey.
After fifty years of prosperity, Ardenne Abbey entered a long period of decline. The in commendam system was established in Ardenne: Authority over the abbey shifted to a person outside the Order. This system deprived the canons of a large part of their revenue, which fell under commendatory abbots showing little interest in maintaining the abbey. Religious wars intensified the precarious state of Ardenne Abbey: The Premonstratensians had to seek refuge twice behind Caen’s walls. The abbey was ransacked and desecrated: it was used as a stable and left unprotected from severe weather. Two records kept in the Departmental Archives of Calvados reported “ruins, demolitions, dilapidations and lootings” which took place in 1562, and concluded “twenty years of the Abbey’s income would not be enough to cover repair costs”. Till the end of the 16th century, the Abbey was left in ruins, and only few canons lived there and tried to manage.