Ardenne Abbey

An Abbey in the Fields

Ardenne. The name of Ardenne Abbey may originate from the Celtic word ar-denn, which means “oak forest”. A hamlet near the abbey called “La Chesnaie” (oak plantation) seems to confirm this origin. Its name could also come from the Celtic goddess Arduina: The abbey was apparently founded on the site of a Gallic temple dedicated to this goddess. Finally, other sources say that it has an Italo-Celtic root. Ardenne Abbey is located on the highest point in the plain of Caen (you can even make out the sea from the top of the abbey), which may suggest it is etymologically linked to the Latin word arduum (“rising high above”) and the Gallic word arduenna (“mountain”).

Located in the “commune” (municipality) of Saint-Germain-la-Blanche-Herbe, at the gate of Caen, Ardenne is the third largest abbey in the Greater Caen Area, after the Abbaye aux Hommes (“Men’s Abbey”) and the Abbaye aux Dames (“Women’s Abbey”).

The topography of Ardenne Abbey and the architecture of its buildings are typical of “abbeys in the fields”, which are common in the Order of Prémontré. The regular estate, a place of spiritual life revolving around the abbey and the cloister (now disappeared), is in the middle of a large precinct enclosed by a two-kilometre stone wall. These buildings, being the true heart of the abbey, opens westwards onto a large work yard.

Regular buildings were gradually rebuilt throughout the vicissitudes of history or the whims of the abbots running the abbey in times of prosperity. The farm buildings have kept the general appearance they had in the Middle Ages. There are few remnants from the other buildings scattered throughout the estate: most were destroyed in 1791-1792 and 1820-1825, when the abbey was used as a quarry.