At only a five minutes car ride from Caen, the Abbaye d’Ardenne is an incredible place of interest to visit!Administered by the Normandie Region Council, the IMEC (Institute for Contemporary Publishing Archives) is situated inside the abbey, in the monumental library of the abbey’s church. Come with us to the monastic quietness of the abbey to discover its medieval architecture and enjoy its literary treasures.
A 900 year old abbey
There is no better introduction to the abbey than a guided tour with a certified guide.
Founded in the 12th century in Saint-Germain la Blanche Herbe, the Abbaye d’Ardenne stands on the highest point of the plain of Caen. Many times, during conflicts, the abbey was a target: it was affected by the English armies during the Hundred Years War, and suffered during the French Wars of Religion and the French Revolution, which forced the canon clergy living there to flee in 1790.
In the 19th century, the abbey’s territory was divided into several plots. A community of about ten farmers then settled down there with their families.
During World War II, the farmers were dislodged by German soldiers who took possession of the place. The abbey was damaged by the 1944 blitz.
It also was the theatre of a terrible massacre. In June 1944, 21 Canadians prisoners were executed there. They were only found in 1945 by one of the farmer’s sons who had come back to Ardenne. Today, there is a Canadian garden of remembrance, a place of recollection which is open every day.
Inside the abbey perimeter, there are several other buildings we can visit such as: the impressive tithe barn from the 12th century. Built in the typical stone of Caen, this gothic building was destroyed by the 1944 blitz and restored in the 2000s.
We briefly visited the monastic garden where mostly legumes are grown. We crossed this serene and lovely place and we passed in front of the cider press, the granary and the kitchen.
Unfortunately, the cloister disappeared during the French Wars of Religion in order to give space for agricultural plots. The tour therefore ended with the visit of the 13th century abbey church.
The IMEC and its exceptional library
The purpose of the IMEC is to process and preserve collection of archives of the main publishing houses of the 20th century. The not-for-profit organisation moved to Ardenne in 2004. A large building contains most of the collections. It is linked to the former abbey underground through tunnels built on purpose to store the archives!
The IMEC possesses archives from numerous authors such as Duras, Aragon, Picasso, Verne, Satie and many others!
The oldest documents date from the 19th century. With a proper application and justificatory document, it is possible to consult the archives there.
It was time to enter the library in the ancient abbey church. The hall’s architecture is breathtaking! It was designed by Bruno Decaris, the architect to whom we owe the restoration of the castle of Falaise. Realised in early 2000, the library is so inspiring it made us want to sit comfortably and read a good book.
The IMEC regularly organizes temporary exhibitions. Masterpieces like the works of Georges Sand, Jules Verne, André Breton, the Countess of Ségur, Erik Satie and many others are often exhibited.
The abbey park
By the end of the tour, we enjoyed moments of quietness and serenity surrounded by heirloom tomatoes, herbs and other wildflowers while sitting on the chairs disseminated in the park. A pure moment of relaxation in this green setting.
- The calm atmosphere of the Abbey Park
- IMEC temporary exhibitions
- Browse a good book in the magnificent library