(canton of la Haye-Pesnel, Manche)
The abbey of La Lucerne is in many ways the product of a transitional period. It was founded as new orders were being introduced into Normandy - the Cistercians, in a move encouraged notably by Empress Matilda, monastic families of Savigny or Tiron drawn from the eremitical movements, or congregations of canons regular, Premonstratensians or Victorines - which set up a score of new abbeys and priories between 1140 and 1200, although of these buildings only very few have vestiges of the architecture of that period.
A Premonstratensian monastery was founded at La Lucerne in 1143 by a local lord, Hasculphe de Subligny, prompted by the bishop of Avranches, his brother Richard. But it was a powerful personality from outside Normandy, the theologian Achard, abbot of Saint-Victor in Paris and later bishop of Avranches, who brought the canons together at the new abbey in 1161. The foundation stone was laid in 1164. Achard, who died in 1171 and was beatified, did not live to see his work completed in 1178, but he was buried in the abbey, which has preserved his late 12th century recumbent statue.
Sold off as property of the nation during the French Revolution, and later turned into a mill in the 19th century, the ruins of the abbey came in for some patient restoration work. On the church front, flanked by two blind arcades, the semicircular arched door belongs to the Norman Romanesque style of the first half of the 12th century, while the nave and chancel are of Cistercian inspiration. The nave arches are made with massive, undecorated pillars; the two-storey elevation has no middle level. Unlike the nave, the chancel has no aisles and comes to a flat east end with no apse. The bell tower with its tall lancet windows dates from the early years of the Gothic style.
In the ruined sections of the abbey,
the cloister lavatory, part of the storerooms and the refectory, and the chapter
house door, confirm that in its original state at a time (late 12th century)
when a new architectural style was emerging everywhere else, the Abbey of La
Lucerne remained faithful to many older features.
- Baylé, Maylis. - La Lucerne : abbatiale de
la Trinité. - In : L'Architecture normande au moyen-âge, Condé-sur-Noireau :
Editions Charles Corlet. Caen : Presses de l'Université de Caen, 1997, T. 2, p.
- L'Abbaye de la Sainte-Trinité-de-la-Lucerne, Art de Basse-Normandie, 114, 2ème trimestre 1998, 112 p.
- Beck, Bernard. - Quand les Normands bâtissaient les églises, Ocep, Coutances, 1981.