Les ruines de l'abbaye. Source photo : domaine publlic
Approaching from Bouconville-Vauclair, the ruins of Vauclair Abbey rise up from the bottom of the northern slope of the Chemin des Dames (Ladies' Way).
The site of Vauclair is located roughly at the centre of the "mystic triangle", at the point where the three prestigious ancient provinces of lle-de-France, Champagne and Picardy converge. Located on the left, alongside the D886, when approaching from Bouconville-Vauclair, the ruins of Vauclair Abbey rise up from the bottom of the northern slope of the Chemin des Dames (Ladies' Way).
Vauclair Abbey belonged to the order of the Cistercians that followed the rule of Saint Benedict in all its primitive purity, rejecting any changes to make life easier over the centuries, in particular concerning young people and manual labour. Vauclair Abbey was founded in the diocese of Laon (today that of Soissons), in the 12th century at the request of Bishop Barthélémy de Jur, a noble figure and remarkable founder of abbeys. On 23rd May 1134, Saint Bernard sent a group of monks from his community at Clairvaux to the new establishment in the Ailette Valley, to which he gave the name Vauclair (Vallis clara) the same as that of the mother-house (Clara vallis). Both abbeys are located in valleys running East-West in order to enjoy daylight all day long. Vauclair Abbey rapidly prospered. Several lords of the region, including Gérard Enfant et Gautier, comte de Roucy, as well as his wife Ermengarde, numbered among the Abbey's early benefactors. Another was Barthélémy de Jur, Bishop of Laon, who confirmed its foundation in 1141. After the French Revolution, the Abbey was sold cheaply at auction to a marshal from Ardon, on 9th October 1791, and turned into a farm. It was listed in 1911 before being reduced to ruins in the offensive of April 1917. Completely abandoned and rapidly deteriorating, the mutilated remains of Vauclair Abbey appeared destined to become a total ruin, but in 1965, a Cistercian monk, Father Anselme Dimier, with the support of the Tourist Office for the département and the Department for Architecture and Archaeological Circumscription, began work to restore the church and bring the ruins back to life. In 1966, he met Father Courtois who decided to lead the archaeological digs at the site, with the help of around 200 volunteer European students working to enhance historical sites.
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