Crypte des bénédictines anglaises

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Following the schism of the English Catholic Church caused by Henry VIII, who couldn’t get the cancellation of his marriage, British Catholics will be subject of many persecutions, convents will be closed down, most destroyed, and priests prohibited to exercise. Thousands of English, Scottish and Irish Catholics will take refuge on the European continent, mostly in France and Belgium. The Benedictines, from Boulogne sur Mer, already in Ghent will settle in the capital of the French Vexin, Pontoise, in 1658.  

 Pontoise in the 17th Century 

The convent will expand to a large land unit. A few years later, King James II, first cousin of Louis XIV, is forced into exile and will be hosted in the Castle of Saint Germain in LAYE, where his court will settled down. The convent is then placed under the protection of the exiled king and benefits from significant financial support. 

The Benedictines supported the Jacobite cause, and one of them will become an intelligence agent for the King, under a pseudonym. Two natural daughters of the Kings Charles II (Barbara FITZ-ROY) and James II (Arabella FITZ-JAMES) will stay in the convent. In total, there will be 12 abbesses and about 130, in the convent, in addition to the lodgers.Headstone of Barbara Fitz-Roy, currently in Saint Maclou Cathedral, Pontoise.

However, the convent will go bankrupt and be closed in 1784. Then, it will be sold as national property during the Revolution, and the Church will be destroyed around this time. The nuns will return to the British Isles at this time.

The buildings were awarded in 1791, and resold, then dispersed in many lots that make up a district of Pontoise. Then they were further divided into co-ownership lots.  

Headstone of Barbara Fitz-Roy, currently in Saint Maclou's Cathedral in Pontoise

   Announcement of the Convent auction (1791)

The places have fallen into oblivion for almost 250 years. As far as we know, only two historical studies have been conducted : an article in the "Herald and Genealogist" in 1866 and a pamphlet analyzing the sources in 1998, aside from many university studies on Catholic women exiled from English, Irish, Scottish American and French Universities. 

The abbey benefits from exceptional documentation: 

 - The register of the Convent recording the identity, the dates of entry of the nuns and important events, repatriated and currently held in an English convent.  

- The very complete inventory of the furnitures established during the closing. 

- The precise description of all the buildings, made for the auction. 

There are only two testimonies of the passage of Benedictines on the European continent, a Convent in Paris and the one in Pontoise. All other British abbeys (Brussels, Ghent, Boulogne sur Mer ...) have totally disappeared.

Today, about half of the original buildings remains, and the disappeared buildings were mostly work rooms (wash house, cowshed, barn, warehouse).  


The Porch


The parlor



The pensioner


The pharmacy

The cloister, restored 25 years ago

The remains of the church, partially destroyed during the Revolution, were put out of water.


We finally came to discover the crypt that was filled and walled since the Revolution and forgotten. The second staircase, completely buried, has also been cleared up. 

The entrance to the crypt

40 tons of land, rubble, roots were clearedup. The second staircase was only revealed in 2019.  

We know that the crypt has hosted relics, including Saint Adrian’s. If the walls are in good condition and require only a light restoration, the four vaults of Romanesque edges are very damaged, one is disassociated, and all will have to be rebuilt, and entail major restoration works by skilled stonemasons. A break would result in the collapse of the entire building.  

It was only after two years that a company was finally chosen because of its qualifications.  

Previously, the extrados had to be cleared, and in particular, with the extremely careful removal of a concrete slab. This second release of another 40 tons of rubble made it possible to discover what was surely the baptistery. Among the discoveries,  the vault of the Duchess of Berwick was found in the Church.

The supposed baptistery  

The project consist in restoring the crypt and open it up to the public for concerts and exhibitions.  

The cost of the work for a complete restoration of the crypt will be more than 50.000 €. The owners do not benefit from any subsidy, the places being neither registered nor classified as historical monuments, and that is for a good reason, since no one knew about their existence anymore, before their discovery three years ago ...  

The steps of the renovations, apart from the clearing work already carried out, will consist in : 

Minimal objective: to raise 10 000 € to contribute to the recovery of the vaults. 

Second step : if 20 000 € are reached, we will also be able to redo the grounds of the crypt.  

And finally, the third tier at 30 000€ will allow us a complete achievement. 


The owners will finance the project on their own funds but benefit from the support of the association "Grace-Dieu Abbey Heritage", which aims to help restore the buildings of the Abbey and is planning for an event for the 350 years of construction of the Convent in 2022. 

Composed of residents and friends, impressed by the discovery and scope of work, the association was formed to support the preservation of this historical and unique building.


You can support this project: 

- by making a donation online with credit card on this page, after registration on the Dartagnans website 

- by making a bank transfer after registration on the Dartagnans website  

- by sending a check, on the back of which you will include your e-mail address, addressed to “Grace Dieu Abbey”sent to the following address: 


Campagne Crypte of Grâce Dieu Abbey, 

Couvent des Bénédictines anglaises de Pontoise.
15 rue de Milan
75009 PARIS


[email protected]


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The 350 years anniversary of the construction of the Convent event.
Previous meetings and invitation to the 350 years anniversary of the construction of the Convent.
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