The Abbey of Saint Gildas des Bois !!

I have said, there is so much to see in my  belle France, will need a lifetime and I am afraid will run out short on them! We had a four day weekend with Ascension Day in France so always on the last minute ,what to do? I look up a map and saw there was a nice abbey in a town about 1h30 from us and we say let’s do it. First time there!!

I am updating text and links as we did paid a visit to the Abbey of Saint Gildas des Bois in neighboring town of Saint Gildas des Bois in the Loire Atlantique dept 44 of the Pays de la Loire region. (Old Bretagne )if you have read me,,, And of course, it was very nice and now time to tell you all about it, lol! Hope you enjoy it as I.


The town of Saint-Gildas-des-Bois is located  is located 17 km from Redon, 64 km from Vannes, and 59 km from Nantes. The neighbouring towns are Séverac, Missillac, Pontchâteau, Drefféac ,and Guenrouet. The emerging village of Saint-Gildas supplanted the town when Lord Simon I of La Roche, Lord of La Roche-Bernard, implanted a Benedictine Abbey in honor of Almighty God and Blessed Abbot Gildas, in 1026. The current name of the town comes from the pine forest which was planted under the reign of king Louis-Philippe I.  As its neighbors of the Nazi occupation in the hinterland, Saint-Gildas-des-Bois was caught at the end of WWII in the pocket of Saint-Nazaire, which earned it an extension of the Nazi occupation of 9 months more than the rest of the region or  from August 1944 to May 11, 1945.

A bit of history I like

The former Abbey of Saint-Gildas-des-Bois credit its foundation as a project in part  of a wider project of new wave of evangelisation, undertaken around the year 1000 by the Abbey of Cluny, then the spiritual capital of Europe. The founding of the Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Gildas-des-Bois dates from the beginning of the 11C. It is due to the will of the Abbot of Saint-Gildas of Rhuys (Rhuys peninsula Morbihan see post), who undertakes to evangelise the south of Brittany after years of turmoil linked to the invasions of the Vikings, by implanting monastic communities, destined to become the homes of   evangelical life. They appealed to the Abbey of Saint-Sauveur in Redon, whose Abbot detached in 1026 eight of his monks to form the first nucleus of the community, with at the head Helogon, who thus becomes the first Abbot of Saint-Gildas-des-Bois.

The need is felt to build a new church, worthy of the Saint that has come to be worshiped and large enough to accommodate the pilgrims. Thus, at the end of the 12C, the present Abbey Church was built, about 150 years after the founding of the monastery. It is, from its construction and up to the present day, one of the most remarkable religious monuments of the countryside region of Nantes by the unity of its style. At the beginning of the 15C was built the porch of the Capitular Hall, flanked by two loathed stained glass windows. It is in this room of the chapter that the Father Abbot gathers daily his monks, to read a chapter of the rule of St. Benedict or make decisions concerning the monastic life.

In 1492, the King of France Charles VIII, who has just married the Duchess Anne of Brittany, appoints an Abbot commendatory of Saint-Gildas, Jean Bohier. With him is established at the Abbey what is called “the beginning”: Henceforth, the Abbot is no longer elected by his monks and no longer resides in the Abbey. The monastery is placed under the responsibility of a prior, which is renewed every three years. This is where the decline of the abbey begins. It remained however until the French revolution, which abolished it in 1790. The monastic buildings, rebuilt in the 18C, were then redeemed by Abbot Gabriel Deshayes, founder of the Sisters of Christian Instruction, more known nowadays as the Sisters of Saint Gildas. See their official webpage :

In August 1944, the liberation armies were in the run on Nantes. It is then the pocket of Saint-Nazaire. On 12 August, Saint-Gildas-des-Bois underwent a double aerial bombardment. The stained glass windows in the lower parts are completely destroyed and, for lack of finances, replaced by Cathedral glasses of little aesthetic interest. Forty years later, in 2007, by the will of heritage lovers, fourteen of them are replaced by transparent monochrome Crystal stained glass windows depicting children. The whole project is designed by Pascal Convert; the artist wished to draw inspiration from the dedication of Saint-Gildas, invoked to heal the madness. From the national archives, he obtained photographs of children from the book “invention of hysteria”, by Georges Didi-Huberman, describing the practices carried out around hysteria at the Hospital of the Salpêtrière of the time of Charcot. The faces have been altered to represent the children with their eyes closed, in a situation of meditation. Thus were born the portraits appearing on the stained glass windows today!

A bit on its construction

The main façade is in the early times done with simple windows. The broken arch gate dates from the 12C, as is the square tower of the transept, pierced by two stained glass windows on each side. The nave, the transept and the choir date back to the end of the 12C and strike by their will to return to the count, well in the spirit of time that sees the rise of the Cistercian order, well present in Brittany, even if this is a Benedictine foundation. Above the bare wall, without span articulation, is pierced large stained glass windows in a broken arch. The choir consists of two straight spans completed by a three-sided apse. It is pierced by seven stained glass windows separated by engaged columns that support the vault. The choir is furnished with 36 oak stalls dating from the 17C. The old fencing of the monks bears the date of 1711. It was converted into an interior porch, during the transformation in 1840 of the old abbey church into a parish church. The wrought iron grille dates from the 18C. The altarpiece of Saint-Nicolas dates from 1725. The altarpiece of the Rosary dates from the early 18C.




The city of Saint Gildas des Bois on the abbey

The Pontchâteau-Saint Gildas des Bois tourist office on the abbey:

And there you folks, go see another wonderful historical and architecturally stunning monument of my belle France and very near me! Behold I visited a new place, not common lately as I am a born repeater but this ride was nice. For now enjoy the Abbey of Saint Gildas des Bois.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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