Marmoutier Abbey was founded by Saint Martin of Tours (316-397), circa 372, after he had been made Bishop of Tours in 371.
In 853 the original abbey was pillaged and destroyed by the Normans. Shortly after 1000 AD, the abbey grew to become one of the richest in Europe and after the Norman Conquest of England the abbey acquired patronage of English churches. During this century the abbey came under the influence of the Counts of Blois and was later badly damaged by the Count of Anjou, Geoffrey the Bearded .
After being kicked out of Rome in 1162 Pope Alexandra III established himself in Tours and consecrated the monastery’s new Chapel to Saint Benoit.
The abbey was completely rebuilt at the start of the thirteenth century by the Abbot Hugues des Roches. At that time there were more than one hundred priories dependent on the Abbey. The abbey church was replaced in 1214 by another basilica completed only at the end of the thirteenth century. In 1562, at the start of the Wars of Religion. it was pillaged by Protestant Huguenots.
The abbey was disestablished in 1799 during the French Revolution the abbey was sold off and most of its buildings were subsequently demolished. Some buildings do remain and part of its grounds house a private school.
The abbey was in the news in 2010 when the artist Michel Audiard created local uproar with the proposed creation of a huge statue (17m high x 40m long) of a naked women, La Femme Loire (see artist’s impression in the slideshow below).
For interesting information on the links between the abbey, St Martin and the famous Vouvray wines click here.