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Graville-Sainte-Honorine, an essential stopover on the road to the Normandy abbeys, is a true “haven of peace” and contemplation

Surrounded by trees and hedges where the landscaped gardens, laid out in terraces, are a great place to rest, read, daydream or meditate under the benevolent, protective gaze of the Black Virgin. Graville Abbey, backing onto the hill, looks towards the Seine estuary and port area of Le Havre, offering a superb panorama.

Nef de l'abbaye de Graville
La nef de l'abbaye de Graville au Havre

History of Graville Abbey

A hermitage in the 6th century, place of pilgrimage in the 9th century due to the temporary presence of the relics of Saint Honorine, which would later move to the city of Conflans.

In the 11th century, at the behest of Guillaume Malet de Graville, William the Conqueror’s companion, construction of the church in the Romanesque style began. The Gothic style would make its appearance during the reconstruction of the choir. Over the centuries, several orders succeeded one another at the head of the abbey: Benedictines, Augustinians and Genovefans (St Geneviève). In the 17th century, the latter were behind the magnificent baroque altarpiece placed in the choir of the church.

The cloister and refectory have disappeared, and only the church and monastery buildings (12th-18th centuries) remain, which have now become a museum.

They present a collection of medieval statuary that’s among the most beautiful in Normandy, as well as lapidary items, liturgical objects, paintings and engravings.

Original and fascinating is the Jules Gosselin collection, made up of 150 models showing the accommodation at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century.

Statues au coeur de l'abbaye de Graville
La collection de maquettes de maisons et édifices de l'abbaye de Graville

The Black Madonna

It’s 1870, the Prussians aren’t far from Le Havre. The Association of Christian Mothers vows to erect a statue to the Virgin in thanksgiving if the city is spared. Made in 1875, six metres high, its black colour comes from oxidation of the metal. Due to lack of sufficient funds, it could not be covered with a layer of silver. Too badly damaged during the 1944 bombings, a new statue, identical to the previous one, was cast and erected in the same place in the gardens in 1985. The head of the original work is kept in the museum.

Tête de la statue originale de la vierge noire de Graville

Graville Abbey Cemetery and the legend

Romantic and peaceful to say the least, the cemetery invites you to stroll in the shade of its large Lebanese cedar, to the small green theatre nearby. Among the tombs, most of them not very evocative, some of which bear epitaphs by Victor Hugo, one calls out to us. Here lies César Joseph Régnault. His life inspired the great writer to create the character of Jean Valjean in “Les Misérables“.

L'abbaye de Graville au Havre vue de nuit
L'abbaye de Graville au Havre vue de nuit

A merchant by trade, of good reputation, he was allegedly driven to suicide by press articles mentioning the threats of a blackmailer, ready to reveal this notable person’s past as a convict. The situation remains all the more mysterious because Victor Hugo was linked to the Vacquerie family from Le Havre and by chance, several roads refer to “Les Misérables”: “Impasse Cosette”, “Impasse Javert”, “Rue Fantine”, “Escalier Jean Valjean”.

Rue de l'AbbayeLE HAVRETel. 02 35 24 51 00 - 02 35 42 27 90E-mailWebsiteLearn more

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