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Madeleine_Kadot_de_Sebbeville_Abbesse_de_Montivilliers.JPGMontivilliers owes its prosperity and celebrity to its prestigious women’s abbey, a unique establishment amongst the many men’s abbeys in Normandy.
The former “Monasterii Villare”, which gave its name to the town, is amongst the greatest monastery establishments of the 7th century in the lower valley of the Seine.
It was there that Saint Philibert, founder of Jumièges, created a women’s monastery in 684 later destroyed by the Vikings and only rebuilt at the beginning of the 11th century.

A Norman female abbey
Thanks to the granting of the Charter of Exemption by the Duke of Normandy, Robert the Devil, which provided the abbey with its autonomy and its own means of existence, the construction of the main church started in the second half of the 11th century.
Throughout the Middle Ages the abbey enjoyed considerable prestige and contributed to the prosperity of Montivilliers, which reached its peak during the 16th century thanks to trades such as drapery and tanning, as well as the port and shipbuilding trade and banking.
From the 16th to the 17th century the abbey continued to enjoy great power and influence, notably under the abbess Louise de l’Hospital.
Monastery life ended here in 1792. The abbey became the headquarters of the district, and of the “Société Populaire”, and later a prison, and then a garrison. In the 19th century it housed a cotton mill, then a sugar refinery and finally a brewery. It took nearly 200 years, and a number of missed opportunities, to set up a project to restore the site to its original splendour as a major centre in the Normand monastic Normandy.