Saint Faith Abbey Church of Conques, Conques, Midi-Pyrenees, France 

Go up on the small eminence, the last escarpment of the Norman grove, from where the abbey looks at the plain of Bessin, with the green meadows and the pearly gray sky, that designate the arrows of the cathedral of Bayeux.

The hill is called Aë, in the Middle Ages. In the language of oil, it is water. The sources of the Mount of Aë supply the region: an aqueduct led its waters to the baths of Bayeux, which was found in 1870 remains of Gallo-Roman times. In the middle of the twelfth century, a priest named Turstin had retired to live as a hermit on this hill already called Mondée. As he was then, he is joined by disciples. Eager to establish an abbey, the local bishop, Jourdain du Hommet turned to the abbey of Lucerne Overseas, the diocese of Avranches. The abbot of Lucerne, Angost, sends a small colony of religious, around 1202, on the Mount of Aë that the Latin charters of the time was soon transformed into “Mons Dei”. Which means “mountain of God”.

The name is not stolen, no doubt, because thanks to the generosity of the Lord of Juaye and Bishop Jourdain, the first community, poor and fervent, turns the hill into a place of prayer and charity. The Premonstratensians of the Middle Ages are known for their charisma of hospitality – to the point that Louis XI, establishing a hospital in Paris, does not want to hear about other hospitable than the charitable Premonstratensians! Mondaye (this is the modern spelling of the place) is no exception to this rule. A leprosarium – of which there are still traces today – will work for a long time, maintained by the brothers.

The first known abbot is Roger de Juaye, who governs the abbey until 1215. It is he who presides over the insertion of the community into the family of the regular canons of Prémontré, with a life obedient to the Rule of Saint Augustine, the liturgy and customs used in the Order.

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