Port Royal Abbey in Paris

Port Royal Abbey in Paris

Port Royal is a not just an abbey, nor a mere piece of 17th century architecture, it’s a window on History. On the history of religion and philosophy. There is something weird about this cloister. It’s hard to say it’s one of the most beautiful pieces of religious architecture I’ve ever seen. In fact it’s probably one of the plainest buildings ever. It looks linear, unimaginative, very boring in fact. As it happens, I can hardly understand why I find this place so attractive. Maybe it’s its secrecy.

Port Royal Abbey in Paris
Port Royal Abbey in Paris was built in the 17th century

Some explanations about the Abbey of Port Royal

The Hôtel de Clagny was remodelled around 1626 to accommodate the Cistercian convent of Port-Royal and thus offer more space to the mother house of Port-Royal des Champs in Magny-les-Hameaux in the Chevreuse Valley. The chapel was built between 1646 and 1647, according to the plans of the architect Antoine Lepautre. The cloister was built between 1652 and 1655. Source

One keeps criticising Wikipedia for its supposed lack of quality and scientific value but I tend to, most of the time, disagree with that. Of course, one must compare and cross-check its information, but standard encyclopaedias aren’t immune to half-truths.  Hats off to the learned people who carefully maintain that cyclopaedia. Reader, do not forget to send them a penny to support their work and preserve this unique piece of knowledge put to the disposal of all Internet users.

Port Royal Abbey
Nurses from the neighbouring Baudeloque maternity hospital come here for lunch. I’ve seen worst places.

Entering the cloister isn’t easy. It’s concealed in the heart of a maternity hospital and the entrance is well hidden. In fact, it’s not open to the public. One has to sneak in and there you find yourself on your own in this place, far from the madding crowd, even though you’re only a stone’s throw from lively Montparnasse.

I love that garden, each time I go there, I enjoy this sense of peace and quiet.

Port Royal Abbey
A wee sketch of the cloister I drew one Summer. Winter pictures are conducive to Black and White, but the vivid colours of flowers are pleasant too.


From that angle one can catch a glimpse of the chapel (1646-1647): In the seventeenth century it took people a little more than one year to build such a large building, how long would it take today? I’m not always impressed with the modern world.

The building isn’t very well maintained, to say the least. But it makes for beautiful photography.

Now this place is nothing but peace and quiet. In the the 17th century it was at the centre of a harsh religious feud between reformers (Jansenists) and the Church. The philosopher Blaise Pascal was one of them. The painter Philippe de Champaigne (whose daughter was miraculously cured there) too. It’s a place of History and beauty. Do not forget to push that hidden door if you are in the vicinity of Port Royal.

Port Royal in the fields Abbey
To finish this post, here’s a last glimpse at the original Abbey of Port Royal in the fields.
Yann Gourvennec
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