Religious Buildings in France

  • Abbaye de Noirlac, BRUERE ALLICHAMPS

    Abbaye de Noirlac, BRUERE ALLICHAMPS

    © ATOUT FRANCE/CRT Centre - Val de Loire/P. Duriez

Religious Buildings in France

Monasteries, abbeys, cathedrals, churches, chapels, France has a rich heritage of religious buildings.

The monastery is an establishment in which the members of a religious order lived. The abbey, abbey church, cloister, priory, commandery, charterhouse, convent, hermitage and chapter house are all part of the monastery.

The abbey is a monastery run by an abbot or abbess. In the 11th to 12th century, nearly a hundred magnificent abbeys proliferated in France according to the founding model of the Cistercian movement: Silvacane (Bouches-du-Rhône), Senanque (Vaucluse), Pontigny (Yonne), Noirlac (Cher), Longpont (Aisne), Le Thoronet (Var), Fontenay (Côte-d'Or), L'Epau (Sarthe) are some of the jewels among them.

The cathedral is the episcopal church of a diocese run by a bishop. The cathedrals of Chartres, Reims and Paris are some of the masterpieces of France's Gothic religious heritage. Romanesque Poitiers, Red Albi and contemporary Evry are also remarkable cathedrals.

The basilica is a title conferred by the pope on certain religious buildings, such as at Saint-Denis and in Lourdes.

The church is a generic term for a building devoted to worship in the Christian religion. It may be an abbey church, a collegiate church, a convent church, a parish church, with a presbytery and a cemetery.

The chapel, smaller, is a church that does not have the rank of parish. This term, within the church, is also used to designate apsidal chapels that contain an altar.

These multiple and complex names give a sense of religious and architectural history in France.