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Visiting Ourscamp Abbey ruins at Chiry-Ourscamp, France: destroyed at the French Revolution, but still impressive

Updated on December 17, 2012
Flag of France
Flag of France | Source
Ourscamp Abbey, Oise; ruins
Ourscamp Abbey, Oise; ruins | Source
Ourscamp Abbey ruins
Ourscamp Abbey ruins | Source
Map location of Oise department, France
Map location of Oise department, France | Source

Echoes of 13th century Gothic splendour

The French Revolutionaries decided that institutions such as Medieval abbeys were redundant. So when Revolutionaries came to the Abbey at Chiry-Ourscamp in 1792, they set to work at its destruction.

However, enough of the basic shell of the 13th century Gothic choir remained for it still to make an impressive sight.

Previously the Abbey was controlled for centuries by Cistercians (French: les Cisterciens ); another order is now in charge of the adjacent, habitable monastery buildings.

An original oratory foundation dated from the seventh century; the Abbey itself dated from 1129, founded by Bernard of Clairvaux (c.1090-1153) but it is from the 13th century that the extant choir ruins date. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the abbot's lodge, situated nearby, was given a Classical frontage, which may still be seen.

By the time of World War One, some of the surviving buildings were subjected to aerial bombardment by the Allies. (By the Allies?) The reason for this was that the Imperial German invading army decided to use the buildings as headquarters, and thus it was decided to unload bombs on Ourscamp using developing air power. An odd assortment of various régimes in France — the Orléans monarchy, the fascist, Vichy government and the Fifth Republic — have contributed to designating various parts of of the Abbey complex national monument status.

I must confess that my memories of Ourscamp are complicated by the fact that my visit coincided with a very hot day, which tended to concentrate my thoughts somewhat!

Chiry-Ourscamp is situated in the Oise Department (see map) of northern France's Picardy (French: Picardie ) region: one can thus see just how near to Paris the invading Imperial German army came during World War One; and this in any case shows just how, at the time, the respective armies had other things on their minds than the 13th century Gothic splendour.

December 7, 2012

Also worth seeing

Noyon (distance: 6.5 kilometres); the imposing Cathedral dates from the 12th and 13th centuries; the birthplace of John Calvin, 16th century French Protestant leader, is a museum.

Senlis (distance: 55 kilometres); its Cathedral has a huge, conspicuous 13th century spire.


How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York Newark to Paris (Aéroport Paris-Charles de Gaulle ; distance to Chiry-Ourscamp : 80 kilometres), from where car rental is available. Paris itself is at a distance of 102 kilometres from Chiry-Ourscamp . The French railroad company SNCF maintains a service between Paris Gare du Nord and Ourscamp , via Noyon. Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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