The Abbey of Vaucelles is located 13km from Cambrai, in the Nord department of France. It has been working on its CCR project for several years.
THE HERITAGE SITE
This Cistercian abbey in the valley of Haut-Escaut was founded by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux in 1132. The monks’ quarters were completed in 1170, while the construction of the vast abbey church was undertaken between 1190 and 1235. The abbey housed the largest of all the Cistercian chapter houses and a sizeable scriptorium, reflecting the significance of a community which in the 13th century numbered over 200 monks. During the Hundred Years’ War the abbey was enclosed with a wall, and in the 18th century the Abbot’s Palace was added.
At the time of the French Revolution, the monastic occupation of the abbey came to an end and it was partly demolished for its stone. Its remains were later used for various agricultural and industrial purposes. The only parts of the site which remain today are the 12th-century monks’ quarters and the 18th-century Abbot’s Palace, which are now protected and classed as Historic Monuments. The abbey was acquired by the Département du Nord in 2017.
THE CULTURAL PROJECT
In 1970 the abbey’s then owners, the Lagoutte family, began the restoration of the buildings, the park and the garden, and opened the site to the public.
The Département du Nord has continued with the project, taking a heritage and historical approach based on the concept of ‘Renaissances and Emergences’ and working with local organisations, businesses, cultural teams and charities, with the aim of giving the artistic and cultural project a real local presence.
In addition to the opening of the site from March to October and the hosting of receptions, Vaucelles Abbey organises events such as the International Orchid Exhibition and a Christmas Market. It also hosts concerts such as the Rameaux Festival and the festival ‘Les Musicales de Cambrai’, as well as welcoming visitors to its gardens and park. Themed guided tours of the abbey are regularly available – including theatre-based tours with students from Cambrai’s Conservatoire of Music and Theatre, and visits focusing on the history, natural environment or architecture of the abbey. There will also be a specialist educational offering for young audiences.
Finally, many activities which are inherent to the mission of the CCRs have already been developed, including live performance, festivals, promotion of heritage, and outreach work in the field of archaeology.