Built in the twelfth century, Lahonce Abbey is one of the oldest in the region. Although the building has undergone a great deal of destruction and alteration, it has been the subject of restoration and preservation work.
A historical legacy
The abbey was built in 1164 on lands ceded by Bertrand, viscount of Labourd, by the Premonstratensian canons who preached the good word in Euskara. “Our Lady of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary” is one of the first steps in evangelization in the Basque Country.
The Premonstratensian canons had the mission of Christianizing the Basque Country, in the Basque language. From Lahonce, they extended their influence and presence to Spain. This establishment of the order was marked by the creation of chapels, relays and abbeys (Urdax) around which they organized agricultural life and economic exchanges.
Our Lady of Lahonce is marked by the wounds or events of history: invasions and looting English, wars with Spain, visit the Spanish and French courts under Catherine de Medici. The period of the French Revolution left traces of its excesses … During the Napoleonic wars (battle of Saint-Pierre d’Irube), the buildings served the English field hospital.
After nine centuries, with a heritage rich in history, the abbey appears as the oldest and the only Romanesque church – in its entirety – of our region. It remains a parish relay of the cure Nive Adour.
The Romanesque chapel and its treasures
Today the building has lost its splendor of yesteryear, but there is still the chapel, became parish church and the buildings leaned against the nave color overlooking the Adour. These remains remind us of the Romanesque period. The unique apse, for example, or the cornice with carved modillions and finally the checkered entablature. This unique long nave church is witness to the medieval past of the abbey. Only three sides remain of the contours of the cloister. The conventual building, a side wall of annexed actiennes and the abbey.
It became property of the church after the Revolution and parish church of Lahonce in 1802. Listed as a historic monument since 1925, the church of Lahonce holds wealth accumulated over time. One of its bells, dating from the end of the 14th century, is decorated with Christ on the cross and two haloed figures. There is also a statue of the Virgin in majesty of the fifteenth century, a painting of the St. Michael the Archangel of the sixteenth century, an altarpiece of St. Michael slaying the dragon, etc. Finally, a beautiful collection of very old discoid stelae that the Lauburu association has inventoried and sealed around the church as is done in the Basque tradition.
This project involved both the exterior and interior of the abbey and also included the redevelopment of the cloister and the surroundings of the building. This renovation was intended to enhance the monument and these surroundings. Regarding the interior of the building that constitutes the church, it was a restitution of the interior decorations, challenge of size because the building was marked by many decorative styles throughout the centuries. We thus found the original stone, and restored the movable objects as well as the windows and decorations of the choir dating from the XVIIIe century.
In addition, in order to create a rich historical atmosphere, work has been done at the garden level, to try a partial reconstruction of the cloister on the basis of the ruins of the abbey. This allowed to create a landscape perspective on the banks of the Adour as well as an educational trail that traces the history of the abbey. As for the collection of stelae, the time having done its work, some have been damaged, so they were set up under the new cloister, sheltered from bad weather.
The restoration works amount to about 800,000 euros. The County Council, the State via the Region, the DRAC and the Heritage Foundation will participate through grants. They started at the end of 2015 and have made good progress thanks to the mild weather conditions of the winter 2015. Work was completed at the end of summer 2017, the church, which was closed for almost a year, reopened at Christmas 2016.
In order to revitalize the village and make the abbey known to the Lahonçais but also to a wider public, the town and the Friends of the Abbey of Lahonce organize each year a Medieval Day as part of the celebration of Heritage Days. A festive and cultural event that allowed us to discover the Abbey and to promote the restoration of monuments.
All that remains now is the arrangements for the creation of a new sacristy, as well as the cloister and the convent courtyard. The restoration of some furniture is still under study.
The association of Friends of the abbey now offers visits to the place in its almost all (pending some changes). These tours are free and are intended for all types of audiences. The association invites to discover the abbey as a trip to the Middle Ages by putting its exceptional building in value.
To renovate the Abbey of Lahonce is to affirm the desire to restore its history and to emphasize the essential role it has played in regional history.
If you join this project to save this unique Roman testimony to the Basque Country, you can help the municipality of Lahonce and the Friends of the Abbey in the restoration work through a donation or a subscription.
Support modalities: call for donations
To support the municipality of Lahonce and the association of the Friends of the Abbey in its action of restoration and safeguard you will be able – and we thank you for it in advance -, make a donation by:
> Mail: by sending a check made out to the order of the Friends of the Abbey of Lahonce accompanied by your details. The mail will be addressed to the Association of Friends of the Abbey of Lahonce – c / o Mayor of Lahonce – Place Louis Laffargue – 64990 Lahonce
> Payment of account to bank account: to make your donation from France or abroad, thank you to use the secure bank details of the account of the Association in charge of the recovery of the participations:
Name: Friends of Lahonce Abbey
Domiciliation: Crédit Agricole Saint Pierre d’Irube
IBAN: FR76 1690 6100 1251 0792 9191 031
The association of the Friends of the Abbey recognized of public utility for any financial support, we will return you a tax receipt allowing you to profit from the legal tax deductions.
For individuals, your donation entitles you to a reduction in income tax of 66% of the donation and up to a limit of 20% of taxable income. A donation of 100 euros = 66 euros of tax savings.
For companies, corporate tax reduction of 60% of the donation and within the limit of 0.5% of turnover HR. A donation of 500 euros = 300 euros of tax savings.
For more information here are the links:
From the Town Hall of Lahonce: www.lahonce.fr
Friends of the Abbey of Lahonce: lesamisdelabbaye.fr