Founded in around 1085 by Viscount Archambaud III of Comborn, the Benedictine priory at Meymac was emancipated from Uzerche Abbey, to which it had previously been tied, and became an abbey in its own right in 1146. The community prospered thanks to the generosity of the Viscounts of Comborn, and later of Ventadour, and also thanks to pilgrimages made to visit the relics of Saint Léger.
Built between the beginning of the 12th and 13th centuries, the abbey church lies in the shape of a classic Latinate cross, nestled at the heart of the buildings. The upper church comprises an apse and two apsidioles and a bell tower is located above the portico entrance.
In around 1350, during the Hundred Years War, the abbey was plundered and burned to the ground. It would be three centuries before any restoration work would take place, with the arrival of the Benedictine monks from Saint Maur between 1669 and 1690. These monks were extremely devout.
Besides the church, almost all of the buildings you still see today come from the time of the restoration works. As you can see in this 17th century engraving, the monks probably planned to create a galleried cloister, but it was ultimately never built, while the hospice, added in 1681 to take in the destitute and deprived, is not depicted in this drawing.
The southern wing is where all of the living quarters were to be found, including the refectory and kitchen on the ground floor, and an infirmary, shared rooms and dormitories on the upper floors.
The east wing held the chapter house, where the monks gathered to makedecisions, as well as a dormitory, a library and a sacristy, where valuable objects of worship were kept.
The congregation was dispersed during the Revolution when the last of the monks left the abbey. The portico over the cloister was destroyed, as well as everything that made up the abbey enclosure.
Nowadays the abbey buildings belong to the local council, and are host to a contemporary arts centre, and a museum of archeology and cultural heritage.
The origins of Meymac date back to the foundation of its abbey. All that remains today of the old religious precinct are the abbey’s church and the adjoining monastic buildings. Watch this video to see the construction and its history.