Text and act of sale by André Buffet
Translation by Katherine Bourguignon
Photography and Layout by Jean-Michel Peers
Color postcard from the Terra Foundation for American Art
THE MacMONNIES FAMILY
Frederick William MacMonnies (1863-1937), sculptor, married Mary Fairchild (1858-1946) in 1880.
They arrived at the Hôtel Baudy in 1890 like so many artists. They did not stay long, and when
they returned to the village for three successive summers (1894 to 1896), they lived in the
Villa Bêsche, a house that no longer exists, just near the Maison Bleue.
Postcard from the 1960s
In 1900 Frederick MacMonnies purchased the Priory of Giverny and restored it. His friends jokingly
referred to it as the Macmonastery. MacMonnies lived a long time in Giverny as did other artists:
Rose, Butler, and Young. He gave up sculpture for a time in late 1890 and focused on painting.
The Priory was a large and spacious property, but he needed more space to create a large painting
studio. In 1903, he purchased a barn from one of his neighbors, rue du Bocquet.
He set up his studio there, created a school of painting and helped numerous artists
by offering them hospitality in his beautiful home. His wife, Mary Fairchild
had studied at the Academie Julian then with Carolus-Duran; she exhibited
in France and the United States and was a well-known artist.
When war broke out, Mr. MacMonnies and Madame Cenac, owner of the Gardenia located just a few steps
from the Priory, decided to create hospital spaces in their properties, respectively, 10 and
4 beds for the wounded (as recorded by a city council decision on October 17, 1914).
At the same time, American artists Hart, Butler and Ritman made donations for the soldiers.
During the inter-war period, the Priory (which was named “Le Moutier” at this time) was the
residence of Berthe Helene MacMonnies, eldest daughter of Frederick and Mary, born in 1895.
The current owners shared with us a rare photograph of the Moutier from the 1930s.
THE MOUTIER IN THE PAST…
Moutier is the old form of “monastery”. This historic property was in fact a farm that belonged to
the Saint-Ouen Abbey in Rouen. The Benedictine monks lived according to the rules of Saint Benoit
of Nursie. They were self-sufficient, with agriculture, fish-breeding and animal-breeding.
A well-organized congregation, the monks had created a pond to breed fish just
a few feet from their farm, along the Ru of Giverny. Breeding fish assured a
regular production. Today one can find some remains of this practice.
THE MONKS’ FISH-BREEDING
(With the kind authorization of Mr. Trouvé)
At the bottom of the rue de la Dime, near the washhouse of the Petite Arche, on the left bank of
the Ru, one can see the surrounding wall of the fish-breeding pond of the Moutier. Today there
is no longer breeding but the pond is still filled by the canal that skirts around the house
built in the last century between the Ru and the fish-breeding pond.
On the east side, the surrounding wall preserves the ruins of a building, perhaps a chapel to
allow the monks to gather. The foundations form the arc of a circle and what must have been
a small bell tower leads us to believe, indeed, that this was a religious building. But
there is no confirmation of this, to our knowledge. In any case, the bell served to
call the monks who worked in the neighboring fields, part of the congregation’s
property. One entered beneath the arcade by a vaulted doorway that is now walled-up.
A LITTLE HISTORY
The following paragraphs are a compilation of texts and information obtained mostly on the
internet. The references that allowed me to offer this resume are the following:
Dom Pommeraye Jean-François: History of the Royal Abbey Saint-Ouen of Rouen
Delisle Léopold: Public Revenues in Normandy in the XIIth century
Feuilloley Marc: The management of Ecclesiastical Seigneury in light of the
accounting registers of the Abbey of Saint-Ouen.
CNRS: Norman register of the XIIIth century: The book of oaths of Saint-Ouen.
Departmental Archives of the Seine-Maritime
The Royal Abbey of Saint-Ouen of Rouen was a Benedictine monastery
that was very powerful in Normandy.
(Illustrations taken from “Histoire de l’Abbaye Royale de Saint-Ouen,” by Dom Pommeraye,
with the kind permission of Mr. Christophe Marcia, bookseller, 94520 Périgny)
Everything began in the Merovingian era when, in 553, a convent dedicated to St. Peter was founded.
Dadon also known as Ouen (609 to 684) was arch-bishop of Rouen and was buried in the Merovingian
basilica built on the site that would become a Benedictine monastery in the Carolingian era.
The religious monument would naturally be named the Abbey of Saint-Ouen.
The holy man had numerous religious buildings built: his devotion and his faith strengthened
Catholicism in our region. He founded the priory of Saint-Nicaise in GASNY.
Richard II, Duke of Normandy from 996 to 1026, known as Richard the Good, cited Giverny among the
properties of the priory of Gasny in a charter in support of Saint-Ouen of Rouen.
Statue of Richard II in Falaise (Calvados)
CHARTERS AND CHARTER BOOKS
The Book of Oaths of the Abbey of Saint-Ouen, established in 1291, included Giverny in the list of
properties of the Abbey of Saint-Ouen in Gasny. The nobility and the clergy understood very early
that the safeguarding of their properties, the recognition of their authority and therefore their
power, as well as the advantages that came from them, would only be guaranteed by the assertion of
their rights with the help of written documents, signed by influential witnesses whenever
possible. Since people did not live long during this period, oral pacts were not reliable,
especially since the spoken word was sometimes doubted. And so charters were created, written on
rolled parchment, certified by noteworthy people with wax seals asserting the authenticity of the
documents. During the High Middle Ages, these precious writings were kept in religious communities.
The invasions that followed one after the other led to the destruction of the Abbeys, and therefore
to the dispersal of its inhabitants and of the archives that had long been assembled and stored
there. The loss of this patrimony is enormous. During the XIth century monks who had returned to
their ruined abbeys reassembled, organized and signed different charters pertaining to a fief or
territory in one or several volumes: these “cartulaires” or charter books are copies of the
original texts that have the advantage of being easier to refer to than an individual
charter and without the risk of damage to the original.
However the monks did not have all the answers and sometimes errors of interpretation slipped into
the transcription of the originals. Sometimes the writings came from memory, and facts presented
are often altered. The charter books are nonetheless important elements for the knowledge of laws,
customs and families in the Middle Ages and are the only documents that allow for an understanding
of the origin of properties, their transmission and the chronology of their filiations.
I offer a few excerpts from this Charter Book (in collaboration with François Suzé)
14H819 – Donation to the abbey by Eudes Havart, for the redemption of his errors, of 20 payments of
annual income on his Cossé mill; September 30, 1228
- Sale to the Abbey by Guillaume Ameline and Marie, his wife, for 2 pints of wheat, of a
parcel of vineyard in Giverny, in the fiefdom of the monks, to whom the stated parcel of land owed
28 deniers of income and the sixth part of a capon; January 22, 1293
- Act of sale of half of a house and fishing rights on the site known as Tresle de Cossi in
Giverny, passed to the advantage of Claude Dubosc, winegrower; June 20-September 21, 1587.
- 14 pieces of parchment; 7 seals; 3 fragments of seals.
14H820 – Exchange between Robert Le Prévost, horseman and Agnes, his wife, and the monks of
Saint-Ouen of the Cossi mill against the rights and inheritance dependent on the provost-marshal
of Giverny; December 16, 1348.
Charters were procedures that vouched for the ownership of a good or a right. They were a title of
recognition or of use, of more or less importance, and they settled daily life questions for the
most noble or most humble. Confrontations were often severe and plaintiffs called upon the
High Court of Justice in Rouen.
- Renunciation of hunting rights.
- Abandonment of rights in the woods of the Abbey of Saint-Ouen.
- Minutes from a surveying.
- Auction of boundaries.
14H820 – Trial at Parliament in Rouen between Balthazar Poitevin, Abbot of Saint-Ouen, and the
inhabitants of Giverny on the one hand, and Nicolas Daniel, horseman, lawyer of the Grand Conseil,
on the subject of the exclusive use (‘banalité’) of the Cossi Mill; 1623-1626.
- Proceedings at Parliament in Rouen, at the request of the Abbot Charles de Clermont,
against Me Jacques Baudouin, priest of Giverny, for violent and excessive language spoken by
the latter in the wine-press and the church of Giverny; 1614.
14H822 – Trial between Charles de Clermont, Abbot, and the monks of Saint-Ouen on the one hand, and
Me Jacques Baudouin, priest of Giverny on the other hand on the subject of the congruent parcel of
land of the latter; 1609-1630. 4 pieces of parchment, 65 pieces of paper.
One will notice that “banalités” are common as early as the XI century. A “banalité” in feudal
rights is the right for a liege lord to require a vassal to make exclusive use of something he
owns; banalité of one or several mills, of fishing in the marshes, perhaps bread ovens if there
were any in Giverny. Tithes received by the clergy were numerous: hay, wine, pressing, without
counting the regular tithes.
- Proceedings on the subject of fishing in the marshes of Giverny; 1609-1622. On the subject
of the tithe of hay, wine and pressing of the provost-marshal in Giverny, 1532-1682.
Multiple payments are endured by the subjects of the fief; payments in goods, payments in money.
“The Duke deducted the ‘muaison’ in the territory of ‘Gani.’ Henri II had left to Richard of Vernon
the result of this right in the valley of Longueville.” L. Delisle 1850: Des Revenus Publics en
Normandie au douzième siècle.
The ‘champart’ is a seigniorial right with deduction from the harvest. It was paid in goods, in
proportion to the harvest, cereals in particular. It was also called ‘terrage.’ Going back to the
treatise in L. Delisle “That which in the Middle Ages gave a high value to the ownership of mills
also called factories, was, on the one hand, that competition did not exist and that each mill was
given the right to mill wheat consumed in certain houses or harvested on certain inherited land;
and, on the other hand, the upkeep and repair of mills was at least partially the responsibility,
not of the owner, but of the men forced to come mill there. Different quantities were required
depending on the sites, which varied from a 16th to a 19th of the wheat that one milled.
The right to mill wheat usually carried with it the right to bake bread.” Payments in money were
common and according to the sites and circumstances, were called
taxes, ‘cens,’ ‘ferme,’ ‘aide,’ ‘assise.’ The ‘fermages’ made up the primary source of revenue for
the Abbey. The tenancy agreements registered between the religious community and an individual
allowed the latter to make use of a property for a pre-determined price and time. In this way,
charters mentioned them in chronological order.
Excerpted from the treatise of “La Gestion d’une Seigneurie Ecclésiastique à la lumière des
registres comptables de l’Abbaye de Saint-Ouen” by Marc Feuilloley, I propose the image of a lease
established in 1724.
I recommend the reading of this work, so rich in information. You can download it for free HERE.
Then click “ouvrir.” Be patient, there are more than 36 pages and illustrations!
“To the primary incomes that were paid in money or in goods, small additional payments were usually
joined, known as ‘regards, respects, or droiture.’ They consisted of bread, eggs, poultry or
lambs.” One will notice that the Giverny mill was called “Cossé” in 928, “Sainte Radegonde” in
1275, “new mill” in 1291, and then the name “Cossi” appeared in 1348 and again in 1587.
Between 1275 and 1291, was the Sainte-Radegonde mill destroyed and rebuilt, or did ‘new mill’
designate a second mill? After which date was it named “Cossy?” On this subject, “permission is
given to the Abbey by Etienne de Merville, knight, and Emmeline, his wife, to build mills and
locks wherever the monks would like, on the Epte River…; 1214” Donations to the abbey were common.
It is true that the unfortunate parishioners, bullied on this land, had every interest in gaining
the benevolence of their lord, who would spare them… perhaps! I bring up the donation by
Simon de la Bove to the Abbey of a vineyard called Gode in Giverny… May 2, 1229.
A donation to the Abbey by Pierre Hardy, to participate in prayers, of several
parcels of vineyards situated in Gasny; February 14, 1297.