The Middle Ages
In around 1010, Geoffroy, Lord of Sablé, gave the monks of the Abbey of La Couture in Le Mans the church of Solesmes and its attached farm, thus creating our monastery. We have a 15th-century copy of the charter solemnly attesting to Geoffroy’s gift. This charter was signed by the bishops of Le Mans and Angers and later by William the Conqueror, King of England. We read this charter every year on 12 October, which according to oral tradition is the anniversary of the dedication of our abbey church.
Before the monastery was founded, there was a parish in Solesmes. It may have been established in the 5th century, but more likely goes back to the 6th or 7th centuries. The parish church was surrounded by a huge cemetery. Sarcophaguses that may go back to the Merovingian period are still preserved here.
During the 12th century, a lord of Sablé who had been on the crusades brought back from the Holy Land a thorn from Christ's crown of thorns and entrusted it to Solesmes for safe keeping. The presence of this relic, which is an insignia of the Lord's passion, was to prove decisive for the monastery's history. It is not by coincidence that it appears in the centre of the monastery's coat of arms. The relic drew crowds and ensured the monastery's fame and prosperity.
This prosperity was upset by the Hundred Years' War: in 1425 the monastery was burnt down by the English and the village destroyed. Although the monks rebuilt their church, they did so on a more modest scale than their first building: the side aisles and first bay of the nave disappeared. The current façade of our abbey church dates back to this reconstruction.