Douai Abbey

Douai Abbey
Douai Abbey

Douai Abbey is located in Berkshire
Location within Berkshire
Monastery information
Established 1903
Coordinates 51°24′34″N 1°10′18″W / 51.40944°N 1.17167°W / 51.40944; -1.17167

Douai Abbey is a Benedictine Abbey at Woolhampton, near Thatcham, in the English county of Berkshire, situated within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth. Monks from the monastery of St. Edmund's, in Douai, France, came to Woolhampton in 1903 when the community left France as a result of anti-clerical legislation. The abbey church is a grade II* listed building, and the gatehouse, hall and three blocks of buildings are grade II listed.[1][2]



The community of St. Edmund was formed in Paris in 1615 by Dom Gabriel Gifford, later Archbishop of Rheims and primate of France. With his backing the community flourished. Expelled from Paris during the Revolution, the community took over the vacant buildings of the community of St Gregory's in Douai in 1818.

Waldeck-Rousseau's anti-clerical Law of Associations (1901), which "severely curbed the influence of religious orders in France" [3] led to the community being given the minor seminary of St. Mary in Woolhampton by Bishop Cahill of Portsmouth, moving from Douai to Woolhampton in 1903. The abbey church was opened in 1933 but only completed in 1993 due to financial constraints.

The monastery was greatly expanded in the 1960s with the building of the new monastery designed by Sir Frederick Gibberd. The abbey had in its charge Douai School until the latter's closure in 1999. In 2005, two monks returned to Douai, France to form a community there and restore the historic links to English monasticism.


The monastery and its community have traditionally maintained strong links to the Stuart dynasty and the Jacobite cause; with King James II of England buried in the monastery in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, near Paris (the community's home from the early 17th century till the French Revolution and the community's relocation to Douai in northern France), members of the House of Wittelsbach (present pretenders to the Jacobite claim) being educated at the community's former boarding school (at their present location), and the current abbot is a member of the Jacobite Society.


Currently the community numbers just under 30 monks, and new recruits are lacking. In April, 2007 a monk was ordained priest, the first priestly ordination for five years. The monks are spread over a number of works, with seven parishes in England, the small daughter house in Douai, France, and three monks in Rome including the current abbot of the ancient Benedictine community at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls. The community has strong links with Oxford and an admirable if discreet intellectual tradition. Most of the younger monks tend to manifest an allegiance to the orthodox reform within Catholicism, as typified by Pope Benedict XVI. The abbey's solemn liturgies at Christmas and Easter are always well-attended. The patron of the monastery is St Edmund King and Martyr, whose feast day is 20 November.


Because of its unique and marvellous acoustics, during March 1990, Douai Abbey was used as a location for British male vocal septet The Hilliard Ensemble´s recording of Italian renaissance composer Carlo Gesualdo´s liturgic responsory “Tenebrae”.


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