St Michael's Abbey, Farnborough

A grand church, with royal burials – and yet, few people seem to have heard of it!
   As a change from previous posts, here’s a nineteenth century foundation that is still an active monastery.
   Saint Michael's Abbey is a Benedictine abbey in Farnborough, Hampshire, England. After the fall of the Second French Empire in 1870, Napoleon III, his wife Empress Eugenie, and his son, were exiled. In 1871 they set up home in Chislehurst, in Kent. The Emperor died in 1873, and initially was buried in the local Catholic church. His son died in 1879 and Eugenie, who clearly was not short of money, decided that a more appropriate monument was required.
   She founded the abbey in 1881, as a burial place for her family. It was designed in a flamboyant gothic style by a distinguished French architect, Gabriel Destailleur, and includes a crypt where the emperor, her son and, ultimately, she would be buried. Queen Victoria provided impressive granite sarcophagi.
  The church contains the national shrine of St Joseph. A crowned statue of Joseph was moved here in 2008 from another location. It also has what is claimed to be a bone that is a relic of St Alban.
  A guided tour of the abbey is available on Saturday afternoons. Photography is not allowed inside, so indoor photographs are from elsewhere.

Napoleon III, Eugenie, and their son

Sarcophagus of Napoleon III in the crypt

Sarcophagus of Eugenie, over the crypt altar

Shrine of St Joseph

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