The abbey of Saint-Maixent l’école is at the origin of the birth and development of the town. Built in Romanesque style, enlarged during the Gothic and neo-Gothic periods, its appearance is a privileged witness to its tumultuous history.
In 459, a monk named Agapit created a religious community where he was joined by Adjutor who later became Maixent. Maixent became abbot and met Clovis who promised him protection and entrusted him with land. A small city then developed around the community. From his death, Maixent is venerated as a saint.
In 653, Léger was appointed abbot of the monastery, and the abbey continued to develop. In the 9th century when the Normans invaded the area, the monks left the place with the relics of Saint Maixent and Saint Léger. They returned the following century and began rebuilding the site.
It was during this period that the town was fortified. A troubled period followed for the abbey. An earthquake and a series of fires ravaged the abbey, and a reconstruction was ordered.
A royal abbey
At the beginning of the 13th century, King Philip Augustus declared the monastery a royal abbey. In the 14th century, the monastery buildings were remodelled.
In the region, Catholics and Protestants lived side by side, the Wars of Religion raged and left their mark. In 1568, the Protestants destroyed a large part of the abbey church.It was not until 1634, and the arrival of the Benedictine congregation of Saint-Maur to see the abbey rise again from its ashes.
A long period of work began, lasting 80 years. The framework of the bell tower, the enclosure walls and a pavilion were rebuilt, followed by the south wall.
Decline and rebirth
Following the Revolution, the monastery entered a long period of decline. From 1794 to 1808, the site was used as a hospital for the Republican army. In 1809, the Ministry of the Interior became the owners of the buildings and a charitable establishment was set up: work was undertaken and the first beggars were admitted in 1811. The costs of running the charitable establishment was deemed too high and it was abolished in 1823. A year later, the diocesan school of the bishopric of Poitiers moved in and in 1825, a new sacristy was built.
Due to a lack of students, the diocesan school closed and the site was sold. In 1861, the town obtained its lease in exchange for the establishment of an infantry depot : numerous units followed. Finally, in 1877, the 114th Infantry Regiment moved to the site: in 1886, the abbey was renamed Canclaux Barracks.
From 1923 to 2009, the buildings of the former abbey were used for military training. In 2010, the barracks closed for good and the buildings were bought by the town in 2011.