Father de Rancé worked for reform within his community of Soligny-la-Trappe. The name of the "Trappists" comes from this abbey.
The place called La Trappe (probably because of the traps that were set there for game) was the property of Rotrou III count of Perche.
In 1120, the sinking of a large vessel in which 300 English nobles perished, including Mathilde, daughter of the King of England and wife of Rotrou, led the latter to erect an oratory at La Trappe (in the diocese of Séez) dedicated to the Virgin, as a memorial to the maritime disaster.
A few years later, in 1140, Rotrou added a monastery to this oratory, calling for monks from Breuil-Benoît, near Dreux. This is how the first community of La Trappe was born. Seven years later, with the entire Savigny congregation of which she was a part, she joined the Order of Cîteaux.
After a century of prosperity came the Hundred Years War, which devastated this land on the borders between Normandy and Perche where English and French armies clashed.
For the first time, the brothers had to abandon their monastery to find refuge in the fortified castle of Bonsmoulins. The monastery was partly burned and looted in 1376 and 1465.
The Hundred Years War ended and the abbey was rebuilt, yet La Trappe was in some way undermined from the inside by a royal arrangement which affected the monastery under the commandment regime. The commendatory system provided that the commendatory abbot, a clerk outside the community who was appointed by the royal power based on political intrigue, appropriated the benefits of the monks' work without the slightest concern for the Rule or for Cistercian values. The ruin, both material and moral, not to say spiritual, ended in 1662 when Armand-Jean Le Bouthillier de Rancé (1626-1700), godson of Richelieu, abbot of court who had inherited the order of La Trappe, appeared. Rancé retired there to finally join the community of which he became the regular abbot. He led an austerity reform there which has remained famous for having been at the origin of the Order of the "Trappists."
The Revolution of 1789 dispersed some of the monks. About twenty of them under the direction of Dom Augustin de Lestrange went into exile in Switzerland in the old Charterhouse of Valsainte. It is thanks to these monks from La Trappe, in the meantime joined by many postulants, that Cistercian monastic life developed in Europe and America. The community of La Trappe therefore never ceased to exist, but when the exiles finally joined La Trappe in 1815, it was nothing but a heap of ruins.
The monastery was then rebuilt on the previous site and the community of monks has never ceased to pray and work there.
With the birth of the Trappist movement, the abbey of La Trappe, in Soligny in the Orne, was visited by Father Dom Dominique Georges, superior and vicar general of L'Etroite Observance, on November 16, 1685. During this visit, he was received by Father De Rancé.
A testimony of this visit appears in the work "The life of the Very Reverend Father Jean Armand le Boutillier de Rancé ...," by Pierre de Maupéou (published in 1702).
One can indeed find in this work a report drawn up on November 16, 1685 by the Father Dom Dominique GEORGES, abbot of Val-Richer, stipulating that:
"... at the end of the garden, furious a brook coming from the ponds, there is a brewery to make beer."
We are also informed that:
"A Master beer-brewer from the town of Caën then worked at La Trappe on a brewery; its necessity and the needs of the Religious, not happy with cider, obliged M. de la Trappe to have it done."
Finally, in his work "History of Abbot De Rancé and his reform," published in 1866, the abbot DUBOIS tells us that:
"Everything that the Abbot de Rancé did for his monastery, sufficiently showed how much he hoped that Providence would support him. Three years earlier, seeing that cider inconvenienced a certain number of religious who were not accustomed to it, and that this drink was lacking in a few years, for fear that one might think of returning to the wine he had cut off, he preferred beer, and built a brewery."