On 21 November 1852 eight religious of Vaise, Lyon, established themselves at the entrance of the town Espira-de-l’Agly, by Rivesaltes (P.O.), under the leadership of R.M. Marie-Louise (Elisa Alday), prioress, and M. Ephrem, her sister (Thérèse Alday), sub-prioress. Their uncle, M. Ferrer-Maurell, in his testament, had given his house and his property to build a Cistercian monastery, in memory of his two children, P. M. Ephrem and M. M. Ephrem, who died in the odor of sanctity, one at la Trappe d’Aiguebelle, the other at Vaise.
With the approbation of Mgr Saunhac Belcastel, bishop of Perpignan, and of Dom M. Joseph, abbot of la Grande Trappe and Vicar General, the monastery was founded under the title N.D. des Anges (Our Lady of the Angels). The vast monastery, perfectly regular, was blessed and canonically erected on 13 November 1860, by Mgr Philippe Gerbert, bishop of Perpignan, in the presence of Dom Timothée, Vicar General of the Grande Trappe and Father Immediate of the community, who, as chaplain since 1853, had been devoted to the project.
Erection as a priory 13 November 1860 by Mgr Gerbert, bishop of Perpignan.
The dedication of the church took place 29 November 1883; His Eminence cardinal Desprez was the consecrating prelate. On 21 December 1896 Dom Augustin, abbot of Grâce-Dieu, received his abbatial blessing there.
In 1904, the community was plundered. On 10 July 1904, the official journal announced that the establishment of Cistercians at Espira-de-l’Agly would have to be closed the following 1 October. Without losing time they sought refuge nearby at the Spanish border and the bulk of the community went there in successive groups. On 13 September the liquidator took an inventory of the goods of the monastery. R.M. Benoit protested energetically, and he had to use a plowshare to force the door and penetrate into the cloister.
On 4 October the mayor of Espira, accompanied by the police, came himself to expel by force the last Trappist nuns, since the population crowded around and shouted protests against such an act.
At first they took refuge at Alella, in the diocese of Barcelona, but on the advice of their Father Immediate, they moved to Herrera, an ancient Cistercian abbey which had been partly destroyed in the revolution of 1835. There, in spite of great poverty, they lived from 1905 to 1923, under the government of Rev. Mothers Benoit, Noël, Ephrem, and Camille. His Eminence the archbishop of Burgos visited the community with benevolence and presided at clothings and professions.
Nevertheless they wanted to return to France and since it was impossible to repossess the monastery of Espira de l’Agly, they accepted the offer of an ancient abbey of the Order situated in the territory of the Double, in the diocese of Périgueux. It had been founded in 1868 by a colony of Trappists coming from Port-du-Salut. Despite the decaying state of the buildings, the repatriates took it in possession on 20 July 1923 with the approbation of His Eminence Mgr Mégasse, bishop of Périgueux, and Dom André Mallet, abbot of Ste Marie du Désert, their Father Immediate.
On 30 October 1941 and on 12 September 1945, 20 religious of Igny came to join the community of Echourgnac; of this number, 16 made their stability there.
1952 was the centenary of the foundation.