Top Historic Sights in Calais, France

Explore the historic highlights of Calais

Église Notre-Dame

Église Notre-Dame ('The Church of Our Lady') dates from the 12th century, and chiefly from the 14th century. It is a sample of Tudor architecture due Calais was part of England for centuries. The church was damaged during the early wars between France and England, especially in 1346-47, after the Battle of Crécy. Many of the kings and queens of France and England prayed here; and John Bourchier, 2n ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Calais, France

Calais Citadel

The Citadel of Calais was built between 1560 and 1571 on the site of a former medieval castle which was built in 1229 by Philippe de Hureprel. Its purpose of its construction was to fend off would-be invaders, but it wasn"t long until the city was successfully invaded by Archduke Albert of Austria on 24 April 1596. Both Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu at one time considered expanding the citadel and Calais into a g ...
Founded: 1560-1571 | Location: Calais, France

Calais Town Hall

One of Calais’ finest landmarks is the Town Hall (1911-25) whose clock towering belfry can be seen for miles around. This magnificent neo-Flemish-style structure built of brick and stone was finally completed in 1925 after being interrupted by The Great War. Its purpose was to commemorate the merging of the cities of Calais and Saint Pierre in 1885 on a piece of barren land between the two towns. Today it dominates ...
Founded: 1911-1925 | Location: Calais, France

Calais Lighthouse

Calais Lighthouse is a significant landmark as well as a navigational aid to ships and ferries using the Straits of Dover. There was a beacon at the summit of the watchtower from 1818. King Louis-Philippe in his plans to improve French ports decided the construction of a first-class lighthouse in Calais. This lighthouse started operating in 1848 and was electrified in 1883. After escaping the destruction of the Second Wor ...
Founded: 1848 | Location: Calais, France

Fort Risban

The existence of the Fort Risban was first mentioned when it was besieged by the English in November 1346. Edward III of England"s troops, finding the defences of Calais impenetrable, decided to erect a small fort to prevent any supplies reaching the town by sea, with a view to starving the inhabitants into submission. Under the English occupation the wooden tower was replaced by a stone structure, the Stone Tower, a ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Calais, France

The Burghers of Calais

Les Bourgeois de Calais is one of the most famous sculptures by Auguste Rodin, completed in 1889. It serves as a monument to an occurrence in 1347 during the Hundred Years" War, when Calais, an important French port on the English Channel, was under siege by the English for over a year. Calais commissioned Rodin to create the sculpture in 1884. The City of Calais had attempted to erect a statue of Eustache de Saint ...
Founded: 1889 | Location: Calais, France

Tour du Guet

The Tour du Guet is a 13th-century watchtower. It is 39 metres high and features a dovecote for carrier pigeons. The tower dates from 1214, when Philip I, Count of Boulogne built fortifications in the town. Damaged by a 1580 earthquake, it was used as alighthouse until 1848, when it became a watch tower. During World War I, it served as a military post.
Founded: 1214 | Location: Calais, France

Fort Nieulay

Fort Nieulay, located along the Avenue Pierre Coubertin, was originally dated to the 12th or 13th century. During the English invasion in 1346, sluices gates were added as water defences and a fort was built up around it in 1525 on the principle that the people of the fort could defend the town by flooding it. In April and May 1677, Louis XIV and Vauban visited Calais and ordered a complete rebuilding of Fort Nieulay. It ...
Founded: 1677-1679 | Location: Calais, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Lübeck Cathedral

Lübeck Cathedral is a large brick-built Lutheran cathedral in Lübeck, Germany and part of the Lübeck UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 1173 Henry the Lion founded the cathedral to serve the Diocese of Lübeck, after the transfer in 1160 of the bishop's seat from Oldenburg in Holstein under bishop Gerold. The then Romanesque cathedral was completed around 1230, but between 1266 and 1335 it was converted into a Gothic-style building with side-aisles raised to the same height as the main aisle.

On the night of Palm Sunday (28–29 March) 1942 a Royal Air Force bombing raid destroyed a fifth of the town centre. Several bombs fell in the area around the church, causing the eastern vault of the quire to collapse and destroying the altar which dated from 1696. A fire from the neighbouring cathedral museum spread to the truss of the cathedral, and around noon on Palm Sunday the towers collapsed. An Arp Schnitger organ was lost in the flames. Nevertheless, a relatively large portion of the internal fittings was saved, including the cross and almost all of the medieval polyptychs. In 1946 a further collapse, of the gable of the north transept, destroyed the vestibule almost completely.

Reconstruction of the cathedral took several decades, as greater priority was given to the rebuilding of the Marienkirche. Work was completed only in 1982.

The cathedral is unique in that at 105 m, it is shorter than the tallest church in the city. This is the consequence of a power struggle between the church and the guilds.

The 17 m crucifix is the work of the Lübeck artist Bernt Notke. It was commissioned by the bishop of Lübeck, Albert II. Krummendiek, and erected in 1477. The carvings which decorate the rood screen are also by Notke.

Since the war, the famous altar of Hans Memling has been in the medieval collection of the St. Annen Museum, but notable polyptychs remain in the cathedral.

In the funeral chapels of the southern aisle are Baroque-era memorials by the Flemish sculptor Thomas Quellinus.