Chateaux of Normandy

Château de Couterne

Château de Couterne was originally built by Jehan de Frotté, who acquired the estate in 1542. The granite and red-brick castle has been rebuilt several stages between the 16th and 18th centuries and it has been owned by Frotté family all the time. Today it is open to the public in summer season.
Founded: 16th century | Location: Couterne, France

Château de la Fresnaye

Château de la Fresnaye was built in the 17th century. The estate was acquired in 1640 by Nicolas Vauquelin and three manor buildings were mentioned in document dated to 1678. The main building was rebuilt in 1750. The beautiful English style park surrounds the castle.
Founded: 17th century | Location: Falaise, France

Château de Bonneville

In the 15th century, the site of château belonged to the family Bonneville. Jean Bonneville, king"s chamberlain, was quoted in 1400 as lord of Chamblac and Bonneville. The castle was a property of this family until the 18th century. The mansion is a square brick house, fully renovated during the Louis XV era with mansard roofs. In the 19th century Château de Bonneville was a residence of writer Jean de La ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Chamblac, France

Château de Houlbec

Château de Houlbec-près-le-Gros-Theil was originally a square castle with rounded corner towers. It was built in the Middle Ages and conquered by English in 1418 (Hundred Years' War) and by Catholic League in 1588 (during the Wars of Religion). The castle was rebuilt in 1786 and heavily damaged by fire in 1910. Today the château is abandoned but two towers and other signicant ruins still remain.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Houlbec-prés-le-Gros-Theil, France

Château de Bonneville-sur-Touques

Château de Bonneville-sur-Touques was mentioned already in the 11th century, but the castle was probably built in the 13th century (the biggest tower is however mentioned already in the late 1100s).
Founded: 13th century | Location: Bonneville-sur-Touques, France

Manoir du Catel

Manoir du Catel was built between 1267-1270 by Richard Treigots, the abbot of Fécamp Abbey. It is one of the oldest and best-preserved Norman style fortified manor houses. It consists of towers in four corners, fortified gatehouse and moat.
Founded: 1267-1270 | Location: Écretteville-lès-Baons, France

Château d'Yville

With its magnificent park and gardens, the 18th-century Château d"Yville and its domain are privately owned, and usually closed to the public. It was built in 1723-1735 to the site of 15th century mansion, which was destroyed in 1708.
Founded: 1723-1735 | Location: Yville-sur-Seine, France

Château de Courcy

The Château de Courcy was mentioned in 1091, when it was owned by Richard de Courcy and besieged by Robert Curthose. At the start of the 17th century, the castle was demolished by order of Richelieu and, losing all military function, slowly became an agricultural enterprise. In 1975, the remaining parts of the former castle including the gate on the road from Tôtes and the gateway to the second enceinte were protected b ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Courcy, France

Château d'Olivet Ruins

Château d"Olivet was an motte-and-bailey castle in the Grimbosq forest. It was built in the 11th century by Erneis Taisson. The castle was demolished probably in the 17th century. The excavation and restoration of ruins was made in the 1970s.
Founded: 11th century | Location: Saint-Laurent-de-Condel, France

Château d'Orcher

Château d"Orcher was built to protect the mouth of the River Seine. The square keep was surrounded by a trapezoidal enceinte, defended in the 13th century by three square towers. In 1360 it was partly destroyed on the orders of officials from Harfleur. Rebuilt later, it was taken by the English in 1415 at the same time as Harfleur. Thomas Planterose took possession of Château d"Orcher in 1735 and o ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Gonfreville-l'Orcher, France

Château du Bosc Théroulde

In 1598, Jacques Le Faë, Adviser to the King, acquired the property from the Cormeilles Family and built the present Château du Bosc Théroulde. Built in Louis XIII style of bricks, construction started in 1616 was completed in 1632. He married Anne Petit, then died in 1630, and the estate is ruled by his wife on behalf of her nobles children until 1637. Adrien Le Faë inherited the estate and was mad ...
Founded: 1616-1632 | Location: Bosc-Guérard-Saint-Adrien, France

Château d'Ailly

Château d'Ailly was first mentioned in 1050 when Robert d'Ailly built a manor surrounded with walls, moat and mill. The near St. Gerbold's Church was also built then. In 1431 english King Henry VI gave the land property of Ailly to his uncle. Back in French possession, the manor belonged to the Courseulles and De Saint Laurens families until it was acquired by d'Aubert de Caudémone in the 17th century. Charle ...
Founded: 1050 | Location: Bernières-d'Ailly, France

Château de La Pommeraye

The history of Château de La Pommeraye originates from the 11th century. The moat and walls date from the original castle. The castle was rebuilt in 1646 and again in 1850. There is also a 19th century orangerie, chapel and gardens. Today Château de La Pommeraye is a hotel.
Founded: 1646 | Location: La Pommeraye, France

Château de Tournebu

Château de Tournebu was originally built by the Tournebu family in the 12th and 13th centuries. In the early 17th century it was modified and enlarged with four bastions. The castle was destroyed during the Revolution. Today donjon, a keep, remains.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Tournebu, France

Château de Versainville

The construction of Château de Versainville was started in 1715 by François-Joseph de Marguerit. It was completed until 1730. The castle renewed and modified in the early 20th century. Today Versainville is used for weddings or seasonal rentals.
Founded: 1715 | Location: Versainville, France

Château d'Amfreville

Château d"Amfreville was originally established in the late 1100s by Richard de Reviers. It was a enclosed castle with a moat. The main building was rebuilt as a manor house in the 17th century and most of the annex buildings in the 18th century. The gate tower from the 14th century still exists.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Amfreville, France

Manoir de Coutainville

The Manoir de Coutainville is a fortified manor house built during 15th and 17th centuries that was a fiefdom of Jean de Costentin. It is listed in the French Supplementary Inventory of Historic Monuments. Today it is a hotel.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Agon-Coutainville, France

Château de Gavray Ruins

Château de Gavray was the castle of local Dukes, built in the 11th century. It was first time mentioned in 1091 and in 1123 some enhancements (probably a tower) was done. The castle was besieged and conquered in the Hundred Years War". In the 17th century it was lost is purpose and demolished. Today ruins remain on the site.
Founded: 11th century | Location: Gavray, France

Château de Plain-Marais

Château de Plain-Marais was built to the hill surrounded by marsh land in the 14th century. In the 15th century it was owned by Jean d"Arclais and later by Jean de Talbot. It was originally a square stone castle surrounded by a moat. Current main building, annexes and tower were built in the 15th and 16th centuries and the major restoration was made in the 17th century.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Beuzeville-la-Bastille, France

Château du Tourps

The history of Château du Tourps dates to the mid-1100s. It was burnt down by English Army in 1346 and besieged during the Wars or Religion in 1591. Since the late 1600s the château lied in ruins. The current private mansion dates from the 18th century.
Founded: 18th century | Location: Anneville-en-Saire, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Reims Cathedral

Notre-Dame de Reims (Our Lady of Reims) is the seat of the Archdiocese of Reims, where the kings of France were crowned. The cathedral replaced an older church, destroyed by fire in 1211, that was built on the site of the basilica where Clovis was baptized by Saint Remi, bishop of Reims, in AD 496. That original structure had itself been erected on the site of some Roman baths. A major tourism destination, the cathedral receives about one million visitors annually.

History

Excavations have shown that the present building occupies roughly the same site as the original cathedral, founded c. 400 under the episcopacy of St Nicaise. That church was rebuilt during the Carolingian period and further extended in the 12th century. On 19 May 1051, King Henry I of France and Anne of Kiev were married in the cathedral.

On May 6, 1210 the cathedral was damaged by fire and reconstruction started shortly after, beginning at the eastern end. Documentary records show the acquisition of land to the west of the site in 1218, suggesting the new cathedral was substantially larger than its predecessors, the lengthening of the nave presumably being an adaptation to afford room for the crowds that attended the coronations. In 1233 a long-running dispute between the cathedral chapter and the townsfolk (regarding issues of taxation and legal jurisdiction) boiled over into open revolt. Several clerics were killed or injured during the resulting violence and the entire cathedral chapter fled the city, leaving it under an interdict (effectively banning all public worship and sacraments). Work on the new cathedral was suspended for three years, only resuming in 1236 after the clergy returned to the city and the interdict was lifted following mediation by the King and the Pope. Construction then continued more slowly. The area from the crossing eastwards was in use by 1241 but the nave was not roofed until 1299 (when the French King lifted the tax on lead used for that purpose). Work on the west facade took place in several phases, which is reflected in the very different styles of some of the sculptures. The upper parts of the facade were completed in the 14th century, but apparently following 13th century designs, giving Reims an unusual unity of style.

Unusually the names of the cathedral's original architects are known. A labyrinth built into floor of the nave at the time of construction or shortly after (similar to examples at Chartres and Amiens) included the names of four master masons (Jean d'Orbais, Jean-Le-Loup, Gaucher de Reims and Bernard de Soissons) and the number of years they worked there, though art historians still disagree over who was responsible for which parts of the building. The labyrinth itself was destroyed in 1779 but its details and inscriptions are known from 18th century drawings. The clear association here between a labyrinth and master masons adds weight to the argument that such patterns were an allusion to the emerging status of the architect (through their association with the mythical artificer Daedalus, who built the Labyrinth of King Minos). The cathedral also contains further evidence of the rising status of the architect in the tomb of Hugues Libergier (d. 1268, architect of the now-destroyed Reims church of St-Nicaise). Not only is he given the honor of an engraved slab; he is shown holding a miniature model of his church (an honor formerly reserved for noble donors) and wearing the academic garb befitting an intellectual.

The towers, 81 m tall, were originally designed to rise 120m. The south tower holds just two great bells; one of them, named “Charlotte” by Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine in 1570, weighs more than 10,000 kg.

During the Hundred Years' War the cathedral was under siege by the English from 1359 to 1360. After it fell the English held Reims and the Cathedral until 1429 when it was liberated by Joan of Arc which allowed the Dauphin Charles to be crowned king on 17 July 1429.

In 1875 the French National Assembly voted £80,000 for repairs of the façade and balustrades. The façade is the finest portion of the building, and one of the great masterpieces of the Middle Ages.

German shellfire during the opening engagements of the First World War on 20 September 1914 burned, damaged and destroyed important parts of the cathedral. Scaffolding around the north tower caught fire, spreading the blaze to all parts of the carpentry superstructure. The lead of the roofs melted and poured through the stone gargoyles, destroying in turn the bishop's palace. Images of the cathedral in ruins were used during the war as propaganda images by the French against the Germans and their deliberate destruction of buildings rich in national and cultural heritage. Restoration work began in 1919, under the direction of Henri Deneux, a native of Reims and chief architect of the Monuments Historiques; the cathedral was fully reopened in 1938, thanks in part to financial support from the Rockefellers, but work has been steadily going on since.

Exterior

The three portals are laden with statues and statuettes; among European cathedrals, only Chartres has more sculpted figures. The central portal, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is surmounted by a rose window framed in an arch itself decorated with statuary, in place of the usual sculptured tympanum. The 'gallery of the kings' above shows the baptism of Clovis in the centre flanked by statues of his successors.

The facades of the transepts are also decorated with sculptures. That on the North has statues of bishops of Reims, a representation of the Last Judgment and a figure of Jesus (le Beau Dieu), while that on the south side has a modern rose window with the prophets and apostles. Fire destroyed the roof and the spires in 1481: of the four towers that flanked the transepts, nothing remains above the height of the roof. Above the choir rises an elegant lead-covered timber bell tower that is 18 m tall, reconstructed in the 15th century and in the 1920s.

Interior

The interior comprises a nave with aisles, transepts with aisles, a choir with double aisles, and an apse with ambulatory and radiating chapels. It has interesting stained glass ranging from the 13th to the 20th century. The rose window over the main portal and the gallery beneath are of rare magnificence.

The cathedral possesses fine tapestries. Of these the most important series is that presented by Robert de Lenoncourt, archbishop under François I (1515-1547), representing the life of the Virgin. They are now to be seen in the former bishop's palace, the Palace of Tau. The north transept contains a fine organ in a flamboyant Gothic case. The choir clock is ornamented with curious mechanical figures. Marc Chagall designed the stained glass installed in 1974 in the axis of the apse.

The treasury, kept in the Palace of Tau, includes many precious objects, among which is the Sainte Ampoule, or holy flask, the successor of the ancient one that contained the oil with which French kings were anointed, which was broken during the French Revolution, a fragment of which the present Ampoule contains.

Notre-Dame de Reims cathedral, the former Abbey of Saint-Remi, and the Palace of Tau were added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1991.