Ruins in France

Jumièges Abbey Ruins

Jumièges Abbey was founded in 654 on a gift of forested land belonging to the royal fisc presented by Clovis II and his queen, Balthild, to the Frankish nobleman Filibertus, who had been the companion of Saints Ouen and Wandrille at the Merovingian court of Dagobert I. Under the second abbot, Saint Achard, Jumièges prospered and soon numbered nearly a thousand monks. In the 9th century it was pillaged and b ...
Founded: 654 AD | Location: Jumièges, France

Château de Fécamp

Château de Fécamp originates from the 10th century and the stone castle was built in the 11th century. It was the residence of the first dukes of Normandy. perhaps as early as William Longsword and probably with his successors Richard I and Richard II, who are buried to the near Fécamp Abbey. The castle was damaged in the 19th century during the construction work of raiway.
Founded: 11th century | Location: Fécamp, France

Grand Bé

Grand Bé is a tidal island located few hundred metres from the walls of Saint-Malo. At low tide the island can be reached on foot from the nearby Bon-Secours beach. Around 1360, hermits built a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Laurel, then to St Ouen. A redoubt was built in 1555, then replaced by other fortifications in 1652. François-René de Chateaubriand, a French writer native to Saint-Malo, is ...
Founded: 1652 | Location: Saint-Malo, France

Château de Mehun-sur-Yèvre

The existence of a fortification at the site of Mehun-sur-Yèvre dates from antiquity. The major remains are of the early 13th century and the later 14th century. The present standing ruins date from a castle founded under the Courtenays after 1209. This fortress was transformed into a princely residence by John, Duke of Berry in 1367. Largely ruined in the 18th century the castle represented an excellent example of ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Mehun-sur-Yèvre, France

Sancerre Castle Ruins

The feudal castle of Sancerre was one of the strongest castles of the Middle Ages built in France. It was the seat of Counts of Sancerre. The future king Charles VII and Joan of Arc stayed at the Chateau de Sancerre, which was strategically placed on the border of the "kingdom of Bourges." The town of Sancerre was formerly fortified. It was built under the castle, closing access to the less steep slope of the mountain. T ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Sancerre, France

Château de Lavardin Ruins

The remains of the Château de Lavardin stand on a rocky promontory, above the village and the Loir. Built starting from the beginning of the 11th century by the first lords of Lavardin, the castle was sold to the count of Vendôme around 1130, becoming his principal fortress from the end of the 12th century. Completely altered in the 14th and 15th centuries, it was taken by the members of the Catholic League in ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Lavardin, France

Château du Guildo

Château du Guildo dates from the 11th century, when there was a fortified manor, probably made of wood. The stone castle was built in the 13th century in three phases. It was destroyed a century later and the new castle construction began in the late 1300s. Later it was restored as a living residence, but badly damaged in the late 1400s during the French-Breton War. The castle took part also to the Wars of Religion, ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Saint-Jacut-de-la-Mer, France

Château de Trémazan

Château de Trémazan was constructed on a rocky outcrop and had a square keep which, following a partial collapse during the winter of 1995, exposed the interior to reveal a habitable tower of four floors, each with one chamber. The history of Trémazan is intimately linked to that of the du Chastel (or Châtel) family. It was they who built it and made it their principal residence for several centuries. The origins of ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Landunvez, France

Hambye Abbey Ruins

Located in the Normandy countryside, near from the Mont Saint-Michel, the Abbey of Notre Dame of Hambye was founded around 1145 by William Painel, Lord of Hambye, and Algare, bishop of Coutances. The monastery was established by a group of Benedictine monks from Tiron (Perche region in south-east of Basse-Normandie). Fueled by an ideal of rigor and austerity close to that of Cistercians, Benedictine monks built a sober an ...
Founded: c. 1145 | Location: Hambye, France

Hohenburg Castle Ruins

Hohenburg castle is assumed to be constructed in the second half of the 13th century. The influence of the Hohenburg family was extensive in the area between Bitche, Saargmünd and Pirmasens. There were feudal relations with the King but also to the Count of Zweibrücken and to the Counts Palatine. The castle is situated close to the German-French border on the Alsace side. The first known representative of a Hoh ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Lembach, France

Abbey of Saint Bertin

The Abbey of St. Bertin was a Benedictine abbey, but today in ruins (the town's town-hall was built with stone from the abbey in 1834) and open to the public. It was dedicated to its second abbot, Saint Bertin. The monastery was founded on the banks of the Aa in the 7th century by the bishop of Thérouanne, who sent the monks Bertin, Momelin and Ebertram from Omer to proselytize among the pagans in the region. The Abbey ...
Founded: 7th century AD | Location: Saint-Omer, France

Château Renault Ruins

Count of Blois Thibault IV built Château Renault in 1140. It consisted of a tower, surrounding walls and a moat on three sides. Today the tower and parts of walls remain as ruined.
Founded: 1140 | Location: Château-Renault, France

Château des Ducs d'Alençon

The 15th century Château des Ducs was a massive castle in Alençon. The first castle, built in the 11th century, is completely disappeared today. The next castle was built by Peter II, the count of Alençon between 1361-1404. It was demolished 1592. Today only a impressive gatehouse and part of the walls remain.
Founded: 1361-1404 | Location: Alençon, France

Château d'Arques-la-Bataille

Château d"Arques-la-Bataille was originally a motte-and-bailey castle built to the steep hill around 1050. The castle was reconstruted in the 12th century. The long curtain wall and moat surrounded the Norman style donjon, a keep. The castle saw several battles and besieges during the centuries; the rebellion in 1052, Hundred Years" War and the most well-known in 1589 as part of the Wars of Religion. In 16 ...
Founded: c. 1050 | Location: Arques-la-Bataille, France

Mont Saint-Eloi Abbey Ruins

On a hill overlooking Arras stand the remains of two towers which bear testament not only to the once-powerful Mont-Saint-Eloi Abbey. According to legend the abbey was established in the 7th century by Saint Vindicianus, a disciple of Saint Eligius, and by the Middle Ages it had become a powerful religious centre; however the turbulent times of the Revolution saw its walls pillaged for their stone. All that survived were ...
Founded: 600-700 AD | Location: Mont-Saint-Éloi, France

Château de Domfront

Château de Domfront is a ruined castle dating from the 11th century. In 1049, the castle, belonging to Guillaume II Talvas, lord of Bellême, was besieged by William the Conqueror, duke of Normandy. In 1092, the people of Domfront revolted against Robert II de Bellême, Earl of Shrewsbury, transferring their allegiance to the third son of William the Conqueror, Henri Beauclerc, who became duke of Normandy ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Domfront, France

Château de Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier

The ruins of the castle of Saint-Aubin-of-Cormier point out a significant event of Breton history. Affected by the catch of Saint-Aubin, François II, Duke of Brittany, an army of 11000 men constitutes to take again the places. During the famous battle of July 28, 1488, the French troops embank their adversaries. This event announces the end of independence of Brittany which will concretize itself with the marriage ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier, France

Mortemer Abbey Ruins

Mortemer Abbey was originally built in 1134 on land gifted to the Cistercians by Henry I of England. The stagnant water of the drainage lake, dug out by the monks to dry up the marshy land around the quick running Fouillebroc stream, was called 'dead mere', 'dead pond' - in modern French 'morte mare' - and gave the monastery its name. The monks constructed what was then one of the largest Ci ...
Founded: 1134 | Location: Lisors, France

Aleth Cathedral Ruins

Aleth was a Gallo-Roman settlement on a peninsula on one side of the Rance estuary. The bishopric was established in the 9th century. Aleth Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Pierre d"Aleth) was destroyed by Norman invaders in the 10th century but later rebuilt. The site of Aleth however was not a secure one and the town of Saint-Malo had begun to grow up on a far more defensible site on a rocky islet in the estuary ...
Founded: 920 AD | Location: Saint-Malo, France

Château de la Roche-Maurice Ruins

According a legend, the original castle in Roche-Maurice was built by lord Élorn in the 5th century. However the first Château de la Roche-Maurice was built in the 11th century. It was demolished due the royal order in 1490.
Founded: 11th century | Location: Roche-Maurice, 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.