UNESCO World Heritage Sites in France

Abbey Church of Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe

The Romanesque Abbey church was constructed in the mid-11th century and contains many beautiful 11th- and 12th-century murals which are still in a remarkable state of preservation. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983. The cruciform church carries a square tower over its crossing. The transept was built first, then the choir with its ambulatory with five radial chapels in the polygonal apse. In the next bu ...
Founded: c. 1050 | Location: Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe, France

Besançon Fortress

Besançon"s Vauban citadel has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Louis XIV of France conquered the city for the first time in 1668, but the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle returned it to Spain within a matter of months. While it was in French hands, the famed military engineer Vauban visited the city and drew up plans for its fortification. The Spaniards built the main centre point of the city"s defen ...
Founded: 1668-1711 | Location: Besançon, France

Abbey of Saint-Gilles

The Abbey of Saint-Gilles is included in the UNESCO Heritage List, as part of the World Heritage Sites of the Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France. According to the legend, it was founded in the 7th century by saint Giles, over lands which had been given him by the Visigoth King Wamba after he had involuntarily wounded the saint during a hunt. The monastery was initially dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul: however, ...
Founded: 7th century | Location: Saint-Gilles, France

Blaye Citadel

The fortified citadel at Blaye, standing on the opposite bank of the river Gironde to Fort Médoc, forms, along with Fort Paté, the region's 17th-century defence against river attack. Built by Vauban, together this group are named the Fortifications of Vauban and are classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The site of the citadel saw its first castle in the 7th century. Vauban's fortress though was built ...
Founded: 1689-1692 | Location: Blaye, France

Alyscamps Necropolis

The Alyscamps is a large Roman necropolis, one of the most famous necropolises of the ancient world. Roman cities traditionally forbade burials within the city limits. It was therefore common for the roads immediately outside a city to be lined with tombs and mausoleums; the Appian Way outside Rome provides a good example. The Alyscamps was Arles' main burial ground for nearly 1,500 years. It was the final segment of the ...
Founded: 300-400 AD | Location: Arles, France

Tour Vauban

The Tour Vauban (Vauban Tower), initially known as the tour de Camaret, is an 18m-high polygonal defensive tower built to a plan by Vauban on the Sillon at Camaret-sur-Mer, as part of the fortifications of the goulet de Brest. It has three levels and is flanked by walls, a guardhouse and a gun battery which can hold 11 cannons as well as a cannonball foundry added in the French Revolution period. Drafted in 1683, the tow ...
Founded: 1693-1696 | Location: Camaret-sur-Mer, France

Saint-Lizier Cathedrals

Saint-Lizier Cathedral can refer to either of the two former co-cathedrals of the town of Saint-Lizier, Notre-Dame Cathedral (Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-la-Sède de Saint-Lizier) and St. Lizier"s Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Lizier de Saint-Lizier), dedicated to Saint Lycerius. Saint-Lizier falls into two quite separate parts, each with its own cathedral. The lower part contains the old village arou ...
Founded: 1117 | Location: Saint-Lizier, France

Vauban Tower

In 1692 the naval Battle of La Hougue took place between the English and the French close to the island of Tatihou. The so-called Vauban Tower (Tour Vauban de Tatihou) was built in 1694. In 1756 the surroundings of La Hougue were defended by many batteries and forts, but the lack of regular maintenance ensured that these quickly fell into disrepair. In 1720 Tatihou was used for quarantining plague victims from Marseilles. ...
Founded: 1694 | Location: Tatihou, France

Carcassonne Cathedral

Carcassonne Cathedral was built in the 13th century as a parish church, dedicated to Saint Michael. Following war damage in the 14th century it was rebuilt as a fortified church. In 1803 St. Michael"s was elevated to cathedral status, replacing the earlier cathedral dedicated to Saints Nazarius and Celsus, now the Basilica of St. Nazaire and St. Celse. The cathedral plan is characterised by its relative simplicity. ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Carcassonne, France

Pont du Diable

The Pont du Diable on the Hérault River is one of many bridges in France with this name (it means Devil"s bridge). Constructed by Benedictine monks in the first half of the 11th century, it provided a link between the abbey at Aniane and the Gellone Abbey at Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert. Though subsequently widened and raised several metres around 1770, it has retained its original shape. Vehicular traffic i ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Saint-Jean-de-Fos, France

Neuf-Brisach

Neuf-Brisach is a fortified town intended to guard the border between France and the Holy Roman Empire and, subsequently the German states. It was built after the peace of Ryswick, in 1697, that resulted in the loss to France of the town of Breisach, on the opposite bank of the Rhine. The town"s name means New Breisach. Work began on the fortified town in 1698, to plans drawn by Vauban, a military engineer at the se ...
Founded: 1698 | Location: Neuf-Brisach, France

Agen Cathedral

Agen Cathedral's (Cathédrale Saint-Caprais d'Agen) visible structure dates back to the 12th century. It was built as a collegiate church of canons dedicated to Saint Caprasius, on the foundations of a basilica sacked by the Normans in 853 but thereafter restored. Sacked again in December 1561 during the Wars of Religion, by two years after the countrywide coup d'état that took place in 1789, the cathedral had come to s ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Agen, France

Quartiers Modernes Frugés

Quartiers Modernes Frugès is a housing development located in Pessac. It was designed by noted architect Le Corbusier as both an architect and a town planner. It contained some 70 housing units. The building was built as experimental housing for workers. Le Corbusier took into account prevailing social and economic factors, and was determined to build the plan to provide people with low-cost, predetermined, homoge ...
Founded: 1920-1924 | Location: Pessac, France

Mont-Dauphin Fortress

Mont-Dauphin is one of the many places fortified by Vauban in the second half of the 17th century. Following invasions of Provence by Savoy in 1691 and 1692, Louis XIV dispached Vauban to put the frontier in a better state of defence. In 1692 he came to the Plateau de Mille-Aures, which overlooks both of the invasion routes used by the Savoyards, to fortify it. The ground in question was on a high hill, roughly four-side ...
Founded: 1692 | Location: Mont-Dauphin, France

Cambrai Belfry

Cambrai Belfry was erected in the 11th and again in the 13th century as a symbol of community freedom. However it was destroyed several times when local uprisings were crushed. In 1395, Cambrai obtained final authorisation from the Emperor Venceslas to have a belfry, a function performed by the bell-tower of Saint-Martin church in the middle of the 16th century. Its role later saved it from destruction, when the church wa ...
Founded: 1447 | Location: Cambrai, France

Fort Médoc

Built on marshy land on the Left Bank of the Gironde, opposite Fort Pâté, Fort Médoc was a key part of Vauban"s three-point defence system. Its purpose was to block the passage of ships between Île Pâté and Cussac in the Médoc. Fort Médoc was built in 1689-1690 on low-lying terrain with alluvial soil. The artillery battery was pointed towards Blaye and most of the ...
Founded: 1689-1690 | Location: Cussac-Fort-Médoc, France

Saint-Martin-de-Ré Citadel

The l"île de Ré, opposite La Rochelle, was subjected on several occasions to attack from British soldiers. Conscious of the need to protect access to La Rochelle and Rochefort, in 1681 Vauban started strengthening the island"s defences by building a citadel and fortified castle at Saint-Martin-de-Ré, on the North coast. Built on the site of a fortress where construction work had started in 1 ...
Founded: 1681 | Location: Saint-Martin-de-Ré, France

Fort Mont Louis

Located in the eastern Pyrenees at an altitude of 1600 metres, the stronghold of Mont-Louis was built from scratch by Vauban on granite terrain and is perfectly adapted to the geography of the site. Work started in 1679 and was completed in two years. The fortified ensemble was added as a complement to Villefranche-de-Conflent in securing the route from the Pyrenees. This ensemble consists of two square structures, in ti ...
Founded: 1679 | Location: Mont-Louis, France

Fort Paté

Fort Paté is a small oval battery on an island in the middle of the river Gironde, just big enough to hold the soldiers who defend it. It was built between 1685 and 1693 as part of the verrou de Blaye, a system of three forts built to seal the river against enemy ships. The fort was situated so as to support the river batteries at Blaye on the right bank and Fort Médoc on the left bank. The island used to b ...
Founded: 1693 | Location: Blaye, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Charlottenburg Palace

Charlottenburg Palace is the largest palace in Berlin and the only surviving royal residence in the city dating back to the time of the Hohenzollern family. The original palace was commissioned by Sophie Charlotte, the wife of Friedrich III, Elector of Brandenburg in what was then the village of Lietzow. Originally named Lietzenburg, the palace was designed by Johann Arnold Nering in baroque style. The inauguration of the palace was celebrated on 11 July 1699, Frederick's 42nd birthday.

Friedrich crowned himself as King Friedrich I in Prussia in 1701 (Friedrich II, known as Frederick the Great, would later achieve the title King of Prussia). Two years previously, he had appointed Johann Friedrich von Eosander (also known as Eosander von Göthe) as the royal architect and sent him to study architectural developments in Italy and France, particularly the Palace of Versailles. On his return in 1702, Eosander began to extend the palace, starting with two side wings to enclose a large courtyard, and the main palace was extended on both sides. Sophie Charlotte died in 1705 and Friedrich named the palace and its estate Charlottenburg in her memory. In the following years, the Orangery was built on the west of the palace and the central area was extended with a large domed tower and a larger vestibule. On top of the dome is a wind vane in the form of a gilded statue representing Fortune designed by Andreas Heidt. The Orangery was originally used to overwinter rare plants. During the summer months, when over 500 orange, citrus and sour orange trees decorated the baroque garden, the Orangery regularly was the gorgeous scene of courtly festivities.

Inside the palace, was a room described as 'the eighth wonder of the world', the Amber Room, a room with its walls surfaced in decorative amber. It was designed by Andreas Schlüter and its construction by the Danish amber craftsman Gottfried Wolfram started in 1701. Friedrich Wilhelm I gave the Amber Room to Tsar Peter the Great as a present in 1716.

When Friedrich I died in 1713, he was succeeded by his son, Friedrich Wilhelm I whose building plans were less ambitious, although he did ensure that the building was properly maintained. Building was resumed after his son Friedrich II (Frederick the Great) came to the throne in 1740. During that year, stables for his personal guard regiment were completed to the south of the Orangery wing and work was started on the east wing. The building of the new wing was supervised by Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff, the Superintendent of all the Royal Palaces, who largely followed Eosander's design. The decoration of the exterior was relatively simple but the interior furnishings were lavish. The ground floor was intended for Frederick's wife Elisabeth Christine, who, preferring Schönhausen Palace, was only an occasional visitor. The decoration of the upper floor, which included the White Hall, the Banqueting Hall, the Throne Room and the Golden Gallery, was lavish and was designed mainly by Johann August Nahl. In 1747, a second apartment for the king was prepared in the distant eastern part of the wing. During this time, Sanssouci was being built at Potsdam and once this was completed Frederick was only an occasional visitor to Charlottenburg.

In 1786, Frederick was succeeded by his nephew Friedrich Wilhelm II who transformed five rooms on the ground floor of the east wing into his summer quarters and part of the upper floor into Winter Chambers, although he did not live long enough to use them. His son, Friedrich Wilhelm III came to the throne in 1797 and reigned with his wife, Queen Luise for 43 years. They spent much of this time living in the east wing of Charlottenburg. Their eldest son, Friedrich Wilhelm IV, who reigned from 1840 to 1861, lived in the upper storey of the central palace building. After Friedrich Wilhelm IV died, the only other royal resident of the palace was Friedrich III who reigned for 99 days in 1888.

The palace was badly damaged in 1943 during the Second World War. In 1951, the war-damaged Stadtschloss in East Berlin was demolished and, as the damage to Charlottenburg was at least as serious, it was feared that it would also be demolished. However, following the efforts of Margarete Kühn, the Director of the State Palaces and Gardens, it was rebuilt to its former condition, with gigantic modern ceiling paintings by Hann Trier.

The garden was designed in 1697 in baroque style by Simeon Godeau who had been influenced by André Le Nôtre, designer of the gardens at Versailles. Godeau's design consisted of geometric patterns, with avenues and moats, which separated the garden from its natural surroundings. Beyond the formal gardens was the Carp Pond. Towards the end of the 18th century, a less formal, more natural-looking garden design became fashionable. In 1787 the Royal Gardener Georg Steiner redesigned the garden in the English landscape style for Friedrich Wilhelm II, the work being directed by Peter Joseph Lenné. After the Second World War, the centre of the garden was restored to its previous baroque style.