Église Saint-Vincent is a Gothic church from the 15th century which lies atop a small promontory overlooking the banks of the river Douve within the marais du Cotentin. The bell tower, located above the transept, has a particular shape: square at its base, then becoming octagonal. The portal on the southern side of the church was built in 1865 when the nave was being enlarged. There are several unique pieces of statuary inside including St-Roch with angel and dog dating from the 16th century, the Virgin and Child in the chapelle de la Vierge which dates from the 17th century as well as this 19th century kneeling figure in wood. The painting on the 18th century main altar is an abstract vision of the Holy Trinity. The stone statue to the left is a 16th century Trinity and the statue to the right is an 18th century plaster of Saint- Évêque. The wooden beam work above the choir can be seen since the original ceiling was removed in 1903. The tree-lined promenade de la Rivière which follows along a short section of La Douve is a wonderful place to take a walk or stop and have a summer picnic.
Le Manoir du Parc à Saint-Lô-d'Ourville is a souvenir of rural life in the Cotentin during the 15th and 16th centuries. Its architecture presents a variety of elements which have come to symbolize the power of a lord in a feudal society complete with stately manor house, chapel, dovecote, moats, defensive towers, a mill and cider house all grouped around a large courtyard. In 1998, owner Valentin Giard bought the manor house and surrounding lands with plans to completely renovate and restore the ruinous state of the buildings. He served as our guide and showed us this remarkable piece of cultural heritage. He was well versed in the manor’s history and lineage. Before the annexation of Normandy by the French king Philippe Auguste in 1204, the fief and fort on this site belonged to the Aubigny family. The king had the castle and fort demolished and gave the fief to the Argence family who constructed a manor house that was passed down to the succeeding lords of Criqueboeuf, d’Argouges and Clamorgan. In the 15th century, the manor then passed to the family of La Rivière and, by succession, to that of Thieuville for almost one hundred years until the marriage of Marie de Thieuville and François de Pierrepont. The Pierrepont family were the lords of the manor until 1711. After that, it went to Jean Antoine de Thère and finally to Barnabe d’Osmond Medavy. The last lord was Adolphe de Mauconvenant, a chevalier and marquis of Sainte-Suzanne. He died in 1829 in Valognes. After entering the property through the large welcoming hall, which has an amazing wood beam roof structure, one enters the main courtyard. To the right are three buildings that served specific purposes during feudal times. The old charretterie / wagon house is remarkable for its two walled arcades which rest on pillars topped with square capitals. Its location, near the monumental gate opening on the court, allowed people living outside of the mansion to deposit their royalties without having to enter the precincts. Beside the charreterrie is the old chapel, which dates to around 1450. It is rectangular in form with its own small bell tower built into the wall. The remains of a window with fine stone tracery can be seen in one of the walls. Over time the functions of the chapel were lost (perhaps during the French Revolution) and the building was adapted for agricultural use. To the left of the chapel is a newer building that also served as a carriage house and stable. The manor house stands proudly within the courtyard surrounded by defensive towers that overlook the moat allowing for a stronger defense of the property and recalls the power and social status of the lord of the fief. Rectangular in shape, the main part of the manor house is divided in two parts by two interior walls that rise to three levels accessed by a spiral staircase beginning at the main entrance. The first part of construction began around 1480. Reached by the stairs of the outside tower is a great room with a cellar topped with an upper room adjoining the western part of the building. The great room was an important element of life in the manor as it served a variety of functions both official and ceremonial. The room was often used to hear court cases where the lord served as judge and dispensed justice. Royalties to the lord were also paid here. More often than not, it was a place for socializing, accessible to all and where banquets and parties were held. The large beams that made up the upper floors are all that remain allowing the visitor to look up and see the large stone fireplaces that would have heated each room. The second phase of construction began in the late 16th and early 17th centuries when mullioned windows were added as well as a straight staircase. To the left is another smaller rectangular building of two levels. It is divided internally by a central bearing wall and originally included a wine cellar and bakery with access by an outside staircase. Some researchers believe that this building could have served as a private area reserved for the lord alone, elevated and separated from the great room. This was a traditional practice for lords in the Cotentin region during the 15th and 16th centuries. In the southwest corner of the part of the manor is a small tower called an échauguette which overlooks the moat and once served as a watchtower. Beside it, imbedded in the wall, are the niches of the former colombier / dovecote. It was the privilege of a lord to own and raise pigeons as a sign of his rank and social superiority. At the back of the manor house one can see the remains of defensive towers with splayed windows to aid in defending the property as well as an opening over the moat which once served as a drawbridge. The pressoir / cider house was one of the first buildings to be renovated by the current owner and now serves as a private residence for his mother. Other elements within the prerogative of the lord of the manor were the mill and the fishpond. The mill wheel was driven by the overflow of the moat, itself dependent on a particularly abundant source (a stream which runs through the property). Downstream, a pool would form allowing for a fishpond. The pond not only offered fish for the lord’s dinner table but a place where ducks, geese and other birds could nest before they too were added to the menu.
The small town of Saint-Pierre-d’Arthéglise was ascribed from the juxtaposition of two names—Saint Pierre, the name of the patron saint of the local church and another name, Arnketill, from Anglo-Scandinavian origin meaning “church of Arnketill”. One finds in old texts from 1150 the name: Sancti-Petri Archetiglise as well as a name from a 1760 text: St-Pierre-d’Arthéglise-en-Rivière (meaning by the waterfront). The heath of Bosc-de-la-Haye, which used to be more extensive than it is today, belonged to the lords of Breuil and the lords of Sortosville-en-Beaumont. For each animal that was put there to graze, the local inhabitants had to give one chicken and ten eggs on the feast day of Saint John the Baptist. The two lords shared the royalties from the land. In 1819, the heath covered an area of 270 hectares or about 46 percent of the territory of the commune of Saint-Pierre-d’Arthéglise. They were the only ones who levied such a tax on each animal that was put there to graze as it was their sole source of income: 0.23F for cattle and 1.30F for horses in 1817. Each animal was then branded with the mark of the town. In 1834, the town council decided to sell or rent out portions of land to meet the cost of building a church tower and to create income for the church and its rectory. With the exception of the base of the bell tower, the church underwent a complete renovation in the 19th century (1835 – 1840) leaving no trace of the medieval sanctuary. Still there are some interesting pieces that have been preserved and are on display within the church: the Education of the Virgin, the Flagellation and a rare statue depicting the Trinity. In the cemetery, near the door, along the south wall of the chancel, is a grave stone from Yvetot-Bocage with the following inscription: “HERE LIES THE BODY OF LELAIDIER, CURÉ OF THIS PARISH, CONFESSOR OF THE FAITH, ZEALOUS PASTOR, FATHER TO THE POOR, DIED 9 JANUARY 1841, AGE 81 YEARS, PRAY FOR HIM.” Abbe Jean-Jacques Lelaidier, born in Tréauville, was the vicar of Baudeville in 1791. As its pastor, he refused to swear allegiance to the civil constitution of the clergy and in September of 1792, sailed for Alderney and exiled himself in England. He returned to France after the Concordat of 1801 and died as the parish priest of Saint-Pierre d’Arthéglise. The south chapel is dedicated to Sainte-Anne and the Education of the Virgin. Above the altar is a work in stone from the 15th century. The donor, holding a shield, is shown in the lower right. Opposite the altar is a painted traditional Pietà. Take a look at the fine, small polychrome wood sculptures surrounding the tabernacle. The Flagellation from the 14th century, located on the north wall, is made from English alabaster and probably comes from the workshops of Nottingham. Christ is represented from the front with His hands tied to a thin column while four bearded executioners raise their scourges. This piece was probably part of an ensemble that illustrated the Passion. A statue of the Trinity, located on the south wall of the nave, is not unlike the one visible in the church of Golleville. The Father, wearing a three-tiered tiara, sits enthroned bearing the cross of Christ with His hands. The wings and the tail of the dove touch the Father’s beard while the beak touches Christ’s crown of thorns. The north chapel, under the bell tower, was dedicated to Saint-Ortaire, secondary patron of the parish, who lived in the 6th century. Tradition says that he was raised in Dézert and became the abbot of Landelles-et-Coupigny, a canton of Saint-Sever in Calvados where he died. The feast of Saint-Ortaire is still celebrated in this town at the end of May. He is invoked for the healing of children, the disabled and rheumatism. Traditionally, he is represented dressed in a hooded robe, carrying a book and leaning on a pastoral staff. In the Saint- Ortaire chapel, to the left of the splay of the window, is the following inscription written in Gothic letters. Deciphered, it reads: “HERE LIES THE REMAINS OF AN HONEST MAN, BLAISE FLAMBART WHO LIVED IN SAINT-PIERRE D’ARTHEGLISE AND FOUNDED THE PERPETUAL MASS TO BE SAID IN THIS CHURCH ON THE NIGHT OF THE HOLY RESSURECTION WITH HYMNS FOR OTHERS WHO HAVE DIED AND THAT A MASS MAY BE SUNG AT HIS GRAVE DURING VESPERS FOR THE PRICE OF SIX SOLS AND FOR THE BENEFIT OF OTHERS ON THE DAY OF RESSURECTION. THE ANNUITY HAS NO END FOR THE DECEASED. HE DIED THURSDAY, 7 MAY 1620. MAY GOD FORGIVE THE SINS OF THOSE WHO HAVE DONATED. AVE MARIA.” In this church, Saint-Ortaire’s statue is to the right of the high altar. Another statue in wood is on the side of the tabernacle while another stone statue rests above the portal of the west gable of the church. Stained glass windows in the church are fairly recent and depict scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary. An exquisite marble baptismal font is located near the narthex at the west end of the church. The ornate high altar is made of marble and depicts Christ giving Saint Peter the keys to the Church. One final piece of trivia: Stéphane Marie, host of the France 5 television gardening show Silence, ça pousse ! was born here in 1960. He maintains the family garden and it is often the site where each broadcast takes place. The garden is featured in his books and is open to the public once a year. Before leaving the village, check out the small chapel by the side of the road. Trust me, there’s no information about it whatsoever on the internet so I’m doing my best to give you accurate information. It is dedicated to the memory of former priest and missionary, Abbé Armand BIHEL who served as the parish priest from 1942 to 1949. He was also known as Père Marie-Floxel BIHEL when he took the habit at the Cistercian Abbey of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce in Bricquebec. In May of 1945 he wrote a special article for a monthly magazine called l’Ami de Tous where he praised the miraculous virtues of the statue of Our Lady of Boulogne. “The statue of Our Lady of Boulogne, which throughout the history of France was the object of veneration by the faithful French, arrived centuries ago on the shores of Boulogne, somehow, on a boat without a pilot…. When the Germans arrived in 1940, Notre Dame was not at Boulogne. Step by step she moved throughout the land until she reached the Pyrénées …. Now she returns to her throne and wherever the statue goes, it raises waves of enthusiasm, faith and love. In July, the statue will arrive in the southern part of our Department. On August 23, leaving the main road, it will arrive in Saint-Pierre-d’Arthéglise.” Whether or not this is the actual statue that arrived in the town or a copy, it is interesting to see how it is lovingly well kept.
Yesterday after Mass, I went to visit the old windmill in Fierville-les-Mines called Le Moulin à vent du Cotentin. Built in 1744, it is seven meters tall with a pivoting roof depending on which way the wind blows. It is one of the few mills in France that is still in operation and the only one in the Cotentin area, which during the 18th century had nearly 80 such mills in operation. In those days, the mill was primarily used to make flour for bread and to grind grains to feed farm animals. Sadly, the industrial revolution brought about the decline of old windmills in the Cotentin. This particular mill was abandoned in 1848 and over the years lost its roof, wooden sails and its interior mechanisms. Only the stone tower was left standing. In 1944, it was occupied by the Germans who covered it with a concrete slab and used it as an observation post. It wasn't until the late 1990s that the local mayor, Maurice Gallet, against all odds, began renovating the mill. He was supported by the community of Portbail and provided with money by the Department, Region and State. Extensive work was undertaken and carried out by the company Croix d'Angers and inaugurated in 1997. Since 2005 it has been operated by the Côte des Isles, a community formed when the communes of Portbail and Barneville-Carteret became one. Due to its tourist vocation, it receives an average of 10,000 visitors per year, including 2,000 schools (80 percent of which come from the department of La Manche). As of 2011, it is the only windmill in the Cotentin open to the public still in operation. A 30 to 40 minute guided tour costs 4€. Nearby is a barn with a thatched roof that serves as a boutique selling local products as well as a showroom and museum for visitors. Just beside the windmill is the old miller’s house (with a thatched roof), which was also restored and made into a restaurant (La crêperie du Moulin). My friend and I had a meal from the special chef’s menu which only cost 19,50€. I had the Beignet de Camembert, Magret de canard with sauce à l'orange and crème brûlée for dessert. My friend had the Cassolette de la mer, Filet de perche sauce à l’aneth and aumônière normande for dessert. Together we had two bowls of apple cider. It was all very delicious. Before lunch we were treated to an unexpected performance of Morris dancing by two troupes visiting from the UK. They wore colorful costumes with bells on their calves and frolicked about with sticks and white handkerchiefs. One group, the Windsor Morris is the longest established women’s Morris team in Berkshire. The other group called themselves the Berkshire Bedlam and were made up of men wearing red, white and blue. All of the dancing was supported with music from accordions, drums and tambourines.
A Gallic necropolis, dating back a century before Christ, was recently discovered by a team of archaeologists at the foot of the beach in Urville-Nacqueville. So far, about 30 graves have been uncovered. Funeral urns containing ashes, and skeletons of children and animals also have been identified. The funerary urns, particularly well preserved, were found at a depth of two meters. The person in charge of the excavations is archaeologist Anthony Lefort from the University of Bourgogne. According to him, this discovery demonstrates that trade already existed with our British neighbors and that the region around Urville-Nacqueville was a large, important port village. The people who once lived here were of ancient Gaul and known as Unelli. There are very few examples of Gallic necropolises in existence in western France. An earlier dig in 2010 in Urville-Nacqueville uncovered Roman amphorae filled with Italian wine, as well as the workshop of a Unelli craftsman who made bracelets. In order to access the graves and prevent the sea from eroding their discoveries, the archaeological team built a 30-meter dam of sand around the site. Archaeologists must regularly evacuate seawater that seeps into the site so that skeletons can be examined before being sent to the laboratory at the University of Bordeaux. Rising tides and the influx of summer tourists will mean that excavations must stop by May 13th. More reportage can be found by watching the FRANCE 3 VIDEO. Additional information for this article was translated from the original source documents which can be found here :
The Manoir de Grosmont is located in the countryside of La Hague along rue des Marettes just outside of Urville-Nacqueville. The building is typical of the Cotentin region and dates from the early 17th century. The current owners are involved with cattle breeding and dairy farming as well as agriculture and hunting services. In fact, in 2008 they were ranked number 48 on the list of the best farms for raising Holsteins in France.
Not much is known of the château’s origins before construction in the second half of the 15th century except that there was a castle keep and a set of double arches before entering the inner courtyard. The château itself was constructed in the early half of the 17th century. The family Boudet that included the Lord of Crosville, Jean, in 1463, originally owned the property. It mixes the styles Gothic, Renaissance and Classical. Uninhabited since 1742, it was purchased by the Le Fol family in 1980. In 1987 the Friends of the Château was formed and restoration work has been carried out. The interior is quite beautiful with its large beams, painted walls, pillared fireplaces and a monumental central staircase. Still, a lot of work must be done to bring back the original splendor to this handsome building. In 2000, the château, its façades, roofs of the common buildings, the base of the garden and its surrounding walls, the gatehouse and its turret and two corner pavilions which outline the garden were all designated as historic monuments. Over the weekend was the annual Journées des Plantes Franco-Britanniques with over 80 garden specialists participating. Everything was so nicely laid out on either side of the path leading to the entrance of the château. I lack space in my garden for a huge variety of plants so I ended up purchasing only six geraniums—I still don’t know where I’m going to plant them !
La chapelle Saint-Germain is located atop a hill, 600 meters from the shore of Querqueville, overlooking the sea. Since 1856 it has been listed as a Historic Monument due to its early-Christian elements that make it one of the earliest surviving Christian worship sites in Normandy. It was open last weekend for the Journées européennes du patrimoine (European Heritage Days). Some stories suggest that it has been a religious site since the 5th century when in 450 “Germain le Scot” (son of an Irish prince) landed in what is now Diélette and began converting the local pagans and Roman settlers in La Hague to Christianity. Around 480, when he was preaching in Rouen, his words upset a local chief named Hubalt who then used his sword to decapitate Germain. Most historians and archaeologists agree that evidence supports the construction of the chapel from somewhere between the 9th and 12th centuries. Its advantageous position at the top of the hill allowed for monitoring of the sea for possible enemies wishing to come ashore. The name Querqueville actually comes from the Norse word “kirkja” which means "church" and the Norman word “ville”, which meant “agricultural realm”; Querqueville means literally the "realm of the church." La chapelle Saint-Germain is a small building oriented east to west and consists of a small rectangular nave with three semi-circular apsidal projections called cul-de-four. The steeple was created in 1655 and the small stained glass windows were installed in 1985. One enters through the narthex and descends three small steps to the original foundation level of the chapel, uncovered during excavations between 1975 and 1977. Soundings and other investigations at that time found the existence of a very old cemetery complete with four sarcophagi underneath the choir. These two photos show the layout of the four sarcophagi found to be under the choir. They also found original columns and wall foundations, coins from different eras as well as a granite mortuary slab with the carving of a croix nimbée (cross with a halo) near the entrance of the northern apse. Ancient frescoes uncovered on the apsidal walls represent a man carrying a Bible, a tonsured figure with donkey ears and several other characters. On the floor of the southern apse lies a 16th century large crucifix of polychrome wood. This used to hang on the northern wall near the entrance but due to recent works, it has been set out of the way. The southern apse has the remains of a sarcophagus unearthed during the excavations in 1975-1977. There are three statues resting in front of the altar. The first statue is of Saint-Hélier in polychrome stone. It dates from the 15th century. He holds his decapitated head in his hands. Companion of Saint-Marcouf, Saint-Hélier helped to evangelize the island of Jersey in the mid-6th century. He was beheaded by a horde of Saxons in 559. The statue in the middle is of Saint-Clair in polychrome stone holding his head in his hands. The third one is also of Saint-Clair in polychrome wood and placed in the chapel in 1791. It comes from La chapelle Saint-Clair de Nacqueville and is especially interesting since the statue depicts a priest wearing his cap, surplice and stole and extending his hands in a gesture of giving. Most statues of Saint-Clair (like the one in the middle) depict the saint without his head. He was born in England and landed near Cherbourg in 860 to evangelize the local people. He established his hermitage in the forest of Nacqueville. One of his followers is said to have cut off his own hand while chopping wood but through the prayers of Clair the hermit, he was healed. Other stories have Clair casting out demons and bringing people back to life. His martyrdom came about when a rich and powerful woman set her sights on the handsome young monk. Fearing her carnal intentions and wishing to escape the notoriety that came from performing miracles, he fled to Vulcassum in the Val-d’Oise region. The frustrated and implacable woman had her soldiers pursue Clair until 12 years later they finally found him. When asked if he knew of someone named Clair, he replied, “No.” As the men began to turn away, Clair felt he committed a sin by hiding the truth and called out, “I am Clair.” Then, kneeling with his head down he said, “Perish the body that may be the subject of a criminal love.” One of the men cut off his head and threw it into a fountain. When the killers fled, Clair dived into the water, grabbed his head and went to his oratory. From there he went to the church where he finally died beside the altar. The fountain is said to have healing powers. It is EXCEPTIONALLY difficult to find detailed information about La Chapelle Saint-Germain unless one visits during the Journées européennes du patrimoine (European Heritage Days). Knowing that so much information is not yet on the internet, I took photographs of the charts and detailed excavation histories which hang within the chapel: The photos above detail the excavation works and soundings taken by archaeologists between 1975 - 1977.The map above shows where things are located but is not very recent since the statues are no longer placed throughout the chapel but rest at the foot of the altar. The following four pages are difficult to read since they are in terrible handwriting but if you have the courage and can read them, feel free to give them a go! They tell the story of the chapel and the histories of the saints found inside.
The small village of Catz is located just a few kilometers east of Carentan. The best way to explore Catz is to ride your bicycle along the old farm roads and paths of the “Parc naturel régional des Marais du Cotentin et du Bessin.” By taking this route, one can visit a number of small villages such as Brévands, Les Veys, Saint-Pellerin and Isigny-sur-Mer known for their quaint rural churches.
I couldn’t find much information about Église Saint-Grégoire le Grand in Catz except that it dates from the 13th century. Inside the church are a baptismal font made from limestone and three wooden statues which all date from the 17th century.