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France Unesco World Heritage Centre


the village that grew up in the shadow of its great walls. Built between the 11th and 16th centuries, the abbey is a technical and artistic tour de force, having had to adapt to the problems posed by this unique natural site.

works have continued now for over a century to restore the mount to its former splendour, improving both the abbey interior and exterior.

Mont-Saint-Michel and its Bay Perched on a rocky islet in the midst of vast sandbanks exposed to powerful tides between Normandy and Brittany stand the 'Wonder of the West', a Gothic-style Benedictine abbey dedicated to the archangel St Michael, and

In 1874 Mont Saint-Michel was designated as a French historical monument and major

In 1836 influential figures, including Victor Hugo, had launched a campaign to restore what was seen as a national architectural treasure. 2

The prison was finally closed in 1863, and the mount was declared a historic monument in 1874. Mont Saint Michel and its bay were added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1979.

which before modernization was covered at high tide and revealed at low tide, giving the mount a mystical quality.

Mont-Saint-Michel is connected to the mainland via a thin natural land bridge, 3

the coherence of its plan, the beauty of its three-tier interior elevation and the particularly fine display of sculptures on the principal facade and in the south transept.

Reconstruction was started around 1220 and the nave was completed around 1245. Reconstruction of the choir started began around 1238 and completed before 1269, and the most of this part of the building, including the transept, was completed in 1288. The south tower was constructed about 1366 and the n0orth tower about 1401.

Amiens Cathedral Amiens Cathedral, in the heart of Picardy, is one of the largest 'classic' Gothic churches of the 13th century. It is notable for

Amiens Cathedral was built in 1152 in Romanesque style and was destroyed by fire in 1218. 4

The facade, which is flanked by two square towers without spires, has three portals decorated with a profusion of statuary, the central portal having a remarkable 13thcentury statue of Christ.

rare testimonies to 13thcentury foundry techniques: that of Geoffroy d'Eu and especially that of Edward de Foutilloy, the bishop who in 1220 undertook the reconstruction of Notre-Dame d'Amiens. Among other 14thcentury works, that of the pier of Cardinal de la Grange with the statues of Andrè Beaunevau are especially notable.

But in 1206, Amiens became one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in Europe when the head of St. John the Baptist was brought back from Constantinople by Crusaders. This impressive relic would be the principal source of revenue for the cathedral for years to come, enabling the construction of the grand Gothic cathedral that endures today.

Besides its prodigious 12thcentury sculptural decor, the cathedral houses two bronze tombs, which are extremely 5

of the ideal royal residence for over a century.

Palace and Park of Versailles The Palace of Versailles was the principal residence of the French kings from the time of Louis XIV to Louis XVI. Embellished by several generations of architects, sculptors, decorators and landscape architects, it provided Europe with a model

site began as Louis XIII’s hunting lodge before his son Louis XIV transformed and expanded it, moving the court and government of France to Versailles in 1682. Each of the three French kings who lived there until the French Revolution added improvements to make it more beautiful.

The Château de Versailles, which has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage List for 30 years, is one of the most beautiful achievements of 18th-century French art. The 6

perspective, which preceded the reign of Louis XIV, was developed and prolonged by the gardener André Le Nôtre by widening the Royal Path and digging the Grand Canal. This vast perspective stretches from the façade of the Château de Versailles to the railings of the park.

From the central window of the Hall of mirrors the visitor look down on the grand perspective that leads the gaze from the Water Parterre to the horizon. This original

In 1661, Louis XIV commissioned André Le Nôtre with the design and laying out of the gardens of Versailles

which, in his view, were just as important as the Château. The works were undertaken at the same time as those for the palace and took forty years to complete. 7

Cathedral of NotreDame, Former Abbey of Saint-Rémi and Palace of Tau, Reims By virtue of the outstanding handling of new architectural techniques in the 13th century and the harmonious marriage of architecture and sculpted decoration, Notre-Dame

Cathedral at Reims is a masterpiece of Gothic art. The perfection of the architecture and the sculptural ensemble of the cathedral were such that numerous later edifices were influenced by it, particularly in regions of Germany. The former abbey still has its beautiful 9th-century nave, in which lie the remains of Archbishop Saint Rémi (440533). The former archiepiscopal palace known as the Tau Palace, which played an important role in religious ceremonies, was almost entirely rebuilt in the 17th century.

The cathedral, the Archiepiscopal Palace, and the old Abbey of Saint-Rémi are directly linked to the history of the French monarchy, and hence to that of France in general. These places were part of the coronation ceremony, the result of a perfect balance between Church and State that made the French monarchy a 8

political model throughout Europe until modern times.

Reims' west front consists of three portals surrounded by sculptured arches, a rose window with superb 13th-

century stained glass, and two matching towers. Gracing this facade is perhaps the richest body of sculpture of any Gothic church, one that shows an increasing realism and movement in contrast to the more rigid and formalized style of the 12th century.

a classical vein, and part in a highly original style attributed to the so-called Joseph Master, whose elegant works presaged the 14th-century Gothic International Style in art. The cathedral, badly damaged during World War I, has been restored and stabilized (191837).

Part of the sculptural decoration, including the Visitation group, is executed in 9

from 1945 to 1964. The site forms the administrative, commercial and cultural centre of Le Havre. Le Havre is exceptional among many reconstructed cities for its unity and integrity.

Le Havre, the City Rebuilt by Auguste Perret The city of Le Havre, on the English Channel in Normandy, was severely bombed during the Second World War. The destroyed area was rebuilt according to the plan of a team headed by Auguste Perret,

with the new ideas of town planning and construction technology. It is an outstanding post-war example of urban planning and architecture based on the unity of methodology and the use of prefabrication, the systematic utilization of a modular grid, and the innovative exploitation of the potential of concrete.

It combines a reflection of the earlier pattern of the town and its extant historic structures 10

At the end of the 18th century, Le Havre was one of the four principal ports of France, and in 1786, a new plan was commissioned (engineer François-Laurent LamandÊ), though only completed in 1830 due to the Revolution. In 1847, a railway was built from Paris

to Rouen and to Le Havre, further strengthening the role of the city. In 1852, the old fortifications were demolished and the city area was multiplied by nine. The population reached 60,000. Important companies for transatlantic traffic were established here, encouraging industrial development.

The idea to rebuilt Le Havre was perceived during the war destruction. In summer 1944, with a group architect colleagues Auguste Perret (1874-1954), then 70 years old, took the lead in the project of reconstruction of the town. 11

Abbey Church of Saint-Savin sur Gartempe Dubbed the "Romanesque Sistine Chapel," the Abbey of Saint-Savin is a World Heritage Site near Poitiers that is famed for its many beautiful and well-preserved 11th- and 12th-century murals.

The Church of Saint-Savin dates mainly from the end of the 11th century, but some

parts—including the transept with wings, square tower, and the crypts of St. Martin and of the Saints Savin and Cyprian—are even older. It has a three-aisled nave with nine bays, an apse with radiating chapels at the east end and a clocher-porche (bell-tower structure) on the west. Steps descend to the narthex and from there to the floor of the nave, whose bare round columns are topped with deeply-carved capitals in foliage motifs.


One pictorial cycle, depicting the Apocalypse, covers the ceiling of the clocher-porche and the tympanum of the doorway opening into the church.

But the chief attraction of this attractive Romanesque church are its murals, because of their graceful beauty, extensiveness, and relatively good state of preservation.

Dating from between the end of the 11th century and the beginning of the 12th century, they illustrate an extensive array of major biblical stories.


The construction of the royal palace began during the reign of François I, who in 1528 ordered an ambitious campaign of demolition and expansion of the old royal residence. Further modifications undertaken by his successors and carried out at varying degrees of intensity until the 19th century gave shape to the present complex, which nowadays consists of five courtyards, arranged irregularly and surrounded by wings of buildings and gardens.

France Palace and Park of Fontainebleau Brief Description Used by the kings of France from the 12th century, the medieval royal hunting lodge of Fontainebleau, standing at the heart of a vast forest in the Ile-de-France, was transformed, enlarged and embellished in the 16th century by François I, who wanted to make a 'New Rome' of it. Surrounded by an immense park, the Italianate palace combines Renaissance and French artistic traditions.

Long Description The architecture and decor of the Palace of Fontainebleau exerted considerable influence on the artistic evolution not only of France but also of Europe. François I intended to make a new Rome of this royal residence. It was in this spirit that he brought artists of renown from Italy, whose intervention marks the decisive stage in the introduction of the aesthetic formulas of the Renaissance into France. Used by the kings of France from the 12th century, the medieval royal hunting lodge of Fontainebleau, standing at the heart of a vast forest in the Île-de-France, was transformed, enlarged and embellished in the 16th century by François I. From then on it was one of the most important and prestigious sites of the French Court.

From 1533 to 1540 Rosso Fiorentino worked on the decor of frescoes and the stucco work of the Galerie François I, achieving an ambitious iconographic programme in the Mannerist style, in which themes of monarchist propaganda were borrowed from Graeco-Roman fables and myths.


Francesco Primaticcio was responsible for the casting of the most famous Romantic bronzes: those of the Cortile of the Belvedere and of the Palazzo della Valle. Primaticcio devoted the better part of his career to Fontainebleau, working on the frescoes of the Salle de Bal, the room of the Duchess d'Étampes and the Galerie d'Ulysse. Very little survives of the rooms that were decorated under Primaticcio's supervision: there are traces, however, of his exquisite and refined creations in numerous drawings and engravings, which had considerable influence on the tastes of the time.

Niccolò dell'Abate collaborated with him in several of these workshops. The memory of other famous artists is intimately connected with Fontainebleau: a Hercules of Michelangelo was raised on a plinth in the Cour de la Fontaine; Benvenuto Cellini intended his Nymphe de Fontainebleau for the Porte Dorée; Serlio drew up the plans for several parts of the palace and conceived the door for the Fontaine Belle-Eau with its rustic grotto with telamons.

If Gilles le Breton seems to have escaped their influence at the beginning of the workshop, for Philibert de l'Orme and then for Jacques Androu et du Cerceau, Fontainebleau was the source of definitive revelations. The lesson of the Italian painters inspired yet another generation of artists, that of the second school of Fontainebleau, such as Toussaint Dubreuilh, Ambroise Dubois and Martin Fréminet, as the need to enlarge and decorate the immense palace created the ideal conditions for the survival of an artistic centre into the mid-17th century.


Provins, Town of Medieval Fairs Brief Description The fortified medieval town of Provins is situated in the former territory of the powerful Counts of Champagne. It bears witness to early developments in the organization of international trading fairs and the wool industry. The urban structure of Provins, which was built specifically to host the fairs and related activities, has been well preserved.

Justification for Inscription Criterion ii At the beginning of the 2nd millennium Provins was one of several towns in the territory of the Counts of Champagne that became the venues for great annual trading fairs linking northern Europe with the Mediterranean world. Criterion iv Provins preserves to a high degree the architecture and urban layout that characterize these great medieval fair towns. Long Description At the beginning of the 2nd millennium, Provins was one of several towns in the territory of the Counts of Champagne that became the venues for great annual trading fairs linking northern Europe with the Mediterranean world. It preserves to a high degree the architecture and urban layout that characterize these great medieval fair towns.

In the Gallo-Roman period, the site of present-day Provins was related to two important regional axes: the route from Soissons to Troyes towards the north and the route to Sens to the south-west. The earliest document related to Provins, an ordinance by Charlemagne of 802, indicates that the site was already an established fort. Because of its political and commercial importance, the castle on the high ground was fortified in the 11th and 12th centuries. The original enclosure (castrum ) was small, but the settlement grew up rapidly outside the fortifications and this, too, was encircled by a defensive wooden wall in the late 12th century. A third set of fortifications, this time in stone, was added in the first half of the 13th century. Provins is thus one of the four towns (together with Troyes, Lagny and Bar-sur-Aube) where medieval fairs were held in the reign of the Counts of Champagne, developing here from the 11th to the 14th centuries. 16

spur of the Brie plateau, and the Lower Town, lying further to the east at the confluence of two rivers. The Upper Town is characterized by the small houses built from stone and timber-framed construction and by green areas and gardens. There are two large buildings: the so-called 'Tour de CĂŠsar' or the Big Tower, is a stone structure, dating initially from the 12th century, consisting of three large spaces one above the other, covered with a 17th-century conical roof; and the Romanesque-Gothic church of Saint-Quiriace.

crossing of the nave and two bays beyond. The vaults above the crossing were damaged in a fire in the 17th century and replaced with a dome. The centre of the town was the old market square, surrounded by houses that developed in relation to the fairs, each with large vaulted underground storage spaces. A characteristic of all the ancient buildings in Provins, whether for mixed or for commercial use, is their system of vaulted cellars, dating from the 12th to the 14th centuries.

Historical Description

The town developed to the south of the Brie chalk plateau, in a gently hilly region at the confluence of the valleys of the Voulzie and the Durteint. It consists of the Upper Town, which grew up on a

Construction of the church began with a choir of impressive size in the 12th century and went on until the decline of Provins in 1320 up to the

In the Gallo-Roman period, the site of present-day Provins was related to two important regional axes: the route from Soissons to Troyes towards the north and the route to Sens to the south-west. These two routes, together with the valley of the Seine, form an important communication artery enclosing the rocky spur of the early settlement. 17

The origin of the name Provins is uncertain but could be an abbreviation of Probus Vinum. The earliest document related to Provins is an ordinance by Charlemagne of 802 which indicates that the site was already an established fort. In 983 the site became part of the lands of the powerful Counts of Champagne, one of the great feudal domains in France, and a favoured place of residence of the Counts. Because of its political and commercial importance, the castle (Châtel) on the high ground was fortified in the 11th and 12th centuries.

Paris, Banks of the Seine From the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower, from the Place de la Concorde to the Grand and Petit Palais, the evolution of Paris and its history can be seen from the River Seine. The Cathedral of NotreDame and the Sainte Chapelle are architectural masterpieces while Haussmann's wide squares and boulevards influenced late 19th- and 20thcentury town planning the world over.

Long Description The banks of the Seine are studded with a succession of masterpieces, including, in particular, Notre Dame and the Sainte Chapelle, Louvre, Palais de l'lnstitut, Les Invalides, Place de la Concorde, École Militaire, La Monnaie (Mint), Grand Palais des Champs Elysées, Eiffel Tower and Palais de Chaillot. A number of them, such as Notre Dame and the Sainte Chapelle, were definitive references in the spread of Gothic construction, while the Place de la Concorde or the vista at the Invalides exerted influence on the urban development of European capitals.

The Marais and Île Saint-Louis have coherent architectural ensembles, with highly significant examples of Parisian construction of the 17th and 18th centuries (Hôtel Lauzun and Hôtel Lambert on the Île St Louis), Quai Malaquais, and Quai Voltaire.


From the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower, from the Place de la Concorde to the Grand and Petit Palais, the evolution of Paris and its history can be seen from the River Seine. The Cathedral of NotreDame and the Sainte Chapelle are architectural masterpieces while Haussmann's wide squares and boulevards influenced late 19th- and 20thcentury town planning the world over. Paris is a river town. Ever since the first human settlements, from the prehistoric days and the village of the Parisii tribes, the Seine has played both a defensive and an economic role. The present historic city, which developed between the 16th (and particularly the 17th) centuries and the 20th century, translates the evolution of the relationship between the river and the people: defence, trade, promenades, etc.

The choice of the zone between Pont de Sully and Pont d'léna is based on the age-old distinction between Paris upstream and Paris downstream. Upstream, beyond the Arsénal, begins Paris the port and river transport town; downstream is the royal and subsequently aristocratic Paris, which had only limited commercial activity. It is this latter section of the city which was selected for the World Heritage List. The powerful hand of the state is extremely visible here through its constructions and the legislation in effect. It can be seen how the site and the river were gradually brought under control with the articulation of the two islets, Île de la Cité and Île Saint-Louis with the bank, the creation of northsouth thoroughfares, installations along the river course, construction of quays, and the channelling of the river.

Similarly, although the successive walls of the city have disappeared (the enceintes of PhilippeAuguste, Charles V, and the Fermiers Généraux), their traces may be read in the difference in size and spacing of the buildings (closer together in the Marais and the Île Saint-Louis, more open after the Louvre, beyond which are a greater number of major classic constructions laid along three perpendicular axes: Palais Bourbon-ConcordeMadeleine, Invalides-Grand and Petit Palais, Champ-de-Mars-École Militaire-Palais de Chaillot. The ensemble must be regarded as a geographical and historic entity. Today it constitutes a remarkable example of urban riverside architecture, where the strata of history are harmoniously superposed. Haussmann's urbanism, which marks the western part of the city, inspired the


of French Gothic art. The vast nave, in pure ogival style, the porches adorned with fine sculptures from the middle of the 12th century, and the magnificent 12th- and 13th-century stained-glass windows, all in remarkable condition, combine to make it a masterpiece.

specialised civic buildings. In the Middle Ages, the cathedral functioned as a kind of marketplace, with different commercial activities centred around the different portals, particularly during the regular fairs. Textiles were sold around the north transept, while meat, vegetables and fuel sellers congregated around the south porch. Money-changers (an essential service at a time when each town or region had its own currency) had their benches, or banques, near the west portals and also in the nave itself.

construction of the great cities of the New World, in particular in Latin America. The Eiffel Tower and the Palais de Chaillot are living testimony of the great universal exhibitions, which were of such great importance in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Social and economic context

Brief Description Partly built starting in 1145, and then reconstructed over a 26-year period after the fire of 1194, Chartres Cathedral marks the high point

As with any medieval bishopric, Chartres Cathedral was the most important building in the town – the centre of its economy, its most famous landmark and the focal point of many activities that in modern towns are provided for by

Wine sellers plied their trade in the nave, although occasional 13th century ordinances survive which record them being temporarily banished to the crypt to minimise disturbances. Workers of various professions gathered in particular locations around the cathedral awaiting offers of work. 20

were entitled to the taxes from all commercial activity taking place there.

As well as greatly increasing the cathedral's income, throughout the 12th and 13th centuries this led to regular disputes, often violent, between the bishops, the chapter and the civic authorities – particularly when serfs belonging to the counts transferred their trade (and taxes) to the cathedral. In 1258, after a series of bloody riots instigated by the count's officials, the chapter finally gained permission from the King to seal off the area of the cloÎtre and lock the gates each night.

Although the town of Chartres was under the judicial and tax authority of the Counts of Blois, the area immediately surrounding the cathedral, known as the cloĂŽtre, was in effect a free-trade zone governed by the church authorities, who


Current history The cathedral was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1979. In the last decade the fabric has seen an almost continuous program of cleaning and restoration. In recent years a major project has been underway to clean all the stone vaults of the choir and nave and repaint them in emulation of the 13th century polychromy.

Belfries of Belgium and France

north-western Europe, greater emphasis was placed on building belfries. Compared with the keep (symbol of the seigneurs) and the bell-tower (symbol of the Church), the belfry, the third tower in the urban landscape, symbolizes the power of the aldermen. Over the centuries, they came to represent the influence and wealth of the towns.

Brief Description Twenty-three belfries in the north of France and the belfry of Gembloux in Belgium were inscribed as a group, an extension to the 32 Belgian belfries inscribed in 1999 as Belfries of Flanders and Wallonia. Built between the 11th and 17th centuries, they showcase the Roman, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles of architecture.

Long Description They are highly significant tokens of the winning of civil liberties. While Italian, German and English towns mainly opted to build town halls, in part of

Belfries are outstanding representatives of civic and public architecture in Europe. Through the variety of their 'functional' forms and the changes they have undergone they


have been a vital aspect of civic architecture in Europe since the 13th century. They are unique constructions reflecting the development of civil authority that marked the history of Flanders (in its historical sense) from the Middle Ages onwards.

Referring originally to mobile wooden towers used in siege warfare, the term was later applied to the wooden watchtowers mounted on the palisades surrounding the portus or pre-urban centres.

term is later applied by Viollet-le-Duc in the Dictionnaire raisonnÊ de l'architecture française to the wooden watchtowers mounted on the palisades surrounding the portus or preurban centres. It was to be applied occasionally to towers of all sorts, but particularly to those housing bells or standing next to the bell-tower.

Travelling merchants re-appeared and perhaps began to organize and establish permanent warehouses near the castra of the feudal lords. These pre-urban groupings, which often grew up along river valleys, are the origin of towns like Tournai and Gent, along the Escaut.

Historical Description The definition of the term "belfry" was somewhat vague at the outset. Referring originally to the mobile wooden towers used in siege warfare, the

urban life which took place in these regions following the Viking raids of the 9th century. A favourable geographic situation at the heart of Europe, the re-establishment of major trade routes such as Bruges/Brugge-Cologne, and the improvement of navigable waterways at regional and national level made this region the ideal site for contact, trade, and the meeting of cultures.

Palisades, bells, and the right to possess bells are all closely associated with the development of 23

Locations where roads met navigable waterways were particularly propitious for the organization of markets, first temporary but later becoming permanent fairs, encouraging merchants to settle in one spot. In addition, the cloth-weaving industry seems to have developed from the 11th century onwards, in small centres such as Lille, Ypres (Ieper), Bruges (Brugge), Ghent (Gent), etc. Trade and cloth-weaving became key factors for the development of the pre-urban centre, which began to make its presence felt as an organized body through the influence of the professional bodies (guilds, corporations) and to mark out its physical bounds by building ramparts or palisades with belfries to provide safety against marauders.

made by Ada Kubicka and Karolina Werner from the Polish team


French Unesco sites part 1  

a short monography