XIth - XIIIth century
The history of Our Lady Collegiate Church reflects that the one the city of Vernon, a history often full of wars and destruction but also of moments of prosperity.
It is mainly the history of Anglo-French rivalry, which went through the Middle Ages, from Henry II of England, Richard Lionhearted and Philipppe II of France - what historians call the "first Hundred Years' War" that Louis IX (saint Louis, for the French) managed to end until Edouard III, Henri V , Charles V and the 'genuine' Hundred Years' War.
The geographical setting of Vernon, exactly at the border between Normandy and Ile de France, has had a tremendous influence on its destiny. Normandy, which became a Duchy in 911, theoretically depended on the king of France, but in fact was more or less independant; all the more so when the Duke became king of England in 1066. A rapid calculation shows that between the years 930 - 940 ( foundation of the city) and 1475 ( Treaty of Picquigny, which brought the Hundred Years War to an end) the city lived as long away from French rule as under the domination of the French kings.
All this explains why the history of Vernon in those years is first of all the history of wars.
he French - Norman boundary at the end of the 12th cent
Sieges, destructions, conquests, fires and looting, the French - English rivalry stamped the city and its main parochial church.
It is however curious to notice that, even during the worst periods of warfare, enlargment, improvement and restoration work never stopped in Our Lady church.
Our Lady Collegiate Church
This history of what will become Our Lady Collegiate Church begins with a siege ( in 1047 or 1048) during which a chapel situated near the city walls was destroyed. William, Lord of Vernon built it up again while enlarging it, so that in 1092 construction work was advanced enough for the church to be dedicated to the "Mother of God" by Gilbert, Bishop of Evreux..
In 1160 ( as a writ of Luke, Bishop of Evreux informs us), Guilluame II, lord of Vernon founded a college of seven Canons headed by a Dean to serve the church and was endowed by him with the property called, La Couture du Pré de Giverny, and with a fourth part of the forest of Vernon, all which the Dean and Canons continued to enjoy till the Revolution. (In the XIIIth century, five new canons were added to the first ones.)
Such is the origin of today's name: Our Lady Collegiate Church.
From this period still remains the Romanesque choir. Unfortunately, in the 18th century, the very early Gothic ambulatory was destroyed - it was one of the earliest in Normandy and hence in France, since Gothic architecture seems to have been born in England before passing over to Normandy and finally to Ile de France where it was to achieve the success that we all know.
At the beginning of the XIIIth century the two-storey tower lantern was erected. It still exists but it is difficult to see (except its East side) as it is partially hidden from view by the high nave, built much later.