Version française du site

Cliquer sur le drapeau pour y accéder
Our Lady Collegiate church in Vernon
A whole site dedicated to this monumeent (in English)
Please, click on the thumb


Downloads
Please click on the icon
Vernon half-timbered houses
A whole site about our numerous old houses (In French only, sorry !)
Please click on the thumb
 
Vernon Giverny Website auf deutsch

Bitte, auf die Fahne clicken
 

Pass the mouse over the photos for further information
The Old Mill in Vernon
Click to enlarge
Monet's house and garden at Giverny
Click to enlarge
The XIIth c. castle keep in Vernon
Click to enlarge
Visits, indeed, but there are so many other things to do in Vernon
Click to enlarge
Walking and cycling around Vernon
Click to enlarge
Museums in Vernon (paintings by Monet) and Giverny
Click to enlarge
A walk in the streets of Giverny
Click to enlarge
The water lily pond at Giverny
Click to enlarge
Tourelles castle in Vernon
Click to enlarge


The historic centre of Vernon


   
        HISTORIC CENTRE walking tour  - DOWNLOAD HERE
( PDF format)

"It is a small city located at the limit of the Beauvais country and Normandy, in the former Vexin region. The river Seine lined with willows and poplars flows below it; it is crowned with forest.

It is a small city town with bluish slate roofs, dominated by a circular tower and by the three towers of its old collegiate church. The small city was strong and martial for many years. But it has now untied its belt of stones and now, silent and quiet, it rests peacefully after its former bustling life.

It is a small French city, the shadows of our forefathers still haunt its grey walls and its avenues lined with arch-shaped lime trees; it is full of memories. It is venerable and sweet.
"

     This is how Anatole France evoked Vernon in 1899 in the introduction to "Pierre Nozière".

                               
Since then, unfortunately, the city was severely hit by 1940 and 1944 bombings but it managed to live through the 20th century, prospering and keeping a large part of its historic treasures.

We invite you to stroll along its streets to evoke its history and enjoy some of its former atmosphere.


The visit can begin on the Town Hall square, in fron of the Our-Lady church and a wonderful  old house.  We are now at the boundary of the old district and  of those that were destroyed during World War II.

                                                  

The collegiate church, built between the 11th and the early 16th centuries is typical of Late Romanesque style and the different variants of Gothic style. Its façade is particularly elegant and its Late Gothic rose-window displays a rare  square pattern. The inside is also original with its high and light nave leading to the older choir, low, dark but propitious to meditation. Since most of the windows were shattered by bombs, modern ones have recently been set up, the quality and artistry of which is remarkable.

 Several works of arts can be seen there, especially a late 13th c, statue showing the Virgin ( (in the Lady chapel) and the 17th c.woodwork of the organ

(A detailed virtual visit of the church can be found in this site -  click here. A quicktour is also  available here)

 
The old district around the church

Two streets around the church were untouched by the bombs,   rue du Chapitre (Chapter St) and  rue Saint Sauveur (Saintt Saviour St) which have retained their cobblestones and  their picturesque half timbered houses  and also  rue Bourbon Penthièvre at the back of the church.

Next to the church, the 'Maison du temps jadis' (Ye Olde House), housing the Tourist Office and dated 1450 - 60, possesses two corbelled stories topped with a gable-roof. An Annunciation is carved on the corner pillar at street level.

(More about the numerous  half timbered houses in Vernon  : detailed visit here)



Chapter Street (south side of the church) displays a fine old house which once belonged to the Canons in charge of the church.

A few metres farther, one arrives into Bourbon Penthièvre Street, also lined with old half-timbered houses, some of them with corbelled storeys. (Have a special look at N° 10, restored as it was   around 1460.)  When turning around and looking back, one can admire the church tower (early 13th century, a fine example of Norman Gothic style) and the easternmost chapel (late 14th century).


The street on the left of the church (Saint Sauveur St) will lead visitors to Saint Sauveur Square and the North porch in Late Gothic; it was unfortunately damaged during the Revolution (after 1789). In this little square one can also observe the back part of the medieval houses which seem to lean against one another so as to avoid collapsing.

Here, turn  into Rue Malot, more a lane than a street. Walk on a few steps and turn around: this narrow street, these old houses and the church in the back, does not all this make you think of some pages of Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy or pages by Balzac, the novelist of French provincial life? Listen to him describing Guérande (Southern Britanny, near Nantes), but this could also apply to this very street: "The streets look how they used to be 400 years ago… This street leads to a postern-gate above which a clump of trees is growing. A poet, a painter will remain seated there enjoying the deep silence that reigns under the vault of the postern where the bustle of the city is not heard.[…] it is impossible to walk here without thinking about the habits and manners of the past; every stone reminds you of it."

Town Hall

It was built in the late 19th century and the city coat of arms carved above the main gate will puzzle the visitor  with its three bunches of watercress.  To know why, just walk up to the first floor and have a look at the modern  glasswindow : it evokes a visit  of King Louis IX (Saint Louis) to Vernon when he was served watercress..  (For information about this episode and about the glass and its peculiar tachnique,  please click here)

 Walk into the grand gallery ('Salle des mariages')  and look at the  frescoes of the ceiling  : a Norman girl in an apple orchard, but also another girl in a vineyard... Yes a Norman vineyard ! (Learn more about local vineyards and wine. Click here)
                                         


 The former High Street ( now rue Carnot)

Entre la maison du  Temps Jadis (Office du tourisme) et le feu tricolore, maisons à pans de bois et façades anciennes se succèdent tout au long de la rue.


(More about Vernon's half-timbered houses, here)

It is interesting to compare this building and the next ones. Here is a remnant of medieval town-planning: in the shopping streets, such as the one here, called Grand Rue (High street) now rue Carnot, there were narrow houses huddled together, with a shop in front, and one or two (very dark) rooms behind.

These houses were hardly more than 4 or 5 meters wide: as a matter of fact, in the Middle Ages, the 'standard' beams used for building, the ones yielded by 100 year-old oaks, were about 4 or 5 meters long. However rich merchants, instead of living in the smaller houses along the street, had beautiful dwellings, like the one at the corner, located in busy or prestigious crossroads (such as here with the church). Another rich merchant's house will be seen later at the crossing of  High Street and Bridge Street.
On the way, you  will walk past Rue de la Boucherie (Butchers's St) on the right: the name recalls that this was where the butchers had their shops in medieval times. Notice the gutter in the middle of the street : imagine it filled with waste and filth and you have a good image of what a medieval street looked like. This gutter can also be connected with a French phrase "tenir le haut du pavé" , literally "walk on the higher part of the paved road" which means 'lording it': People of consequence would walk along the walls i.e. on the higher part of the street, away from the filth, and would let common folk walk in the middle of the street, thus having to wade along in the gutter.

The narrower of the two timbered houses at the crossing used to be an inn. During the Hundred Years War,  it was  run by an English innkeeper. Undoubtedly the patrons must have been the English soldiers garrisoned in the castle. Opposite the street, Nr 45 (was also an inn, l'Ecu de France (the Arms of France) for wealthy people. 

(Note: the visitors who intend to visit or who have already visited Vieux Moulin (the Old mill) and Château des Tourelles (Tourelles castle) [see the pages dedicated to this site] on the other bank of the river will notice a sign over the gate: it shows the very place where Planter, the miller, was almost hanged in October 1789.)




Carnot Street - formerly High Street - (Sadi Carnot was President of the republic at the end of the 19th c., murdered in 1894 by a  terrorist )  is part of the Paris - Rouen road: it used to be the main street of the city and it was lined with numerous inns, almost thirty, because Vernon was where stagecoaches and mail coaches would stop over for the night, half way between Paris and Rouen. Of course  he railway line , which opened in 1843, meant the immediate end of the inns.

      
The former medieval castle  

Access is from Albuféra street ( rue d'Albuféra), one of the main streets of the town, leading down to the Seine and the bridge. It is named after the mayor who had the new thoroughfare built in the 1850s. He was the son of Marshal Gabriel Suchet, made Duke of Albufera by Napoleon Ist.
 



Turn right after an antique shop.  After a few steps you arrive at a large open space with 'l'Espace Philippe Auguste' on the left. Inaugurated in 1992, it houses a multimedia library, a school of drama and of music, exhibitions halls and theatre
The  place was named "Philippe Auguste" (king Philip II) for he is an important figure in Vernon :  he is the one who conquered the town in 1196 from the Duke of Normandy (who was also King of England) and who united it with the kingdom of France. This castle, the former bridge and Tourelles castle (on the other bank of the river) (click here for details) are remains of the defence system established by the French to protect the town and the neighbouring territories that had just been conquered. (Note: visitors  in Les Andelys can see Château Gaillard, the English counter system for their own defence against the French in Vernon.)

The castle was both a fortresss and a royal residence until the 16th century . Then, deprived of any military use and left unmaintained, it fell into ruin. There only remains a few dozens of metres of walls and the keep - called
Tour des Archives (Archive Tower) and kept in a good state of repair since the 18th century, because the lord of Vernon decided then to use it to store his archives - which saved the tower.

                                         




A detailed visit of the former castle is here


Around the castle : rue Potard

To continue the visit, walk back and  left into Rue d'Albuféra; down this street about 50 m and left again into Rue Potard. This narrow and very old street already existed in the 12th century. Its first part is lined with half-timbered houses (most of which from the 15th century). There, one can clearly realise that medieval people did not live in separate districts. Rich and poor, they all live in the same streets but of course in very different looking houses: a mere glance will show the difference between Nr 12, the house of a wealthy citizen and Nr 4 (at the beginning of the street) which belonged to a very modest craftsman.
(For more details about the half-timbered houses, please click here)
                


Above 15th - 17th c. houses 
Below: view from the street in front of the museum





Around musée Alphonse Poulain


Continue walking and turn right into the first street from where another group of old houses can be seen, dating from the 15th century (the one at the crossing with an Annunciation carved on the corner pillar; another rich merchant living in one of the main crossroads of the  town) to the 17th century (the houses farther left, erected above beautiful stone bases and with their windows adorned with wrought-iron). Cross the street - this is rue Carnot again- and walk on  5 - 10 metres down rue du Pont (Bridge St).  First if you look back, you can see Archive Tower rising above more half timbered houses. In the yard, the facade of Le Moine de Bellisle's 18th c. mansion (now housing  Vernon museum).





This is now the right opportunity to visit the museum. Open since 1983, it is one of the few in France to display Animal Art. It also exhibits numerous drawings by Steinlein and possesses a beautiful collection of Giverny and Vernon painters, among whom several works by Claude Monet and Pierre Bonnard.


                                     

Above: the yard of the museum
Below :Tamed Horses, by Giverny sculptor,  
Fredéric Mac Monnies 
The river banks
  (From the back of the church,  all the way down rue Bourbon Penthièvre. Cross the main road.  (Careful heavy traffic, danger.)

Once near the river,  on the right, there rises a large 18th century residence, 'the Duke of Penthièvre's Pavilion' (the last lord of Vernon). This is where the duke, who lived in Château de Bizy just outside Vernon, would often come to spend some time to administer the city.  The house nearly had another famous resident: Claude Monet:  when he came to live here, he wanted to buy the house but could not afford it..  He had to go somewhere else... it was Giverny !
From here too,  nice view over the river, the right banks and the hills overlooking the valley.

On the left, under the trees, two monuments recall the terrible days of August 1944 and the sacrifice of hundreds of British soldiers to liberate the town and cross the Seine. This is indeed the very place where British troops, under the command of Marshal Montgomery, crossed the Seine under heavy firing and built floating bridges so as to be able to drive up North and carry on the fight. (Go to the pages devoted to this historic event)

You can, if you wish, take a nice stroll along the river, eitherr up or downstream, as you  prefer, or walk back  up Bourbon Penthièvre Street leading to the church. A last glimpse at this old street dominated by the Collegiate church, exhibiting the faded beauty of age-old places...

Have a good time in Vernon



To visit Vernon historic centre you can download the map and description below

         HISTORIC CENTRE walking tour   - DOWNLOAD HERE
(PDF Format)

 Most of these places can also be visited following the Lime Tree Walking Tour , that avoids  only the Collegiate church, the City Hall and Carnot Street. but that enables vistors to  discover other places not mentioned in  this page.