The most beautiful ruins in all of France according to Victor Hugo, Château de Falaise and the archbishop’s palace in Rouen has more than the middle ages in common. Have you ever wondered how ruins and historical sites might have looked like at the high of their glory days? These three places mentioned have been brought to the 20th century digitally.
The Jumiège abbey
Rumors has it that Victor Hugo called these ruins for the most beautiful ruins in all of France. The original monastery was founded in 654 by saint Philibert who became the first abbot, but it is not site’s old age that has made it in to ruins.
The place was the religious center of the area and under saint Philibert successor there were nearly a thousand monks living in the monastery. Unfortunately some “Scandinavians” plundered and burned the place to the ground in the ninth century, but it was rebuilt larger and grander by William I Longsword the son of Rollo the viking, Duke of Normandy. In 1067 a new church was consecrated in the presence of William the Conqueror and since then the monastery has had the patronage of the dukes of Normandy. The abbey became a great centre of religion and learning, its schools producing, scholars, bishops, archbishops and cardinals. The church went through an expansion in 1256, and again restored in 1573.
Walking through the monastery ruins today you get glimpses of the grandeur of its heydays and with an iPad in tow you get to see how archeologists and historians belive it might have looked like when the place was bustling with life.
The iPad’s are linked to four different spots on the monastery grounds and by standing on them and holding up the iPad’s you will see a digital reconstruction and animation of the place. Click HERE to see the animation on their webpage.
It was not untill the french revolution that the monastery was abandoned and made into a quarry, the stones sold off as building materials. A gallery of the cloister was bought by Lord Stuart de Rothesay to rebuild it in Highcliffe Castle near Bournemouth, Dorset.
Château de Falaise in Falaise in Calvados, overlooks the town from a high crag, it was formerly the seat of the Dukes of Normandy. Around the Year One Thousand, the dukes’ fortress is particularly effective and protected a vast domain. It is built on the model “motte and Bailey” principle, a fortress atop a mound and protected by solid walls and ramparts.
At this historic site they have also made use of digital technology. Here as at the monastery of Jumièges you also get an iPad to take along for your tour around the castle, so you can see and get a feeling of how it might have been. If you walk around take a look at the some of the original masonry sometimes you can find graffiti carved in into the stones from when the soldiers was bored, some vulgar and some as innocent as tic, tac, toe.
Possession of the castle changed sides many times during the 100 year war, it went from french hands to english, then french again and back to english and so on, by the 17th century the castle was deserted.
As early as the 1840s Château de Falaise has been recognised as a Monument Historique by the French Ministry of Culture. A programme of restoration was carried out as early as in between the years of 1870 and 1874.
In modern times Château de Falaise and Falaise got bombarded by allied forces during the second world war in what is known as the Falaise pocket. 2/3 of the town was destroyed and taken by a combined force of Canadian and Polish troops. Luckily the keeps of the château were unscathed and Falaise has largely been restored after the war.
On March 21st 2015, just a stone throw from the dungeon she was imprisoned, the highly anticipated Joan of Arc History Museum, located in the former archbishop’s palace opened its door. Visitors are transported back to the middle ages through state-of-the-art technology, immersive exhibition space with comprehensive historical content that enables you to explore the myth and legend of France’s national heroine. A team of internationally renowned historians, museum specialists and design agencies started this project of constructing and renovating the archbishop’s palace in 2013. A film production company has worked with local actors and Rouen Opera’s costume department, to create fictional documentaries that will form part of the visitor experience. One stand-out aspect of the new museum casts tourists as witnesses to Joan of Arc’s trials.
I originally posted this in norwegian on Feelgoods online magazine