Entre Terre et Mer... Pays Gourmand
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Architectural heritage

Abbaye de Deux-Jumeau © otiigi


On the narrow roads that meander their way through our countryside, fine stonework enthusiasts are sure to be charmed! A multitude of châteaux, churches, "manor farms", wash houses and many other architectural treasures from the past await them. Just open your eyes and stay alert, and you're sure to discover some pure marvels.





puce tite_puce_verte Religious heritage

 Eglise St Clément à Osmanville ©l.lelongchapelle_St_Roch, entre Isigny et Neuilly ©otiigi

Bessin abounds with small villages... And here, every village and every hamlet has its own church or chapel! The oldest date from the 11th and 12th centuries, for example the church of Saint Clement in Osmanville or the Saint Gerbold chapel in Englesqueville-la-Percée. Certain religious buildings throughout the territory are fine illustrations of Norman Romanesque architecture, featuring, in particular, carved facades and interiors.

For further information


puce tite_puce_verte Les châteaux 

Le château des Evêques ©otiigiJust like churches, the first fortified castles were built during William the conqueror's period, as from the 11th century. Their intensive construction continued up to the late 15th century, towards the end of the Hundred Years' War. Several castles were destroyed during the incessant battles with the English (for example the Château d'Osmanville and the Château de Beaumont in Englesqueville-la-Percée suffered great damage).

The Château des Evêques in Neuilly-la-Forêt, which dates back to the 11th century, was the Bayeux bishops' country residence, but also served as a safe haven in times of war, suffering many a siege over the centuries. Despite having been burnt and pillaged, the château still stands today, although nothing remains of the original edifice. It can be admired along the Neuilly-la-Forêt interpretation trail.

The present day Town Hall in Isigny-sur-Mer is the former Bricqueville family castle. It was built in the mid 17th century. In contrast with fortified castles, it played an ostentatious and decorative role, as did all such stately homes during this peaceful period.

Hôtel de Ville d'Isigny-sur-Mer ©otiigi 


puce tite_puce_verte « Manors farms »

Ferme-manoir de Saint-Pierre-du-Mont ©otiigi 

In the Bessin area, manors are referred to as "fermes-manoirs" (manor farms), due to their predominantly agricultural role. For the most striking and stately among them, one could even hesitate between calling them castles or manor farms; the Manoir (or Château) de Saint-Pierre-du-Mont is a case in point.

Each and every one is remarkable in its own way, such as the Ferme-Manoir de Tonnellerie in Grandcamp-Maisy or the Ferme-Manoir de la Rivière in Géfosse-Fontenay.

The Isigny-Grandcamp area offers a wealth of these seigniorial buildings - the town of Géfosse-Fontenay alone boasting 6 of them...

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The Manoir de l'Hermerel in Géfosse-Fontenay, a fine example of a typical manor farm
private property - not open for visits


chapelle de l'Hermerel ©otiigiThe very first human occupation of Hermerel is believed to date back to the 5th century. It is said to have been in the village's first castle, built near to the coast and amidst extremely fertile land. The castle was totally destroyed in the 14th century in the early days of the Hundred Years' War. It was rebuilt on the same site at the end of the war, in the 15th century. From the same period, a chapel - and very probably part of a wing of the lodge - still stand within the present-day manor.  The main building dates from the 17th century. Its symmetry, and the use of freestone to adorn its facade are quite striking.

Access to the Manor is in the form of a double-entrance porch:  one gate for carts and another for pedestrians. Inside, visitors can admire an exceptionally vast circular dovecote. It houses around 700 pigeonholes, each capable of sheltering a couple of pigeons and their young. This type of outbuilding symbolised both nobility and wealth, the number of pigeonholes being proportionate to the total surface area of land owned by the lord of the manor.

puce tite_puce_verte Architecture in the marshlands

Mur en bauge, terre crue des marais ©b.canu PNR MCB


Earthen buildings, typical of the marshlands, were first built in the 16th century, their construction continuing up to the early 20th century. They were built using raw earth, directly extracted from the surrounding clay and silty soil, and placed in successive layers, without formwork. This earth offered buildings their distinctive yellow to red ochre colour. This type of masonry, making use of the cob technique, can be admired throughout the marshland natural park and, within our community of communes, in Neuilly-la-Forêt, Les Oubeaux, Vouilly ...

For further informationGrange en terre ©b.canu PNR MCB



Part of this wall has lost its coating,
leaving the raw earth visible.


puce tite_puce_verte Resort architecture

 Détail d'une villa de Grandcamp-Maisy ©otiigi

In the 19th century, romantic artists were in quest of sites propitious to reverie and contemplation. The coast, which had to date been snubbed, became a source of inspiration where artists readily settled. The virtues of bathing and the sea air were extolled. Sufficient interest to draw many to our coast, in particular to Grandcamp-les-Bains, a highly popular resort over the summer months. The fishing village's face was to be totally transformed. A railway line was built, along with a casino (which no longer stands today). Constructions of typical resort architecture developed throughout the village. For further information

Vast homes with several floors were built on the seafront by wealthy Parisians, extremely partial to sea bathing. A cross between a country home and a genuine château, they called them "the villas". They were decorated with distinctive coloured facades, adorned with statues, wooden carved balconies, mouldings and decorative earthenware tiling. These villas were often eccentric, each one illustrating its owner's personality. As you stroll through Grandcamp-Maisy, you can still admire many examples of these fine villas.


puce tite_puce_verte Reconstruction architecture


After the Allied landings, the summer of 1944 was synonymous to joy and hope. The desire to rebuild, to start a new life, was stronger than ever. Reconstruction of villages and rural areas was quickly undertaken. It was a matter of urgency, for certain towns and villages had suffered greatly from the bombings, such as Isigny-sur-Mer, 65% of which had been destroyed. New techniques and materials enabled fast reconstruction. The guiding principles were functionality and modernity, which were symbolised by mass use of concrete. This strategy, which was applied to the reconstruction of all towns and villages destroyed during the Second World War, was nevertheless the subject of criticism: concrete was said to be monotonous and gloomy. Yet reconstruction using concrete offered fast rehousing for a population in distress, whilst modernising towns and villages and enlarging their streets. This new architectural trend is, today, acknowledged and praised via the inscription of the town of Le Havre (town centre rebuilt) on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Sources : 
Patte E., Entre Sèves et Taute – De terre et de pierre dans les marais du cotentin, Ed Cahiers du temps, 2004, coll. L'inventaire-Images du patrimoine.