Evreux, an ancient city
Evreux is located on the banks of the river Iton.
It is the prefecture of the department of Eure and the third largest city in Upper Normandy.
It takes its name after the Gallic tribe Aulerci Eburovices, who founded it in the late 1st century BC.
After the Roman conquest, the city was transformed into a major garrison town part of the Gallia Lugdunensis province.
Many architectural vestiges were uncovered during the excavations carried out at the Gallo-Roman archaeological site of Gisacum – Vieil Evreux located 6km south of the city.
This antic city stretched over 250ha.
The barbarian invasions of the 3rd century drove the inhabitants of Evreux to encompass the city within a rampart.
Vestiges of this wall are still visible in the Evreux Museum.
These fortifications, however, were unable to prevent the Vandals from sacking the city in the 5th century nor the Vikings from plundering it in 892!
Count of Evreux – A title passed from family to family!
The city was also the home of the Counts of Evreux, a lineage that descended from the illegitimate son of Richard I, Duke of Normandy.
The title passed to another branch of the family in 1198 before returning to the Crown of France in 1200.
In 1307, King Philip the Fair gave the title to his brother Louis of Evreux.
Philip the Long turned the title of Count into a peerage of France in 1317.
The Counts of Evreux became kings of Navarre with the marriage of Philippe d’Evreux to Jeanne of Navarre in 1318.
In 1404, their descendant Charles the Noble handed the title to Charles VI of France.
In 1427 Charles VII bestowed it to his Scottish Chief of the Guard, Sir John Stuart.
The title returned to the French Crown upon the death of Stuart two years later.
The Duke of Anjou inherited the title in the 16th century.
It then went to Frédéric Maurice of the Tour d’Auvergne, Duc de Bouillon, in 1651 as a ‘reward’ for bequeathing the independent principality of Sedan to the French king!
The House de Bouillon retained the title until the French Revolution. Roman wall in Evreux Museum
Evreux, episcopal city
Evreux became the seat of the bishopric of Ebroicensis – Evreux, founded in the 4th century by Saint Taurin, the first bishop of Evreux.
1- The Eglise Saint-Taurin is the church of the first abbey; it is mostly Romanesque but was altered and enlarged over the centuries.
It contains the shrine of the saint.
2- The Cathédrale Notre-Dame d’Evreux, one of the finest and largest in France, was consecrated in 1076.
It was destroyed, along with the city, during the Norman uprising of 1119 that opposed the king of France to the Duke of Normandy.
The Cathedral was rebuilt in the years that followed.
It underwent further degradations during the conflict that opposed King Philippe-Auguste to Richard the Lionheart between 1194 and 1198.
The current cathedral is therefore a superb illustration of the evolution of French religious architecture, and is classified Historical Monument.
It has retained some Romanesque architectural features, but is mostly Gothic.
The central octagonal tower dates from the 15th century, while its stunning west facade and its two towers were erected during the Renaissance.
It also contains beautiful stained glass windows of the 14th and 15th centuries.
It was unfortunately damaged once more during the Wars of Religion.
3- The Episcopal Palace, attached to the south side of the cathedral, dates from the 15th century, and now houses the Museum of Evreux.
4- The Tour de l’Horloge is another landmark of the city and is classified Historical Monument.
This Gothic belfry was built in the 1490s in order to replace a tower clock located on the old fortifications.
It is 44m high and its platform is accessed by a staircase of 140 steps.
Interestingly, Evreux counted a large Jewish community during the Middle Ages.
Several Jewish learning centres were then founded, and many of the academics teaching there were quoted in the medieval notes of the Talmud.
The inauguration of the railway line Mantes – Lisieux in 1855 resulted in the construction of an ‘embarcadère’, which was upgraded in 1887 (Evreux railway station).
This, obviously, had a significant economic impact on the city.
As many towns in Normandy, it was badly destroyed during WWII.
The city center was completely devastated but was rebuilt along the lines of traditional local architecture.
The nearby air base of Evreux-Fauville is a former NATO air base that was used by the US Air Force in Europe from 1952 to 1967.
It has been a French Air Force base since then.
Evreux is located 1 hour from Paris by car and halfway between the capital and the Normandy coasts.
Department of Eure
Coordinates: Lat 49.027013 – Long 1.151361