Updated on 25 June 2020
Reading time: 3 minutes
Considered a cuttung-edge example of military architecture in its day, the Château-Gaillard was constructed by Richard the Lionheart in record time on the high chalk cliffs dominating a great meander in the River Seine. Today it is a ruin, but two villages below, Le Grand Andely and Le Petit Andely, merged over time to form one riverside village, Les Andelys, in the heart of an area of outstanding natural beauty.
Richard the Lionheart’s castle
Such a privileged site has attracted settlers and fisherfolk since prehistoric times: there are traces of Neolithic settlement, as well as a Gallo-Roman sanctuary. And there is a royal connection: Clothilde, Queen to Frankish King Clovis in the early sixth century founded an abbey church here in the year 511; one of the first in the area.
Richard the Lionheart ruled a kingdom through his marriage that stretched from the Pyrenees to the Scottish borders, encompassing England, Normandy, Aquitaine, Poitiers, Maine and Anjou. He had the castle built to protect his Norman possessions, and its capital, Rouen. It took just two years, 1196-1198, some say possibly in only one.
Richard and Philippe Auguste, the powerful French king of the day, had gone on Crusade together but they fell out on the way, which was hardly surprising. History does not tell us what they fell out of, but it hardly mattered since Richard died of gangrene after he was shot by a crossbow bolt in 1199. He was succeeded by his hapless, hopeless and helpless brother King John who would soon be landless as well (he is known by history as King John the Landless) since he lost both the castle and Normandy as a result!
BIRTHPLACE OF PAINTER NICOLAS POUSSIN
Somewhere near the two villages of Le Grand Andely and Le Petit Andely, today merged as Les Andelys, the renowned classical painter Nicolas Poussin was born in 1594. Poussin’s early artistic training is somewhat obscure, but an itinerant artist, Quentin Varin helped him between 1610 and 1612 – helped him to leave in fact – for Poussin would spend most of his working life in Rome.
- Nicolas Poussin Museum: Housed in a 17th-century building, this museum showcases works by Nicolas Poussin and other local artistic collections.
- Collégiale Notre-Dame: In the year 511, Clotilde, the second wife of king Clovis I, founded Normandy’s very first abbey here.
- Church of Saint-Sauveur: This church was built for the men who built Château-Gaillard.
- Vernon: A charming town on the River Seine
- Giverny, Claude Monet’s house and gardens, and the Musée des Impressionnismes
- Château de Vascoeuil
- Château de Gaillon
Nouvelle Normandie Tourist Office
12 rue du Pont, 27200 Vernon