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Visiting Les Tourelles, Dieppe, France: 15th century towers formerly part of the Medieval town walls
Defences, a jail and a tourist attraction
These still imposing towers, known as Les Tourelles, at Boulevard de Verdun, Dieppe, France, are one of the relatively few remaining parts of the town's former, fortified Medieval town walls (1).
With Les Tourelles dating from the 15th century (2), the town's fortifications were the responsibility of Captain Charles Desmarets, who strengthened the town's defences against English attacks; indeed, England occupied the town for a number of years. The town was besieged repeatedly.
Features of Les Tourelles include circular tower structures executed in stone, topped by conical roofs. The building has been modified a number of times in its history.
Even when the structure's sturdy walls ceased to play a part in the town's defences, theyw they continued to be put to practical use; until 1825, Les Tourelles served as a jail.
In both Medieval and modern times, the town of Dieppe has seen many changes of régime and leaders of varying ideological hues; the current mayor of Dieppe (2014) is a Communist.
Among the historical personalities associated with the 15th century fortifications of the town is Jean d'Orléans (1402-1468), Count of Dunois. One of Joan of Arc's noted companions at arms, Jean d'Orléans is remembered as one who successfully led efforts to withstand attacks by English forces during the siege of 1442-1443. He was commemorated in one of a series of Medieval miniatures, a copy of which I have supplied (right).
Canadians may note that, a short distance from Les Tourelles, during his Prime Ministerial period of office, the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney made a speech (3).
On the surface, the structure known as Les Tourelles seems to evoke a romantic conception of Medieval life, whereby fainting dames might have been imprisoned in its towers, ready for gallant knights in arms to rescue and marry. Such romantic mythology of course masks the historical realities which at times were much harsher, and at other times more pedestrian.
Dieppe is located in the Seine-Maritime department of France's Upper Normandy (French: Haute-Normandie) region.
March 26, 2014
(1) See also (in French): http://mobile.dieppe.fr/pages/les-tourelles-84
(2) It is thought that some of the original fortifications were older, dating from the 11th century.
(3) This was commemorate the Canadian contribution to the Dieppe Raid, 1942. Mr. Mulroney visited the town on April 10, 1992.
Also worth seeing
.In Dieppe itself, the town's most visible, historic building is its clifftop castle; the huge church of Saint-Jacques has a long and tumultuous history; the café des Tribunaux was known as a meeting place for artists and writers; the former Oratorian College is at Quai Henri-IV; the Villa Vénitienne is a 19th century replica of a Mediecal Italian villa.
How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York Newark to Paris (Aéroport Paris-Charles de Gaulle ), from where car rental is available (distance from Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport to Dieppe : 214 kilometres). The French railroad company SNCF maintains a service between Paris (Gare Saint-Lazare ) and Dieppe. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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