THINGS TO DO

Cultural Heritage

Our land is dotted with over thirty buildings listed as “Monuments Historiques”, designation given to national heritage sites in France. From its castles, which bear witness to our feudal origins, to its churches, its vestiges ans its traditional architecture, the area leaves room for only one thing : to wander around and discover the charms of the region.

PIERREFONDS-LES-BAINS

The appeal of Pierrefonds in the XIXth century is due to its thermal waters and the Second French Empire.

The spa resort, Hôtel des Bains, opened shortly after thermal properties were known in 1846. It offered various treatments in baths, shower and care rooms. It even had gaming rooms and a casino for spa goers to enjoy. The waters of Pierrefonds, rich in sulphates and limestones like those of Enghien and Chamonix, treat respiratory deseases, skin conditions and even joint pain. The middle-class society of Compiègne soon took advantage of this thermal tourism.

The Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoléon III, fond of Pierrefonds, promoted it and asked sometimes to be named Countess of Pierrefonds. Towards the end of the Second French Empire, the plan for a railway station came to life, completed fifteen years later, under the Third Republic. Unveiled in 1884, the railway station boosted the destination’s popularity, with Parisian high society, soon joining the spa clients of Compiègne.

Until 1914, what was henceforth known as Pierrefonds-les-Bains coul welcome more than 500 patients per night, with hundreds and thousands visitors staying at the spa each year.

 

A LAND OF CASTLES AND ESTATES

 

 

Our land, full of many castles and estates, bears witness to the strong influence of the feudal system in this part of France. Throughout almost all its history since the Celts, the region has been divided into little parcels of lands managed by local castle owners.

Even today, churches ans castles show traces of a history that dates back thousands of years and of the upheavals associated thereto. For example, our buildings often reflect the various stages of construction, destruction, development and reconstruction through one or more pieces of limestone, obtained from the region’s quarries. The latter also made it possible to construct magnificent mansions, fortified farms and castles. Now, these architectural jewels can be admired in all our villages.

THE CASTLE OF OFFÉMONT 

The historical characters intrinsically linked to this fortress (restored in the 21th century) were involved in one of the biggest scandals in France, the Affair of the Poisons.

It implicated a number of prominent persons at the Court of the Sun King, King Louis XIV in the late 17th century. The case was triggered by the death of the Knight of Saint Croix, an army captain. Among items found in his personal belongings were letters compromising his lover, the Marquise of Brinvilliers, daughter of the owner of Offémont Castle. An inquiry was conducted and they finally learnt she poisoned him, her father and her brothers in order to secure the family fortune…

TRADITIONAL ARCHITECTURE

 

The various landscapes adorning the region are a real treasure. Our small but rich heritage is made up of crosses, wash houses, wells and ancient fortifications, reflecting typical Soissons architecture that can be found in each and every village. When walking through our villages from one end to the other, you will travel through time as you absorb the atmosphere of our charming wash houses. Can you picture the commotion? Imagine the sound of beaten linen, the water running back into the basins and the stories women told one another in this public meeting place, away from the prying ears of their husbands…

However, if we could keep only one feature of the our villages, it would be the cut-stone architecture and crow-stepped gables. As you stroll around, notice the extremely practical joints used in our architecture, typical of Soissons architecture style, which perfectly is in keeping with our underground resources, the “creutes” : subterranean stone passageways used since the Middle-Ages. However, local buildings were not always built like this, crow-stepped gables and natural quarry stone only became distinguishing features in local architecture at the end of the 16th century, following the recontructions that took place after French Wars of Religion. Moreover, despite various plausible hypotheses, we still do not know for sure why this style was gradually imposed.

CHURCHES

If the geological site in Cuise-la-Motte lets us trace the evolution of the landscape over a period of five million years, the twenty churches in the area provide us with an open-air religious architectural lesson : our buldings, built from the 11th century onwards – sometimes on much older ruins – have undergone several adjustments and reconstructions, including after the First World War.

Every single architectural development and innovation tells the story of our region throughout the ages ans reveals the causes behind all changes : the 11th century Roman nave of Saint Remi in Berneuil-sur-Aisne, the 11th century crypt of Pierrefonds church, the 12th century octogonal bell tower at the church of Saint Sulpice in Bitry, the gothic ruins of Saint-Croix priory and the Renaissance doorway into the church in Saint-Crépin-aux-Bois.

INDUSTRIAL HERITAGE

 

 The region’s industrial heritage also deserves  to be mentioned. It was here that the art of brush making (linked to two other regions in Oise) was born in the 19th century, and particularly the art of fine brushes, in Tracy-le-Mont. Until the beginning of the First World War, this town was even described as the European capital of luxury brushes. Almost 75% of its production were exported world-wide, with Tracy factories employing over two thousand people, which meant that the number of workers exceeded the number of local inhabitants.

Today, the Oise brush-making Museum Association (AMBO) boasts a unique collection of over 1,000 objects in France, including luxury brushes, exotic wood, Chinese silks and period tools, all of which can be enhance the former industrial site in Tracy-le-Mont in order to establish and develop its unique heritage.