Normandy provides holidaymakers all year long with events featuring music, arts, heritage, local traditions and more! While organizing your tour with Normandy American Heroes why not combine it with one of the numerous events we have chosen worthwhile for our guests to see in 2017?
20 th – 22nd: 'Les Puces Rouennaises', Rouen
The well-known antiques’ fair returns with over three hundred antique dealers
1st anecdote: 30 May 1431, Joan of Arc nicknamed The Maid of Orléans is tied to a tall pillar at the Vieux-Marché in Rouen and executed for heresy: she was burned at the stake. In 1456 Pope Callixtus III declares her a martyr. In 1909 she will be beatified then canonized in 1920.
2nd anecdote: Rouen was heavily damaged during World War II - approximately 45% of the city was destroyed. The city was liberated by the Canadians on 30 August 1944 after the breakout from Normandy.
29 th: International Human Rights Competition, Memorial of Caen
Lawyers from around the world will defend genuine cases of human rights violations
1st anecdote: William the Conqueror who invaded England at the famous battle of Hasting, crowned King of England on Christmas day 1066 will die September 1087 in Rouen, is buried at the Abbaye des Hommes in Caen. The castle he built in Caen still stands today as well as the Tower of London built with the same stones of Caen!
2nd anecdote: On D-Day, 6 June 1944, Caen was an objective for the 3rd British Infantry Division and remained the focal point for a series of battles well into August. The old city with many buildings dating back to the Middle Ages was destroyed by Allied bombing & the fighting. The reconstruction lasted until 1962 above the rubbles!
4 th - 5 th: 'La Saint-Pierre des Marins', Fécamp
Street parade and boat blessing
1st anecdote: In the 19th century, the recipe for Benedictine liqueur was “rediscovered” by Alexandre Legrand. The Palais Benedictine now houses a visitors’ centre, which shows how the liqueur is made
2nd anecdote: On the cliffs of Cap Fagnet, the German forces began in 1942 the construction of a battery of radars including the experimental model Radar FuMG 41/42 Mammut which was never operational, some still visible today.
24 th- 28th Granville Carnival
Normandy’s longest running street carnival has just been added to UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
1st anecdote: Home of the renowned designer Christian Dior, it is nicknamed the Monaco of the north by virtue of its location on a rocky promontory and beauty.
2nd anecdote: In December 1944 four German paratroopers and a Naval cadet escaped from the prisoner camp, stole an American LCVP landing craft (Higgins barge!), and made their way back to the German occupied Channel Islands. Liberation of the islands arrived peacefully on 9 May 1945!
1st - 5 th: International Circus Festival, Bayeux
During five days, Bayeux becomes the Circus capital of the world.
1st anecdote: The tapestry of Bayeux listed Memory of the World by UNESCO is an embroidered cloth nearly 70 meters’ long. It depicts the events leading to the Battle of Hastings, fought on 14 October 1066 between the Norman-French army of William, the Duke of Normandy, and an English army under the Anglo-Saxon King Harold Godwinson.
2nd anecdote: Bayeux was the only city not destroyed by the allies’ bombardments in WWII on Dday. The medieval town center is often nicknamed by visitors as the Saint Louis district of the West.
4 th- 6 th: Plant and Tree Fair, Lisieux
Garden festival in the heart of Normandy
1st anecdote: Saint Thérèse of Lisieux together with Saint Francis of Assisi is one of the most popular saints in the history of the church. Pope Pius X called her "the greatest saint of modern times. Thérèse is well known throughout the world, with the Basilica of Lisieux being the second-largest place of pilgrimage in France after Lourdes.
2nd anecdote: Lisieux experienced its first real Allied bomb attack during the evening of 6 June 1944. Some civilians were killed. Refugees took shelter during the period of devastation waiting the hour of deliverance, many of them placing themselves under the spiritual protection of Saint Thérèse. The city will finally be liberated August 23, 1944 by British troops.
18 th - 20 th: Annual Black Pudding Festival, Mortagne-au-Perche
Black pudding competition, eating contests, cooking demonstrations and art exhibitions
1st anecdote: The Percheron is the most famous French breed of draft horses; some say its origin dates back to the VIII century. It originated in the Huisne river valley in western France, part of the former Perche province from which the breed takes its name. Usually gray or black in color, Percherons are well muscled, and known for their intelligence and willingness to work.
2nd anecdote: The appearance of the black pudding in the culinary tradition goes back to the most remote periods of France history. It is possible that the Moorish conquerors introduced it, as they crossed the Perche (establishing a camp on a hill then called Mauritania, known today as Mortagne). The black pudding filled the tables of the kings of France, and is known to have regaled the Tsar of Russia Peter the Great, on a visit to Versailles! The Caviar of the Perche!
20 - 26 th: Tour de Normandie
Cycle race starting this year in Bourg-Achard and ending in Caen
1st anecdote: The Tour of Normandy is a road bicycle race held annually in the region. The race started in 1939, but was not held during WWII and between 1960 & 1980. It was originally a race for amateurs, but has been opened for professionals since 1996.
2nd anecdote: It is in the commune of Bourg-Achard, department of the Eure that the 144 runners of this 37th edition will set off from.
March 20, Bourg-Achard to Gonfreville l’Orcher, 143km
March 21st, Neufchâtel-en-Bray to Forges-les Eaux, 164km
March 22nd, Duclair to Elbeuf-sur-Seine, 179km
March 23rd, Le Neubourg to Argentan, 163km
March 24th, La Ferté-Macé to Bagnoles-de-l’Orne, 158km
March 25th, Fleury-sur-Orne to Ducey-lès-Chéris, 165km
March 26th, Sourdeval to Caen, 147km
24 th of March – 2nd of July: ‘Tintamarre! Instruments de musique dans l'art, 1860-1910’ - Musée des Impressionnismes, Giverny
An exhibition illustrating the close links that developed between Impressionist painters and musicians.
1st anecdote: Claude Monet noticed the village of Giverny while looking out of a train window. He made up his mind to move there and rented a house and the area surrounding it. In 1890 he had enough money to buy the house and land outright and set out to create the magnificent gardens he wanted to paint. Some of his most famous paintings were of his garden in Giverny. Monet lived in the house with its famous pink crushed brick façade from 1883 until his death in 1926.
2nd anecdote: Around 1887, a number of American Impressionist artists settled to work in Giverny, drawn by the landscapes, the overall atmosphere, and the presence of Monet. These included Willard Metcalf, Louis Ritter, Theodore Wendel, and John Leslie Breck. Soon many American extended their visits from summer through the entire year. American painter Theodore Earl Butler married Monet's stepdaughter and sometime-model Suzanne Hoschedé there in 1892.
25 th - 26 th: D-Day Race, Courseulles-sur-Mer
15 km obstacle race after landing on Juno Beach
1st anecdote: Courseulles has been an oyster breeding center since the Romans, and still today, the fishermen of the city continue to market and raise oysters. In the last century, Courseulles supplied Paris with "comets", carriages on horseback, which took three days to make the journey to the capital.
2nd anecdote: On June 14, 1944, General de Gaulle crossed the English Channel aboard the French ship La Combattante and landed on the coast between Courseulles and Graye-sur-Mer. He then went to Bayeux for a memorable speech that will give no choice to the Allies but to recognize the sovereignty of France thru General de Gaulle. Bayeux will become the capital of France until Paris was liberated.
1st April – 11 th September: Pablo Picasso Season, Rouen
Three major exhibitions of the artists' work held in three different museums.
15 th – 30 th: ‘Festival de Pâques’ of Deauville
Easter music festival with many classical concerts
1st anecdote: Deauville is regarded as the "queen of the Norman beaches" and one of the most prestigious seaside resorts in all of France. As the closest seaside resort to Paris, the city and its region of the Côte Fleurie (Flowery Coast) has long been home to French high society's seaside houses and is often referred to as the Parisian Riviera.
2nd anecdote: Deauville was part of the Atlantic Wall during WWII; the Germans installed a battery on Mont Canisy. Belgian troops, backed by the British, liberated the city on August, 24 1944. It took several years for Deauville to recover. The prelaunch of the casino and the foundation of the American Film Festival in 1960 played an important role in the revival of the city.
29 th – 30 th: ‘Les Rencontres de Cambremer’, Cambremer
Food festival celebrating AOC (Controlled Appellation) products
1st anecdote: Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust (10 July 1871 – 18 November 1922) was a French novelist, critic, and essayist best known for his monumental novel À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time) which setting took place in Cambremer!
2nd anecdote: The appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC "controlled designation of origin") is the certification granted to certain wines, cheeses, butters, and other agricultural products, all under the auspices of the government bureau Institut national de l'origine et de la qualité (INAO). It is based on the concept of terroir (land).
11 th – 21st: Normandy Channel Race, Caen
A 1000-mile international sailing race starting and ending in Caen, with a fun-filled ten-day events program
12th – 14th: 'Houlgate Plein Vent', Houlgate/Cabourg
Kite festival on the beach
1st anecdote: In 1861, a first luxury hotel was built next to a wooden casino, itself erected in 1854. The ensemble forms the central point from which the streets of Cabourg-les-Bains leave. In 1867, the casino was rebuilt in stone. Around 1908, the Grand Hotel and the Cabourg casino were rebuilt. Between 1907 and 1914, Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust frequents regularly the Grand Hotel of Cabourg, lodging in room 414 on the fourth floor. The writer evokes the place in his famed À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time) under the name of Balbec
2nd anecdote: With the surrender of France, Houlgate was under German occupation until 21 August 1944. In 1943 the Werhmacht concentrated on the construction of the Atlantic Wall, laying barbed wire, concrete bunkers, and anti-tank obstacles. In Houlgate this meant the installation of radar and a 155 mm cannon on the Butte de Houlgate. These installations were the target of several aerial and naval attacks between 26 April and 21 August 1944.
20th – 21st: Festival ‘Graines de Jardin’, Rouen
A major garden festival set in the beautiful Jardin des Plantes, on Rouen’s south bank.
20th – 27th: 'Jazz Sous les Pommiers', Coutances
One of France’s most famous jazz festivals, now in its 36thyear
1st anecdote: Capital of the Unelli, a Gaulish tribe, the town was given the name of Constantia in 298 during the reign of Roman emperor Constantius Chlorus. The surrounding region, called in Latin the pagus Constantinus subsequently became known as the Cotentin Peninsula (Utah beach, Sainte Mère Eglise, Cherbourg…). The town was destroyed by invading Normans in 866, who later established settlements and incorporated the whole peninsula into the Duchy of Normandy in 933. Coutances Cathedral is one of the major buildings of Norman architecture and contains a chapel and stained glass dedicated to Saint Marcouf. He was Abbot of Nantus (Nanteuil-en-Cotentin) in the Cotentin, a saint born in the Saxon colony of Bayeux around 500 AD best known for the healing of scrofula.
2nd anecdote: Operation Cobra, Breakout and Pursuit! 28 July 1944, the German defenses across the U.S. front had largely collapsed under the full weight of VII and VIII Corps' advance. The 4th Armored Division entering combat for the first time captured Coutances but met stiff opposition east of the town. U.S. units penetrating into the depth of the German positions were counterattacked by elements of the 2nd SS Panzer, 17th SS Panzergrenadier, and 353rd Infantry Divisions, all seeking to escape entrapment. A desperate counterattack was mounted against the 2nd Armored Division by German remnants, but this was a disaster and the Germans abandoned their vehicles to flee by foot.
27th May - 11th June: D-Day Festival Normandy, Bayeux-Bessin
Selection of free celebrations around the anniversary of D-Day including firework displays and parades
1st anecdote: D-Day Festival Normandy offers a program of festive events for the anniversary of the Allied Landings of 6th June 1944. In 2017, for the 11th edition of the D-Day Festival Normandy, the tourist offices of the D-day Landing Beaches will present their area at its best. Program will soon be published!
2nd anecdote: Rudy Passera, Owner and Interpretive Guide of Normandy American Heroes will be the Master of Ceremony for the 73rd Commemoration at Utah beach
27 th- 28 th: Mont-Saint-Michel Bay Marathon
20th edition of one of the world’s most scenic marathons
1st anecdote: The worship of Saint Michel was introduced on the Mount in 708, and it became one of the most important places of medieval pilgrimage. Benedictine monks started building an abbey here during the 10th century. The heroic resistance of the Mount to English attacks during the Hundred Years’ War (14th & 15th centuries) made it a symbol of French national identity. Monks left the abbey in 1790, and it was listed as a historic monument in 1874.
2nd anecdote: In WW2, the island was occupied by the Nazi’s and used as a shelter. Years of military advantage that had transformed the abbey into a strategic defensive front had finally made an ironic turn for the worst. Priceless abbey records dating back to its earliest years as well as collections of illuminated manuscripts were taken to Saint-Lô for safe keeping; however, all were destroyed during the D Day attacks in 1944, the city of Saint-Lo totally devastated by the allies’ bombardments!
27th – 28th : 'la Fête des Gueux', Verneuil-sur-Avre
Medieval weekend with street parades, shows, markets…
1st anecdote: In August 1424, during the Hundred Years' War the battle of Verneuil was fought just north of the town. An English army of 9,000 men beat a joint Franco-Scottish army of 15,000 men and as a result gained control of Normandy & Aquitaine.
2nd anecdote: A few kilometers west of Verneuil-sur-Avre remains the vestige of a detection radar station of the Luftwaffe. This station, link of an important network that covered all the occupied Europe is located in the town of Saint-Christophe on Avre, in the hamlet of Minglières. It belongs to a set of stations created by General Josef Kammhuber, known as the Himmelbett system (canopy belt), which detected the approach of squadrons of allied bombers and also coordinated their interception by the hunting units of the Luftwaffe. Each station received a coded name corresponding to an animal name whose first letter was that of the nearest town; Here Wurm for Verneuil means Worm in English.
Every Thursday: Les Jeudis du Pin, Le Haras du Pin
Weekly shows with dressage displays and show-jumping
1st anecdote: In 1665, Colbert created, under Louis XIV, the administration of the ‘Haras Royaux’ (Royal Studs) in order to palliate the shortage of horses that faced the kingdom while improving the French equine breeds. The site of ‘Le Haras du Pin’ was chosen in 1714, first Royal Stud of France. The quality of its pasture and the facilities of water supply made the ‘Buisson d'Exmes’ the perfect place. It’s the Versailles of horses!
2nd anecdote: The Royal stud emerged miraculously unscathed from the Second World War as fighting raged in the region: Argentan, Chambois, and Falaise to name a few famous battles leading to the end of the Normandy campaign. It belongs today to the French State. Genetic research is carried out on the reproduction of horses.
2nd – 4 th: Papillons de Nuit Festival, Saint-Laurent-de-Cuves
Modern music festival getting bigger every year
1st anecdote: The inhabitants of Villedieu les Poêles, near Saint-Laurent-de-Cuves are called ‘Sourdins’ from the French ‘sourd’ meaning deaf. Most of the people involved in the manufacturing of copper pans, which involved repeated hammering, became deaf. It is traditionally a centre of metal-work, especially the brass and copper pans and basins from which the poêles in its name derives. It is also famous for its artisanal manufacture of large church bells, which was started by immigrants from Lorraine around 1780. The most recent church bells manufactured were for Notre Dame de Paris and Notre Dame de Bayeux cathedrals!
2nd anecdote: In 1944, when the Germans withdrew from Villedieu les Poêles, they left a sniper who shot some of the first US soldiers to enter Villedieu, before being neutralized. The US commander was about to request airplane bombing runs when the mayor approached him, told him that there were no Germans left in the town and offered to ride through it at the front seat of a US jeep. Villedieu les Poêles was thus one of the few towns in the region to escape major destruction after Operation Cobra.
2nd – 4 th: Dixie Days, Sainte-Adresse
International jazz festival
1st anecdote: In 1415, during the Hundred Years War, Henri V of England landed there with his fleet to try to reconquer his French heritage. His military successes, culminating at the Battle of Azincourt on October 25, 1415, allowed him to come closer to a conquest of France. After several months of negotiations with Charles VI, very fragile psychologically and regularly struck with madness, the Treaty of Troyes, signed in 1420, recognized Henri V of England as regent, and heir to the throne of France
2nd anecdote: During WWI, when Belgium was almost entirely occupied by the Germans, Sainte-Adresse was the administrative capital of the kingdom, leased to the Belgian government for the duration of the hostilities, so as not to make it a government in exile. During WWII, the Germans built several fortifications to defend the port of Le Havre.
3rd: Carentan Liberty March, Carentan-les-Marais
Remembrance march through the streets of the town
1st anecdote: Carentan is close to the sites of the medieval Battle of Formigny of the Hundred Years' War. The French, under Charles VII, had taken the time offered by the Treaty of Tours in 1444 to reorganize and reinvigorate his armies. The English army, after landing in Cherbourg, circled Carentan on 12 April 1450, and then turned east towards Bayeux, reaching the village of Formigny on the 14th. There they suffered a major blow, with 3,500 killed or seriously wounded and 900 taken prisoners. With no other significant English forces in Normandy, the whole region quickly fell to the victorious French.
2nd anecdote: In the immediate aftermath of Dday, the priority of the 4th Infantry division at Utah Beach was to link up with the 29th Infantry division; this job was tasked to the 101st Airborne division, who had landed in the area and had been conducting raids against inland targets—mainly artillery emplacements helping secure and cut off the landings from such threats as well as reinforcements. On June 9, the 101st Airborne Division had reorganized sufficiently from the haphazard scattering of its component units and managed to cross the flooded Douve River valley. Carentan will fall on the 12th of June 1944
3rd - 5th: 'Les Camembertises', Camembert
A taste of Camembert country that’s sure to tickle your taste buds
1st anecdote: Camembert was reputedly first made in 1791 by Marie Harel, a farmer from Normandy, following advice from a refractory priest who came from Brie, the Abbot Charles-Jean Bonvoust. He was hidden at the Manor of Beaumoncel where she worked (1796-1797). A statue of Marie Harel is situated in the town of Vimoutiers not far from Camembert. The cheese was famously issued to French troops during WWI, becoming firmly fixed in French popular culture as a result. It plays many other roles in the French culture, literature, and history and is internationally known today.
2nd anecdote: After visiting France in the early 20th century, American Joseph Knirim (a doctor!) believed the Camembert cured his stomach ailments. He also assured the Mayor of Vimoutiers that he had cured many patients with for only remedy: the Camembert cheese! Being so grateful he raised funds to erect a statue of its creator Marie Harel in 1926 but unfortunately won’t live long enough to see it erected. The statue was then bombed during WWII, but workers of Ohio’s Borden Cheese Company raised funds to rebuild it. It’s like their version of the Statue of Liberty, but more delicious.
3rd - 5th: 'Fête des Marins', Honfleur
Street parade and boat blessing
1st anecdote: The 14th century was a period of great military activity to Honfleur, as it played a predominant role in the Hundred Years War. It was occupied by the English at the beginning of the conflict, again from 1357 to 1361 and from August 1365 to January 1366. Charles V, looking for a defensive military position, and recognizing the strategic location of Honfleur, erected fortifications around the town, turning it into a stronghold against the English invaders. These fortifications, situated at the mouth of the river Seine and opposite Harfleur’s walls, were vital to the defense of Normandy, some still standing today.
2nd anecdote: Artists were aware of Honfleur, and the remarkable light of the estuary, as early as the 18th century. As early as 1810-1820, they discovered the romantic panorama of the medieval town surrounded by two hills. At that time painters were starting to paint outside in natural light and tourism was just beginning. Among the artists seduced by these landscapes and atmospheric phenomena were: Bonington, Turner, Huet, Leprince, Corot, Isabey, Boudin, Jongkind, and Monet… It was a long and lasting friendship between these artists who met and advised each other without the limitations of any particular school or dogma. On August 25, 1944, Honfleur was liberated together by the British army – 19th Platoon of the 12th Devon's, 6th Air Landing Brigade, the Belgian army (Brigade Piron) & the Canadian army without any combat.
4th: 'Fête du Camembert', Orbec
Celebrating France’s most famous cheese!
1st anecdote: Claude Debussy composed the work ‘Jardins sous la pluie’ at the hotel de Croisy, located on the street ‘la grande rue’, not far from Notre-Dame d'Orbec church. He was a French composer. He and Maurice Ravel were the most prominent figures associated with Impressionist music, though Debussy disliked the term when applied to his compositions. He was made Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1903. Debussy was among the most influential composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and his use of non-traditional scales and chromaticism influenced many composers who followed
2nd anecdote: August 21 to 26, 1944. An early demonstration of the mobility and power of the armoured cars of 8th Reconnaissance Regiment (14th Canadian Hussars) occurred during the liberation of Orbec in Normandy. The infantry of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division had succeeded in pushing eastward up to the west bank of the River Tourques, but they were unable to expand an initial bridgehead across the river because of the presence of enemy positions in Orbec on the east bank. Humbers of the 8th Recce had meanwhile scouted out possible river crossings northwest of the town. They succeeded in crossing the Tourques, then circled back to Orbec and attacked the German defenders unexpectedly from the north and east. Enemy resistance in the town was rapidly overcome and the division's advance towards the Seine could resume.
21st: 'Fête de la Musique', all over Normandy
The national music day takes place every year on the longest day of the year, and is the perfect night to stay outside and enjoy concerts with friends and family
Anecdote: The ‘Fête de la Musique’, also known as Make Music Day or World Music Day, is an annual music celebration taking place on the solstice of summer, the 21st of June. The concept of an all-day musical celebration on the day of the solstice was originated by the French Minister of Culture, Jack Lang. The festival is now celebrated in more than 120 countries around the world.
22nd: Solitaire du Figaro, Dieppe
One of the world's toughest sailing competitions will finish in Dieppe this year
1st anecdote: First recorded as a small fishing settlement in 1030, Dieppe was an important prize fought over during the Hundred Years' War. Dieppe housed the most advanced French school of cartography in the 16th century. Two of France's best navigators, Michel le Vasseur and his brother Thomas le Vasseur, lived in Dieppe when they were recruited to join the expedition of René Goulaine de Laudonnière which departed Le Havre for Florida on April 20, 1564. The expedition resulted in the construction of Fort Caroline, the first French colony in the New World!
2nd anecdote: The Dieppe Raid in the Second World War was a costly battle for the Allies. On August 19, 1942, Allied soldiers, mainly drawn from the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division with the newly 2nd Rangers battalion (famous for taking on Dday La Pointe du Hoc), landed at Dieppe in the hope of occupying the town for a short time. The plan was to gain intelligence for the upcoming Operation Neptune / Overlord and draw the Luftwaffe into open battle. The Allies suffered more than 1,400 deaths; 1,946 Canadian soldiers were captured. Dieppe was liberated on September 1, 1944, by soldiers from the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division. On September 3, the entire division paused for reorganization, and a victory parade was held; contingents representing all major units of the 2nd Division marched behind the massed pipes and drums of the division's highland regiments. A memorial service was then held in the nearby Canadian military cemetery to honor those killed in the Dieppe Raid
23rd – 25th: 'Viva Cité', Sotteville-lès-Rouen
One of Europe’s major street art festivals
1st anecdote: In 1659 Barré was sent to Sotteville-lès-Rouen, where he carried out his apostolate mainly with the local members of the Minim Third Order. He became widely known as a preacher and his sermons attracted a large audience. France in the late 17th century was suffering from the effects of the Franco-Spanish War (1635–1659) and a terrible plague. In 1662, half the children in Rouen died of famine. Many were homeless and wandered the streets as beggars and, for some; prostitution became one of the few means of livelihood available. Nicolas Barré with Françoise Duval opened a free school for the daughters of poor families. The Congregation of the Sisters of the Infant Jesus, known as Providence of Rouen was born. He was beatified on the 7th of March 1999 by Pope John Paul II at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, where 7,000 children from his schools were present to witness the beatification ceremony
2nd anecdote: From the 4th of September 1939 to the 30th of August 1944, the German air force and then the Allies bombarded the town 38 times! These continuous bombardments disrupted rail traffic provoking death and desolation throughout the city. The night of the 18th to the 19th of April 1944 is the worst. In one night, the city is devastated, the center almost annihilated. Sotteville-lès-Rouen will be liberated on August 31st 1944. The city will have paid a heavy tribute: 722 dead, one third of the city destroyed and one third damaged.
22nd June – 1st July: Archéo Jazz festival, Blainville-Crevon
Jazz concerts in the illuminated ruins of Blainville Castle
1st anecdote: Blainville-Crevon appeared for the first time in a charter by William the Conqueror referring to the Clères family feudal motte. Becoming the possession of the Mauquenchy family, Blainville, became a true fortress and was subsequently confiscated by the English at the beginning of the Hundred Years War. During the reconquest of Normandy, Henry IV held a council of war at Blainville castle on the eve of the fall of Rouen.
2nd anecdote: Henri-Robert-Marcel Duchamp was born in Blainville-Crevon growing up in a family that enjoyed cultural activities. He became a naturalized American; painter, sculptor, chess player and writer whose work is associated with Cubism, conceptual art and Dada, although he was careful about his use of the term Dada and was not directly associated with Dada groups. Duchamp is commonly regarded, along with Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, as one of the three artists who helped to define the revolutionary developments in the plastic arts in the opening decades of the twentieth century, responsible for significant developments in painting and sculpture. Duchamp has had an immense impact on twentieth-century and twenty first-century art.
First week-end in July: Bayeux Medieval Festival, Bayeux
The streets of the town come alive with numerous medieval performances
1st anecdote: 14th July 1077, during the consecration of the new cathedral in Bayeux, presided by the Archbishop of Rouen, Odo of Conteville Bishop of Bayeux and half-brother of William Duke of Normandy displayed the Bayeux Tapestry. Embroidered in England the tapestry pays homage to the greatness of William the Conqueror during the Battle of Hasting and his coronation in Westminster Abbey. It’s considered today as one of the jewels of the Norman heritage.
2nd anecdote: 14th October 1066, the battle of Hasting. What fighting spirit the English showed. They were indeed courageous but in the end the crown was given to William the Conqueror. Early in the battle, the Saxon army’s occupation of Senlac Hill offered them a defensive advantage, heralding a risky encounter. The front lines of the Saxons formed an impenetrable wall of shields. The first to attack the enemy were the Bretons which turned quickly into a fiasco. At that precise moment the English made a terrible mistake. Instead of maintaining their position, they decided to pursue the fleeing Bretons, hence abandoning and weakening the cohesion of their defensive wall. William ordered his calvary, still standing back, to make a lightning charge, by doing so they got rid of the majority of the enemy troops on the battlefield. Then, countless repeated assaults, repelled by the Norman horsemen, finally exhausted the enemy. The time had come for the foot soldiers to attack the hill, covered by sustained fire of the archers. Ravaged on all fronts, the overwhelmed Saxons withdrew, leaving the rival of William the Conqueror, Harold of Wessex dead, struck in the eye by an arrow.
1st – 2nd: 'Fête de la mer', Fécamp
Concerts, shows, street parades and boat blessing
7th – 9th: 'Festival du Lin', Doudeville
Flax festival with scutching demonstrations, exhibitions, fashion shows...
1st anecdote: Henri René Albert Guy de Maupassant was a French writer, remembered as a master of the short story form, and as a representative of the naturalist school of writers, who depicted human lives and destinies and social forces in disillusioned and often pessimistic terms. He set a good number of his stories in this region.
2nd anecdote: Called the flax capital, Doudeville is situated at the centre of the Pays de Caux, the chalk plateau widely known for its fields of blue-flowered flax. The textiles made from flax are known in the Western countries as linen, and traditionally used for bed sheets, underclothes, and table linen.
7th – 9th: Festival Beauregard, Hérouville-Saint-Clair
Now one of France’s major pop-rock festivals held on beautiful castle grounds with international artists
1st anecdote: The estate of Beauregard belonged to the fief of Colbert under Louis XIV. In the middle of the nineteenth century, the property was acquired by a ship-owner of Le Havre, Jules Nicolas Le Cesne, who turned it into a holiday resort. The troubadour-style castle (typical of the Norman architecture of the nineteenth century) was completed in 1864.
2nd anecdote: The troubadour style is an artistic movement tending to reconstitute by the different arts, an idealized atmosphere of the middle Ages and the Renaissance. The domain was badly hit during the bombardments of the WWII Normandy campaign.
10th – 11th: 'Tour de France à la Voile', Fécamp
A sailing boat race along the coastline of France: this summer, Fécamp will be the first stop on the route.
11th July – 26th August: 'Rendez-vous à la Cathédrale', Bayeux
Sound and light show around the cathedral, at dusk, on Tuesdays, Thursdays & Saturdays
1st anecdote: 9 September 1087, four years have gone by since Queen Matilda, spouse of William the Conqueror, King of England passed away. He now rests not far from her, in Saint Stephen’s Abbey, Queen Matilda resting at the Holy Trinity Abbey. Both Abbeys were built in Caen to obtain the Pope’s pardon for their forbidden marriage.
2nd anecdote: 1053, Matilda of Flanders marries William, Duke of Normandy. The union proved to be problematic as Pope Leo IX was opposed to it due to their fifth degree of consanguinity. Nevertheless, the marriage being of vital importance for the dukedom, William and Matilda took their vows.
13th – 14th: Firework displays, all over Normandy
Bastille Day celebrations
1st anecdote: The Bastille was a fortress in Paris, known formally as the Bastille Saint-Antoine. It played an important role in the internal conflicts of France and for most of its history was used as a state prison by the kings of France. It was stormed by a crowd on 14 July 1789, during the French Revolution, becoming an important symbol for the French Republican movement, and was later demolished and replaced by the Place de la Bastille.
2nd anecdote: It was instituted by law in 1880, to commemorate two events, the taking of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, symbol of the end of the absolute monarchy, the society or order and privileges, and the Feast of the Federation of 14 July 1790, celebrating the Nation and the Constitution of 1789.
13th – 16th: 'Chauffer dans la Noirceur', Montmartin-sur-Mer
Contemporary music concert on the beach
1st anecdote: During WWII, the Nazis were present in this small town as they could easily observe the sea, fearing an Allied invasion of France on this coast.
2nd anecdote: July 30, the 212th Armored Field Artillery Battalion marched southward, by-passing Coutances on the west, through Montmartin-sur-Mer. This day for the first time the men in the battalion saw a happy France, the liberated France of the break-through period who could enjoy its liberation genuinely from whole homes and virtually untouched towns and villages, a total contrast with what had happened up North toward Cherbourg!
19th – 23rd: Moz’aïque Festival, Le Havre
World music festival held in the suspended gardens
1st anecdote: Le Havre was founded on 8 October 1517 as a new port by royal command of François I partly to replace the historic harbors of Harfleur and Honfleur which had become increasingly impractical due to silting-up. The city was originally named Franciscopolis after the king then subsequently became Le Havre-de-Grâce ("Harbour of Grace") after an existing chapel of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce ("our Lady of Grace").
2nd anecdote: During WWII, German forces occupied Le Havre as of spring 1940 causing an exodus of its population. They built a naval base in preparation for the invasion of England (Operation Sealion) and set up the Festung (fortress) of Le Havre, lined with bunkers, pillboxes and artillery batteries integrated into the Atlantic Wall. For the people of Le Havre, daily life was difficult because of shortages, censorship, bombings and political anti-Semitism: Mayor Léon Meyer was forced to leave his post because of his Jewish origins. The Le Havre resistance was built around several nodes such as the group of the high school of Le Havre or the Vagabond Bien-Aimé (beloved vagabond). These groups were involved with British intelligence and with acts of sabotage preceding Dday.
21st – 22nd: Art Sonic, Briouze
Music festival with several big names
1st anecdote: The legend tells that one Christmas evening, poor wretches tried to take refuge in the commune held by the monks. As the latter did not show Christian charity, a curse was thrown on this small commune. As a divine punishment, a storm broke out, and so it was that the monastery was said to be buried in the marsh. The ancients’ recount that during stormy nights are still heard in these places the bells of this lost monastery...
2nd anecdote: On August 16th, 1944 the 9th Infantry Division, also known as "Victory", was fighting in the VII Corps of the U.S. First Army. The division was assigned the responsibility of holding a portion of the southern flank of the Falaise-Argentan Gap and Briouze.
21st – 23rd: 'Cin’Etoile', Cherbourg-en-Cotentin
Open air cinema and concerts under the stars
1st anecdote: In 1786, Louis XVI visited the construction site of the seawall, an artificial defense which is one of the most remarkable ensembles of military architecture in Europe. The events of 1789 disturbed little the local life. Napoleon III visited Cherbourg with the first railway convoy in 1858. At that time, the Arsenal, which built the first French submarines, developed, and the workers transformed the peaceful village of Octeville into an active town.
2nd anecdote: April 10, 1912 the Titanic made its last continental stopover to embark 281 passengers. These passengers came from different classes of society: from emigrants to rich aristocrats. The rest is history…
3rd anecdote: In 1944, Cherbourg became the first port in the world: all the allied war effort went through its quays. If the reconquest of Cherbourg was not easy, the city suffered relatively little destruction. Only the port was completely destroyed by the Germans before surrendering to General Collins.
4th anecdote: The Fort de la Roule stands proudly on the summit of the Roule Mountain which dominates Cherbourg, 117 meters above sea level. The old fort dating back to the Second Empire was occupied by the German army during the Second World War. Its resumption by the Allied troops, June 25, 1944, is one of the symbols of the liberation of Cherbourg.
29th – 30th: 'Foire aux maquereaux', Yport
Mackerel fair around the port
1st anecdote: During the Roman time, a road connecting Fécamp to Étretat passed through Yport at Pitron Fund from where a junction toward the village existed. The current D940 follows the route of this Roman road and will take you to Étretat best known for its cliffs, including three natural arches and the pointed "needle". These cliffs and the associated resort beach attracted artists including Eugène Boudin, Gustave Courbet and Claude Monet (Giverny).
2nd anecdote: Étretat is known for being the last place in France from which the 1927 biplane The White Bird (L'Oiseau Blanc) was seen. French World War I war heroes Charles Nungesser and François Coli were attempting to make the first non-stop flight from Paris to New York, but after the plane's 8 May 1927 departure, it disappeared somewhere over the Atlantic. It is still considered today as one of the greatest unexplained mysteries of aviation. A monument to the flight was established in Étretat, but destroyed during World War II, during German occupation.
29th – 30th: 'Fête de l’huitre', Denneville plage
Oyster festival with tastings galore and a large antique fair
1st anecdote: The Vikings who came from the Danish coast around 800 AD first settled their giving it the name of Denneville, The house of the Danes. Jean and Georges Eustace of Denneville were ennobled in 1554 by King Henry II. Their coat of arms is still visible on a tombstone in the southern part of the cemetery.
2nd anecdote: On June 18th 1940, the Germans advance into Normandy led by Rommel and his tanks was halted in Denneville by a small group of soldiers from France, Britain and North Africa. They were poorly armed but held Rommel back long enough to enable 30,000 troops to escape from Cherbourg back to England. Eight British soldiers of the Royal Artillery were killed here when their lorry hit a mine came from the Royal Artillery.
2nd – 13th: ‘Jazz en Baie» festival’, from Genêts to Granville
Jazz festival along 14 miles of the Mont-Saint-Michel Bay
4th – 15th: Normandy Horse Show, Saint-Lô
Horse show celebrating the Norman and French thoroughbred
1st anecdote: It was in 1806 that Napoleon 1st re-established and organized the National Studs like the one of Saint-Lô installed at the time in the former abbey Sainte Croix. The definitive Stud is created in 1886 on the present site and extends on 7.5 ha. The National Studs of Saint Lô size will grow regularly, reaching its apogee in 1912 with 422 stallions. Destroyed by the bombing of June 6th 1944, fifty horses were killed. Stallions will be stolen by German soldiers on the run just before the fall of the city. The National Studs was rebuilt after the war and extends today with over 3.5 ha of quarries and housing.
2nd anecdote: During the Liberation, Saint-Lô suffered two attacks during the Battle of Normandy. The first was the bombardment of the city by the Americans during the night of 6–7 June 1944. The second was the fight for the liberation of Saint-Lô on 17 July, during the Battle of Saint-Lô. The city was this time bombed by the Germans who maintained their position to the south. Saint-Lô was almost totally destroyed (90-95% according to common estimates) by American bombing during a phase of the Battle of Normandy known as Operation Cobra, earning it the title of "The Capital of the Ruins"
5th – 6th: 'Foire aux Fromages', Livarot
Major cheese fair with over 100 stalls
1st anecdote: One of the oldest and greatest Normandy cheeses, Livarot is a monastic French cheese easily distinguished by its washed rind and pungent aroma. Originating in the commune of Livarot and protected by AOC since 1975, the cheese is also called "The Colonel" because of the five strips of raffia that encircle the cheese, similar to the one worn on a French army colonel's uniform.
2nd anecdote: On 17 July 1944, the pharmacist and Mayor of Livarot, brought first aid to Field Marshall Erwin Rommel following the strafing of his car by an Allied aircraft, not far away, between the villages of Sainte-Foy-de-Montgommery and Vimoutiers. He was evacuated the same day to the German military hospital in Bernay. Livarot was liberated on the 19th of August. Following Operation Paddle, the British 7th Armoured Division was on the banks of the Vie. The division then faced a strong resistance by the 272nd Division of the German infantry, but also suffered losses to friendly fire from Allied aircraft. On the 19th of August, British artillery heavily bombed the area. The British managed to seize a bridge, which hadn't been destroyed, across the river to Saint-Michel-de-Livet, north of Livarot. The French Resistance then learned that the Germans had abandoned Livarot and that the first British soldiers had entered the same day.
10th – 22nd: Tatihou Festival, Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue
Folk music festival which takes place at low tide when the island of Tatihou is accessible on foot
1st anecdote: In 1692, Louis XIV gathered an invasion force on the coastline of the English Channel, in order to help James II, King of England, to regain his throne. Admiral Tourville was summoned to Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue with a squadron of 44 ships to dispatch the troops to the other side of the Channel.
On the 3rd of June 1692, twelve French ships were sunk in the vicinity of the Island of Tatihou, during a heated battle with the Anglo-Dutch fleet. Following the French defeat, two fortified towers were built as of 1694 on the mound at La Hougue and Tatihou Island by a student of Vauban, Benjamin de Combes, to defend the bay. The tower built by Vauban on the Tatihou Island is classified by UNESCO as World Heritage
2nd anecdote: Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, Seigneur de Vauban and later Marquis de Vauban commonly referred to as Vauban, was a Marshal of France and the foremost military engineer of his age. He is known for his skill in both designing fortifications and breaking through them; his ideas, starting from Pagan's (French aristocrat, soldier, and military engineer served in the armies of Louis XIII and Louis XIV.) "Les Fortifications", were the dominant model of siege craft and fortification for nearly 100 years. He also advised Louis XIV on how to consolidate France's borders, to make them more defensible. Vauban made a radical suggestion of giving up some land that was indefensible to allow for a stronger, less porous border with France's neighbors.
12th – 13th: ‘Fête des Jeux’, Falaise
Annual medieval festival at the William the Conqueror’s Castle
1st anecdote: 1027, William the Bastard was nicknamed as such, his father Robert, Duke of Normandy having had an affair with Arlette, a tanner’s daughter from Falaise. They formed an illegitimate couple and the people disapproved their union. Nevertheless William’s father was respected for his bravery, culture and the fact of being a generous man earning him the title of Robert the Magnificent. William being the only son and heir, he was bequeathed with the immense honor of wearing the ducal crown. On the 25th of December 1066 William the Conqueror was crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey.
2nd anecdote: The Falaise Pocket (12th to the 21st of August 1944) was the decisive engagement of the Battle of Normandy in WWII. A pocket was formed around Falaise, in which the German Army Group B, with the 7th Army and the Fifth Panzer Army were encircled by the Western Allies. The battle referred to as the Battle of the Falaise Gap, after the corridor which the Germans sought to maintain to allow their escape is also referred to as the Chambois Pocket. The battle resulted in the destruction of most of Army Group B west of the Seine River, which opened the way to Paris and the German border for the Allied armies.
31st August – 3rd September: Tall Ships Regatta, Le Havre
Final stage of the world-famous race
1st anecdote: Early spring 1945, Raoul Dautry of the Ministry of Reconstruction & Urban Development entrusted the project to rebuild the city of Le Havre to Auguste Perret. He designed a group of buildings in the center of the port city of Le Havre, which had been almost entirely destroyed during the war. Perret used concrete in imaginative ways to achieve the functions of his buildings, while preserving classical harmony, symmetry and proportions. In 2005, his post-World War II reconstruction of that city was finally recognized and declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site.
2nd anecdote: The Normandie Bridge built as of 1988 is a cable-stayed road bridge that spans the river Seine linking Le Havre to Honfleur. Its total length is 2,143.21 meters’ (7,032 ft) – 856 meters’ (2,808 ft) between the two piers. It is also the last bridge to cross the Seine before it empties into the ocean. The second bridge closest to Le Havre is the Tancarville Bridge, a suspension bridge that connects Tancarville and Marais-Vernier completed in 1959.
1st – 10th: American Film Festival, Deauville
One of the country’s most famous film festivals, with premiere screenings of the latest US film releases and big stars on the red carpet
1st anecdote: The Hotel Le Normandy was built in 1912 under the leadership of François André. It is the first of the great palaces of the city followed in 1913 by its neighbor the Hotel Royal Barriere. A year after its opening, financed by her lover, Gabrielle Chanel installs her store in the hotel premises.
2nd anecdote: Gabrielle Chasnel still known today as Coco Chanel was born on August 19, 1883 in Saumur and passed away on January 10, 1971, in Paris. Coco was a fashion designer, milliner and great couturier famous for her haute couture creations, as well as perfumes bearing her name. The House of Chanel is known for the "little black dress", the perfume No. 5 de Chanel, and the Chanel Suit, symbol of French elegance. Some of her life choices still remain controversial, especially her behavior during the German Occupation moving to the Hôtel Ritz Paris, where she lived with her boyfriend, Hans Günther von Dincklage, a Nazi intelligence officer!
8th – 10th: 'Foire Millénaire de la Sainte-Croix', Lessay
An impressive horse and cattle fair which attracts over 400,000 visitors every year
1st anecdote: It was originally founded as a monastery but a town grew up around it over the years. The 10th century monastery is one of the greatest examples of Romanesque architecture in Normandy. The commune suffered heavy damages on the 7th and 8th of June 1944, during the strategic allies bombing prior to the Battle of Normandy in the Cotentin. Already very damaged, the abbey is mined by the Germans before their fleeing. Lessay was liberated on July 27th following a difficult advance during the infamous Battle of the Hedgerows
2nd anecdote: The Sainte Croix fair of Lessay is a trade fair established in the 11th century to develop commercial activity in the village. For three days 42 acres (170,000 m2) of Lessay is transformed into a huge marketplace, attracting over 400,000 visitors. The fair offers demonstrations of old and new trades, thousands of stalls selling a range of products from household equipment to animals, food, cars and garden and agricultural tools
9th September – 8th October: 'Sun Impression(s)', Le Havre
“Impression Soleil Levant”, Claude Monet’s masterpiece, returns to its birthplace, alongside a selection of paintings by Boudin, Dufy or Turner
Anecdote: Impression, Sunrise is a painting by Claude Monet. Shown at what would later be known as the Exhibition of the Impressionists in April 1874, the painting is attributed to giving rise to the name of the Impressionist movement. Impression, Sunrise depicts the port of Le Havre, Monet's hometown, and is his most famous painting of the harbor.
16th – 17th: European Heritage Days, all over Normandy
As every year, the public will have opportunities to visit buildings, monuments and sites, many of which are not normally accessible
Anecdote: European Heritage Days (EHD) is a joint action of the Council of Europe and the European Commission involving all 50 signatory states of the European Cultural Convention under the motto, Europe: a common heritage. The annual program offers opportunities to visit buildings, monuments and sites, many of which are not normally accessible to the public. It aims to widen access and foster care for architectural and environmental heritage.
30th September – 1st October: 'Fête de la Crevette', Honfleur
Shrimp festival with sea shanty, shrimp peeling competitions and other activities
End September: Canadian Film Festival, Dieppe
France’s only Canadian film festival
8th: 'Un été au Havre' Final, Le Havre
For the last day of the 500th anniversary celebrations, a firework display will take place in broad daylight, inspired by Monet’s famous paintings
14th – 15 th: 'La Fête du Ventre', Rouen
A farmer’s and local produce market on a massive scale with over 100 stalls, cooking demos and street entertainment
27th October – 5th November: Transat Jacques Vabre, Le Havre, Seine-Maritime
13th edition of the most famous two-handed transatlantic race; the departure will take place on the 5th of November
5th: Departure of the Jacques Vabre Transat, Le Havre
13th edition of the most famous two-handed transatlantic race
11th – 12th: 'Festival Le Goût du Large', Port-en-Bessin-Huppain
"A taste for the open sea" scallop and seafood festival
1st anecdote: The tower of artillery, called Tour Vauban, which overlooks the fishing port of Port-en-Bessin-Huppain, was built at the end of the 17th century by architect Benjamin de Combes. Vauban visited it and judged the situation peculiar to the establishment of a port of war. The illustrious engineer built on the eastern hill a round tower with grenadiers, in which the navy kept a guard to take care of it. Its canons protected the city harbor of the potential incursions of the Anglo-Dutch warships. Classified on the Historic Monuments as of April 29, 1948
2nd anecdote: The Battle of Port-en-Bessin also known as Operation Aubery took place from the 6th to the 8th of June 1944, at a small fishing harbor west of Arromanches during the Normandy landings of World War II. The village was between Omaha Beach to the west in the U.S. V Corps sector, and Gold Beach to the east in the British XXX Corps sector. An objective during Operation Overlord, the fortified port was captured by No. 47 (Royal Marine) Commando of the 4th Special Service Brigade. Used as one of the two terminals for PLUTO (Pipe-Lines under the Ocean).
25th – 26th: 'Fête du Hareng', Fécamp
Herring festival around the port
Until 31st December: Sound and light show 'Rendez-vous à la Cathédrale', Bayeux
Bayeux will put on a magical light show to highlight its magnificent cathedral and its heritage
2nd - 3rd: 'Fête de la Coquille Saint-Jacques', Grandcamp-Maisy
Scallop festival celebrating the beginning of the fishing season
1st anecdote: Salt harvesting began in the 16th century in the Bay of Veys, in Isigny sur Mer and along the coast to Grandcamp-Maisy. Salt was to contribute towards the development of maritime trade. Meat, fish, and of course butter were all perfectly adapted to this type of preservation. That was why man set to taming nature and to extending its exploitable reserves: the sea that flooded the marshlands was controlled and polders were created to dry thousands of hectares of the Bay of Veys. "Tide gates" were built on the River Aure in the 18th century.
2nd anecdote: In the 19th century, Grandcamp-les-Bains became a highly popular seaside resort… Paris's elite, including the renowned writers Emile Zola and Alexandre Dumas, and the impressionist painter Seurat, flocked to the coast thanks to the rail link established in 1897, to take advantage of the benefits of the sea air. Luxury hotels, many Norman-style villas and even a casino were built over the same period. The period also marked a change in name for the town of Grandcamp-Létanville, which became Grandcamp-les-Bains, far more in keeping with this summertime atmosphere.
Last anecdote of 2017! Located between two of the military landing zones, Utah Beach to the west and Omaha Beach to the east, Isigny-Grandcamp is the territory on which the army troops joined forces. Apart from those who had arrived via La Pointe du Hoc, locals were to wait a few days before they saw the first GIs. They landed in the Omaha sector, advanced via Saint Pierre du Mont, only to enter Grandcamp-Maisy on the 8th of June. This harbor town was heavily armed and the German strong points WN83 and WN84 near Maisy were quite formidable. Similarly, the battle between the powerful Allied fleet and the German anti-aircraft defenses in Isigny-sur-Mer was intense. The town suffered extensive bombing on the 8th of June 1944, to be finally liberated on the 9th.
La Foire Sainte Croix aura lieu les 7, 8 et 9 septembre 2018
Depuis mille ans la foire Sainte -Croix s’installe sur « la Grand’ Lande » de Lessay, chère à l’écrivain et poète normand Louis Beuve.
Un peu d’histoire pour rappeler que la foire Sainte-Croix est née à l’époque de la construction de l’Abbatiale de Lessay et de la conquête de l’Angleterre par Guillaume le Conquérant au XIème siècle.
Si la création d’une foire était au temps du duché de Normandie un droit souverain qui appartenait aux ducs et seigneurs, d’autres foires furent créées à l’initiative des religieux.
C’est sûrement le cas de la Sainte-Croix à Lessay avec les moines bénédictins venus de la célèbre abbaye du Bec pour assurer la prospérité de l’abbaye Sainte Trinité de Lessay.
Quelques écrits anciens confirment bien l’existence de la foire qui augure le développement commercial du Moyen-âge, le pape Urbain III par une bulle datée de 1186 précise toutes les donations faites antérieurement à l’abbaye dont celles du baron Richard de la Haye du Puits provenant des revenus de la foire.
A l’origine la foire Sainte-Croix ne durait qu’une seule journée, au fil des siècles son développement nécessita de la prolonger pour permettre aux grossistes qui venaient de très loin d’écouler leur marchandise.
A la demande de l’abbé Léonor de Matignon commanditaire de l’abbaye de Lessay, le roi Louis XIV autorisa par un édit en 1671 que la foire dure quatre jours.
Les moines de l’abbaye furent donc durant plusieurs siècles les organisateurs de la foire, ils avaient la responsabilité de son bon déroulement et devaient à cet effet régler tous les conflits engendrés par une telle manifestation.
A partir du XVIème siècle, les moines ne voulant plus encaisser directement les droits de place près des marchands décidèrent de louer à bail les « coutumes et estallages de l’ensemble des foires et marchés de Lessay à un ou plusieurs particuliers»
Après la Révolution, l’organisation de la foire devînt une responsabilité communale, les contestations concernant l’attribution des emplacements commerciaux obligèrent le maire en septembre 1800 à décider « que toutes les places seraient désormais allouées au plus offrant et dernier enchérisseur pour trois années consécutives »
Les voies de communication se développent, avec l’arrivée du chemin de fer, la construction de la gare de Lessay en 1884 sur la ligne Sottevast-Coutances, la foire connaît un nouvel essor.
Le marché aux chevaux est sûrement à son plus haut niveau (plus de 10 000 chevaux), les officiers de l’armée Française achètent des chevaux demi-sang pour l’année, mais après la première guerre mondiale, avec l’arrivée de l’automobile les achats de la remonte enregistrent une diminution importante.
La foire Sainte-Croix pendant les deux guerres mondiales ne fût pas interrompue, ces époques particulières altéreront la manifestation qui exista néanmoins d’une manière symbolique en septembre 1944, alors que Lessay ne fût libérée par les troupes américaines que le 27 juillet lors de l’opération COBRA.
La foire Sainte-Croix et l’abbatiale dont les existences sont indissociables continuent après leur résurrection de 1944, d’être le cœur et l’âme de Lessay.
Comme autrefois, des milliers de visiteurs convergent vers Lessay le deuxième week-end de septembre à la rencontre des exposants, commerçants, entreprises et industriels forains, rassemblés sur les trente hectares qui leurs sont dévolus pour commercer.
Les visiteurs de la Sainte-Croix stationnent leur véhicule sur trente autres hectares de terrains communaux et privés organisés en parkings.
La blaude n’est plus l’habit de rigueur sur le foirail, les bonnettes Normandes ont disparu, la foire Sainte-Croix est résolument moderne, toujours tournée vers l’avenir.
Ce grand rendez-vous a cette particularité de rassembler environ 350 000 visiteurs de tous horizons pour un moment des plus festifs de la région et d’apporter au département de la Manche une grande vitrine économique dont il est presque impossible d’en énumérer la diversité.
La foire débute le vendredi avec la traditionnelle inauguration en présence de monsieur le Préfet de la Manche, et de nombreux élus : le président de Région, le président du conseil général de la Manche, conseillers généraux, député et sénateur, maires…et responsables départementaux des services de l’Etat.
Le cortège officiel emmené par les gendarmes de la Garde Républicaine va à la rencontre des exposants, environ 1500 qui viennent de toutes les régions France.
La foire Sainte Croix comporte la plus belle exposition de matériel agricole du département de la Manche, de par son importance elle est le rendez-vous incontournable des fabricants et des agriculteurs.
On achète le dernier modèle de tracteur ou la plus grosse ensileuse à maïs…
Le vendredi matin plus de 1000 chevaux sont présentés à la vente sur le foirail par les éleveurs de Basse Normandie ; les acheteurs locaux, mais aussi des acheteurs qui viennent de pays voisins, discutent, négocient les prix, à l’heure du « NET » on tape encore dans la main pour sceller l’affaire!
Cette année plusieurs associations d’éleveurs mettent en place une exposition de chevaux (Cobs Normands, Percherons, des poneys de sport, chevaux Anglo-arabes), elle sera complétée d’animations liées au cheval ; elle durera les trois jours de la foire Sainte-Croix, à l’instar du concours départemental de l’élevage organisé depuis une décennie à la foire de Lessay par les éleveurs de bovins et ovins de la Manche, avec le soutien du contrôle laitier de la chambre d’agriculture et de nombreux partenaires.
Les éleveurs regroupent sous un hall construit à ce effet 350 bovins, les plus beaux du département de la Manche représentant les races Normande, Salers, Blonde d’Aquitaine, Prim’holstein, Montbéliarde …certains animaux sélectionnés vont concourir ensuite au salon international de l’élevage à Rennes (le SPACE) et au salon de l’agriculture à Paris.
Les trois races ovines de la Manche sont présentes : l’Avranchin, le Cotentin et le roussin de la Hague qui avait un espace dédié au concours de Rennes en 2009.
A Lessay, durant trois jours c’est une ferme géante qui vit sur le champ de foire, elle met à l’honneur les Paysans et leur savoir faire en matière de génétique bovine.
Juste à côté du festival départemental de l’élevage bovin, c’est la foire aux chiens, pédigrée obligatoire ; des milliers de visiteurs arpentent les allées de ce secteur pour trouver le chiot qu’on cherche ou tout simplement c’est le coup foudre pour l’un deux.
Une rue incontournable où les 350 000 visiteurs de la foire se restaureront, c’est la rue des rôtisseurs haute en couleurs et en odeurs, on embroche gigots et épaules de mouton pour les griller au feu de bois, en plein air comme depuis plusieurs siècles.
Et il y a tous ces commerçants et leurs étals où chacun achète les ingrédients d’un bon repas traditionnel de la foire Sainte-Croix (le mouton grillé, les frites, le camembert REO au lait cru fabriqué à Lessay, le melon et le raisin…)
Après on s’installe sous les grands chapiteaux et l’on déguste en famille et entre amis toutes ces victuailles du terroir, un moment de convivialité exceptionnel pour les fidèles de la foire Sainte-Croix et inoubliable pour ceux qui découvrent pour la première fois cette ambiance unique en Normandie.
Pendant trois jours qui se prolongent la nuit avec la fête foraine aux milles lumières, Lessay et la Sainte Croix forment une autre planète où les gens se donnent rendez-vous pour être ailleurs…
Quelques chiffres importants:
- Foire unique aux traditions ancestrales sur la Grand’Lande d’une surface de 32 hectares
- 350000 visiteurs en trois jours
- une trentaine de parking qui nous permettent d'accueillir plus de 80000 véhicules en trois jours
- 1500 exposants réunissant de nombreux secteurs d'activités.
- 800 chevaux, ânes et poneys le vendredi
- Grande foire aux chiens et à la volaille
- Plus de 300 bovins exposés pendant 3 jours lors du Festival Départemental de l’Elevage
- Environ 200 gendarmes dont 4 Gardes Républicains à cheval, particularité de la foire
- une cinquantaine de pompiers
- trois stands de la Croix Rouge répartis sur tout le champ de foire
- présence du SMUR
- nombreux exposants en matériel agricole
- en matériel travaux publics
- en bateaux
- en voitures neuves et occasions
- en motoculture et en plaisance
- en bâtiments préfabriqués
- en vérandas
- en aménagement de la maison
- en énergies renouvelables
- stand de l'Armée de Terre et de la Gendarmerie
- Hall de l'Habitat de plus de 2200 m², accueillant une centaine d'exposants
- Hall de la gastronomie de 500 m²
- Allées gastronomiques: une cinquantaine de marchands de vin, et une vingtaine d'exposants en produits régionaux
- environ 600 déballeurs en tous genres, des marchands de vêtements, de maroquinerie, de chaussures, des posticheurs, etc...
Allée des rôtisseurs:
- une vingtaine de tentiers.
- une vingtaine de rôtisseurs d'agneau.
- une soixantaine de grilleurs.
- des marchands de frites.
- des marchands de fruits et légumes.
- des boulangers.
- des fromagers.
- des marchands de kébabs.
Foire aux animaux:
- environ 800 équidés, chevaux, poneys, ânes, etc ..., le vendredi.
- exposition de chevaux, et présentation de races samedi et dimanche.
- PARC A CHIENS ET A LA VOLAILLE
- des centaines de chiens, de volailles et de petits animaux en tous genres (chats, furets, etc...), pendant les trois jours.
- une centaine d'attractions
- baraques de tir
- palais des glaces
- trains fantômes
- circuit de quads
- nombreux manèges pour enfants
- de très grandes attractions, tel que: Booster (hauteur: 60m), le Boomerang, le Crazy Dance 2, etc...
Festival Départemental de l'élevage:
- depuis 1999, présence pendant les trois jours de foire, du concours départemental de l'élevage. Les plus beaux spécimens de nombreuses races bovines y sont présentés.
Battous du cotentin:
- Et leur célèbre batterie de sarasin tous les jours sur le Foirail.