2 In Outdoor Experiences/ Sites

Most Unusual Sight In Normandy: Le Chêne d’Allouville

During my travels, I’ve seen some glorious sights that I’ve enjoyed visiting and photographing. But there is one sight I found to be truly weird (and I suppose wonderful). And if you’re wondering what the first photo is in this post, it is certainly the most unusual sight in Normandy ….or perhaps in all of France. It’s called Le Chêne d’Allouville (“the oak tree in Allouville”).  But it is more than just an oak tree. Read on to find out why.

Town of Allouville-Bellefosse

Allouville, France (J. Chung)

Allouville, France (J. Chung)

Allouville or properly named Allouville-Bellefosse is a commune in Normandy with a population of just over 1100 (Year: 2015). It is located 43 kilometers southeast of Etretat and 170 kilometers northwest of Paris.

Most Unusual Sight In Normandy

It is the oldest tree in France.
It is approximately 1200 years old…give or take a few hundred years.
There are two chapels inside the trunk.

In the middle of the town lies a big oak tree, called “Le Chêne d’Allouville”. But this isn’t just any oak tree. It has an unusual history and design. Signs on the tree document the key events in its history.

Le Chene d'Allouville (J. Chung)

Le Chene d’Allouville (J. Chung)

Sign about le chene d’Allouville history (j. Chung)

Here are a few interesting facts:

1669: Chapels In A Tree

The local priest, Father Du Cerceau and the Abbot du Detroit transformed the tree into a chapel. It is said that the Father was able to get 40 students into the trunk’s interior.  It was then dedicated Notre Dame de la Paix (“Our Lady of Peace”). A while later, the upper cavity was transformed into another chapel called “Chambre de l’Ermite” (“House of the Hermit”). A staircase leads to the two chapels.

1793-“Burn it down!!”

During the French revolution, it is said that an angry mob wanted to set the tree on fire. But the local schoolmaster, Jean-Baptiste Bonheur puts a sign on the tree that says, “Temple de la Raison”  (“Temple of Reason”). This calms the rebels and they change their minds to burn down the tree.

1887-“Moved heaven and earth”

Due to deterioration the Abbot de Paris and the citizens of Allouville “a remuer ciel et terre” (“moved heaven and earth”) to protect the trunk from further damage from rain and frost.

Stairway to the chapels at Le Chene d'Allouville (J. Chung)

Stairway to the chapels at Le Chene d’Allouville (J. Chung)

1986: Restorations Begin

As the years go on, the tree decays even more, so finally, various governments get involved to invest in its restoration. Reinforcements for the trunk include using metal supports and shingles. During this time, renovations are also done to the chapels.

Notice To Visitors

The notice to visitors is both touching and poetic:

Cher visiteur,
Tu te dois, si tu aimes la beauté des choses
De ralentir le pas et d’ouvrir les yeux et ton coeur
Car tu n’entres pas dans un lieu ordinaire

Tu entres dans un écrin d’histoire,
Dans un lieu qui possède une âme et une authenticité.

Regarde dans ses moindres details
la beauté à l’intérieur et a l’extérieur du tronc.

Pour respecter ce lieu il suffit de ne marcher que
sur les places, de ne pas toucher aux écorces,
rameaux et feuillage, de ne pas arracher de bardeaux.

Dear visitor,
You owe it to yourself if you love the beauty of things
Slow down and open your eyes and your heart
Because you do not enter an ordinary place

You enter in a case of history,
In a place that has a soul and authenticity.

Look in every detail
the beauty inside and outside the trunk.

To respect this place, it is sufficient to walk only
in places, not to touch the bark,
twigs and foliage, not to tear shingles.
Thank you.

So if you find yourself in France, take a detour to see this unusual sight in Normandy—an old oak tree full of history in Allouville-Bellefosse.

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  • Reply
    May 2, 2019 at 12:42 pm

    Such a lovely spot in Normandy! It was made famous across France in 1981 with the movie “Le chêne d’Allouville”. The French comedy may not be the best produced that year… but it’s centred on that venerable oak tree! (I think there might be a trailer on youtube).

    • Reply
      May 2, 2019 at 2:59 pm

      Thank you for sharing that information about the movie and Youtube. I checked it out and actually, the whole movie is there! I’ll have to check it out. Merci beaucoup!

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