On the road to Mont Saint-Michel, cross paths with the copper town and its impregnable bell tower … Villedieu-les-Poêles! Experience the living heritage in the heart of the “deaf city”, with its exceptional sites, its craftsmen, its history and its authenticity.
Founded in the 12th century by the Knights of Malta, Villedieu-les-Poêles has been recognised around the world for its craft tradition since the Middle Ages: the production of pans, copperwork and smelting. Holder of the “Ville et Métiers d’Art” (City and Applied Arts) label, the town now welcomes numerous craftsmen and women. The so-called “deaf city” still has many surprises in store for you!
A remarkable medieval city
While enjoying a historical walk in the heart of the town, through its courtyards and narrow streets, the mediaeval soul of Villedieu-les-Poêles can still be felt. Founded in the 12th century by the Knights of Malta, its mediaeval architecture and exceptional heritage bear witness to its authenticity. The first hospital commandery across the land that would go on to form present-day France and the seat of an unusual brotherhood of coppersmiths since the end of the Middle Ages, Villedieu-les-Poêles is full of little nooks and crannies, into which few venture…
A historical journey, between heritage and courtyard-workshops
As you wander through the labyrinth of streets and alleys of Villedieu-les-Poêles, you can see the courtyards and workshops. There were once 39 of them, used as living and working places at the time when coppersmith trade thrived. Don’t miss the most iconic: the Cour de la Luzerne and its gallows, the Cour des Hauts-Bois and its sculpted head, the Cour aux Moines or the Cour Bataille and its engraved step. Wonderfully picturesque, the Copper City is home to 19th century washhouses, which still decorate the banks of the Sienne River. Another unmissable building stands in the town: the Notre-Dame de Villedieu-les-Poêles church. Will you notice its unique shape? Push open the doors to discover its many statues.
Want to discover all the secrets of Villedieu-les-Poêles? The Tourist Office offers guided tours during school holidays.
Capital of copper and living heritage
There were once many apprentice coppersmiths here, eager to undertake copper work in Villedieu-les-Poêles! The growth of the trade eventually reached the point that the town developed a real international reputation for this craft … and even a special distinction for the production of pans (“Poêles” in French), hence the name “Villedieu-les-Poêles”. During a stroll, don’t miss the chance to take a break at the Cour du Foyer: A remarkable courtyard-workshop and listed as a Historic Monument, it houses the Pan-Making Museum and the Lacemaker’s House. These museums retrace the rich history of the deaf city, as well as its history of copper and lace.
Visit exceptional workshops
In the town centre, it is not uncommon to hear the bells ringing at all hours of the day, especially in the summer. This comes from the Cornille-Havard Bell Foundry. In the workshop, a guide explains the bell manufacturing process based on the models of their current orders: from the mould, to searching for the right note, to the placement of ornaments.
At the Atelier du Cuivre, located on the other side of the town centre, you’ll be met by the sound of hammering as soon as you enter the hall! Passing through the doors of this rustic workshop, furnished with antique tools and scraps of copper, tin or brass, you can follow the works in progress – sometimes with commentary from the workers themselves. There, you can see them at work as you learn about the different workstations: embossing, tinning, polishing, and hammering, with the latter having served as the daily rhythm of the town’s inhabitants for centuries. Visitors are free to try their hand at the trade if they fancy it at the end of the visit.
Another factory opens its doors for guided tours: Mauviel 1830. Located in the Espace InSitu, here, the cooking utensil is king. Restaurant chefs and amateur cooks flock here to find something to enhance their kitchenware and knowledge, thanks to the advice and workshops of Chef Mauviel.
Norman City of Applied Arts
During a stroll through the streets of Villedieu-les-Poêles, unusual shop windows call out to passers-by. Cast your eye over these displays to discover creations as original as they are varied, all made by passionate craftsmen. Whether in the shopping streets, during the craft festival or even at the tourist office: crafts are king in Villedieu-les-Poêles!
A district dedicated to craftsmen
Since 2002, Villedieu-les-Poêles has been recognised for its arts and crafts with the “Ville et Métiers d’Art” (City and the Applied Arts) label. In the historic heart of the town, there are founders and coppersmiths, but also a number of craftsmen who have established themselves in the town much more recently: potters and ceramicists, a hatter, lace-makers, a restorer of works of art, and a manufacturer and restorer of clocks, among others. An Applied Arts District was created in the summer of 2018, promoted by the Villedieu Intercom community of local municipalities. A number of schemes are also available to craftsmen looking to set up in the town centre. This district brings together creative craftsmen and visual artists in ephemeral shops.
Villedieu-les-Poêles celebrates its craftsmen!
Each year, Villedieu-les-Poêles rolls out its red carpet for craftsmen during the European Craft Days, as part of its Fête des Métiers d’Art (Applied Arts Festival). As such, no less than sixty craftsmen are invited to exhibit in different places across the town and, most notably, under a Magic Mirror. This unmissable event distinguishes Villedieu-les-Poêles as the flagship city for arts and crafts… Don’t miss it in spring 2021!
The full programme is available at www.villedieu-intercom.fr
If you have any question, please contact the Tourist Office Villedieu les Poêles
+33 (0)2 33 61 05 69