Bagnoles-de-l'Orne is a commune
Communes of France
The commune is the lowest level of administrative division in the French Republic. French communes are roughly equivalent to incorporated municipalities or villages in the United States or Gemeinden in Germany...

 in the Orne
Orne is a department in the northwest of France, named after the river Orne.- History :Orne is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution, on March 4, 1790. It was created from parts of the former provinces of Normandy and Perche.- Geography :Orne is in the region of...

 department in north-western France.


This commune is famous for its hydrotherapic
Hydrotherapy, formerly called hydropathy, involves the use of water for pain-relief and treating illness. The term hydrotherapy itself is synonymous with the term water cure as it was originally marketed by practitioners and promoters in the 19th century...

 baths, which are known for their supposed healing powers for rheumatic, gynaecologic and circulatory problems. The origins of thermal activity are said to date back to the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

. The spa is centred around the lake, which is formed by the River Vée, a tributary of the Mayenne, before it enters a deep gorge cut through the massif of the Andaines Forest.

Local legend tells of the medieval lord, Seigneur Hugues de Tessé. Believing that his once-glorious horse, "Rapide", was reaching the end of its life, Seigneur Hugues decided to abandon it in the Andaines Forest. He was amazed when the animal returned home some time later, strong and totally revitalized. Without resentment, "Rapide" took its master along to the waters of Bagnoles where he drank and was also rejuvenated. The spa
Spa town
A spa town is a town situated around a mineral spa . Patrons resorted to spas to "take the waters" for their purported health benefits. The word comes from the Belgian town Spa. In continental Europe a spa was known as a ville d'eau...

 was born.

According to another tale, a very old Franciscan monk who took the waters in Bagnoles found a new astonishing vigour and leapt across the highest rocks above the town, which are still called "Le Saut du Capucin" (The Monk's Leap).

Another facet of this fascinating place is the Arthurian legend, since Bagnoles and its surroundings are supposed to be Lancelot
Sir Lancelot du Lac is one of the Knights of the Round Table in the Arthurian legend. He is the most trusted of King Arthur's knights and plays a part in many of Arthur's victories...

's country. The village's calendar of cultural events includes a visit of the most famous Arthurian sites.

The "Belle Époque" Quarter

The "Belle Époque
Belle Époque
The Belle Époque or La Belle Époque was a period in European social history that began during the late 19th century and lasted until World War I. Occurring during the era of the French Third Republic and the German Empire, it was a period characterised by optimism and new technological and medical...

" Quarter in Bagnoles-de-l'Orne constitutes a rather well preserved example of what could be classed as a typical early 20th century French bourgeoise residential area. Built between 1886 and 1914 and located in the southern part of the town, it is filled with superb villas with polychrome façades, bow window
Bow window
A bow window is a curved bay window. Bow windows are designed to create space by projecting beyond the exterior wall of a building, and to provide a wider view of the garden or street outside and typically combine four or more casement windows, which join together to form an arch.Bow windows first...

s and unique roofing. Similar projects were developed throughout France at the same time, among which are Le Vésinet
Le Vésinet
Le Vésinet is a commune in the Yvelines department in the Île-de-France in north-central France. It is located in the western suburbs of Paris from the center....

 close to Paris, the Saurupt Park in Nancy and the "Winter Town" of Arcachon
Arcachon is a commune in the Gironde department in southwestern France.It is a popular bathing location on the Atlantic coast southwest of Bordeaux in the Landes forest...

Built under strict construction regulations and intended for well-off 'curists', that is, those attending the spa facilities, the idea of a residential area right in the heart of the Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

 forest attracted a very wealthy clientele. Moreover, when it was built, going to thermal pools wasn't generally popular, but seen, rather, as being associated with elitism, luxury and the aspirations of the privileged social classes, who took pleasure in promoting nature as a place of healing.

For this reason, Bagnoles-de-l'Orne is also known for the many prestigious visitors who have lived there at various times: the King and the Queen of Romania, Frank Jay Gould
Frank Jay Gould
Frank Jay Gould was a philanthropist and the son of financier Jay Gould. He was the owner of a string of French Riviera casinos and hotels.-Biography:...

, the Prince of Montenegro, the Prince of Greece, the Bibesco Princess, the Princess of Batenberg, Édouard Herriot
Édouard Herriot
Édouard Marie Herriot was a French Radical politician of the Third Republic who served three times as Prime Minister and for many years as President of the Chamber of Deputies....

, Alexandre Dumas (the father)
Alexandre Dumas, père
Alexandre Dumas, , born Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie was a French writer, best known for his historical novels of high adventure which have made him one of the most widely read French authors in the world...

, and even the Maharani of Kapurthala
Kapurthala is a city in Punjab state of India. It is the administrative headquarters of Kapurthala District. It was the capital of the Kapurthala State, a princely state in British India. The secular and aesthetic mix of the city with its prominent buildings based on French and Indo-Saracenic...


The architectural opulence of constructions such as the Villas "Printania", "Le Castel", or the so-called "Swedish Country cottage" as well as the presence of large lavish hotels gives a good idea of the stunning taste of the "Fin de siècle
Fin de siècle
Fin de siècle is French for "end of the century". The term sometimes encompasses both the closing and onset of an era, as it was felt to be a period of degeneration, but at the same time a period of hope for a new beginning...

" period. Being inspired by the Norman neo-regionalist style, as can be found in the Côte Fleurie
Côte Fleurie
Côte Fleurie is part of the Lower Normandy coast on the English Channel in the North of the Pays d'Auge, it constitutes the Eastern coast of the department Calvados....

 (Flowered coast) resorts of Deauville
Deauville is a commune in the Calvados département in the Basse-Normandie region in northwestern France.With its racecourse, harbour, international film festival, marinas, conference centre, villas, Grand Casino and sumptuous hotels, Deauville is regarded as the "queen of the Norman beaches" and...

, or Trouville
Trouville-sur-Mer, commonly referred to as Trouville, is a commune in the Calvados department in the Basse-Normandie region in northwestern France.Trouville-sur-Mer borders Deauville...

, there can easily be said to be a distinct "Bagnolais" architectural style.

Art Deco Architecture

After the long break caused by World War I, the development of tourism in Bagnoles-de-l'Orne eventually continued.

During this second period of great affluence, known in France as "Les Années Folles" ("Roaring Twenties
Roaring Twenties
The Roaring Twenties is a phrase used to describe the 1920s, principally in North America, but also in London, Berlin and Paris for a period of sustained economic prosperity. The phrase was meant to emphasize the period's social, artistic, and cultural dynamism...

"), the success of Bagnoles-de-l'Orne increased. The thermal season was filled with classical music concerts, horse races at the Hippodrome, golf tournaments as well as other sophisticated leisure activities. The demand for entertainment was high and a second casino was eventually built.

In keeping with the height of fashion, the buildings erected during this period were highly influenced by the "Art Deco
Art Deco
Art deco , or deco, is an eclectic artistic and design style that began in Paris in the 1920s and flourished internationally throughout the 1930s, into the World War II era. The style influenced all areas of design, including architecture and interior design, industrial design, fashion and...

" style, which was popular in the 1920s and 1930s.

Probably the most interesting examples of this type of architecture are the "Casino du Lac", built in 1927 by the renowned architect Auguste Bluysen, and the "Saint Jean-Baptiste Church" (1934–1935), which is registered as a listed building. Both buildings have met the challenge to integrate well with the greenery of the surrounding landscape, while adding a touch of modern design, based on the use of geometric shapes and shades of white.


The Henri Cibois and Benjamin Saunier Affair

The story of the attack and robbery against the Goupil widow, in the Tessé-la-Madeleine quarter of Bagnoles, in 1907, is well known in the area.

At the end of the reign of Louis XVI, the Groupil family lived in quite modest circumstances in Tessé, which was the original village and is now a part of Bagnoles. The Groupils had two sons, Jean and Louis, who, having both been missing since the French Revolution, reappeared and settled back in Tessé, in 1829. In 1825, they set about building a grand house called, at that time, "Le Logis", on the Place de L'Eglise. The locals expressed surprise at the Goupil brothers' apparent sudden rise to prosperity. The brothers died in 1850, taking with them the secret of their financial success. Soon after their death, Anne-Marie Goupil, the daughter of Jean and young wife, and so, widow, of Louis, built a new house known as the "Chateau Goupil", which is Bagnoles' present Town Hall. Madame Goupil moved into the chateau and continued to live there for the rest of her life, with her son and daughter.

The locals were said to be suspicious of where the Groupils had originally gained their wealth, and whether or not that led to the events which brought about the attack on Madame Groupil's is not known.

On the night of the 3rd to the 4th of December, 1907, Henri Cibois, a 24-year-old wheelwright, broke into the chateau with seventeen-year-old lumberman, Benjamin Saunier. Madame Groupil, now seventy-two years old, was beaten unconscious and suffered multiple stab wounds. Cibois and Saunier stole 700 francs, jewellery and three bottles of champagne.

For his crime, Henri Cibois went to the guillotine on 11 August 1908, with his accomplice, Benjamin Saunier being condemned to twenty years hard labour.

Assassination of Carlo and Nello Rosselli

Carlo Rosselli
Carlo Rosselli
Carlo Rosselli was an Italian political leader, journalist, historian and anti-fascist activist, first in Italy then abroad...

 (1899–1937) was a famous Italian socialist intellectual and activist during the years between World War I and World War II. He devoted his whole life and large amounts of money to the anti-fascist fight against Mussolini, Hitler, and Franco. He and his brother, Nello
Nello Rosselli
Nello Rosselli was an Italian Socialist leader and historian.Rosselli was born in Rome to a prominent Jewish family, and was the brother of Carlo Rosselli. Nello was a member of the reformist Partito Socialista Unitario of Filippo Turati, Giacomo Matteotti and Claudio Treves, which had split from...

, were assassinated in Bagnoles-de-l'Orne on June 9, 1937, by a group of "cagoulards", militants of the "Cagoule
La Cagoule
La Cagoule , officially called Comité secret d'action révolutionnaire , was a violent French fascist-leaning and anti-communist group, active in the 1930s, and designed to attempt the overthrow of the French Third Republic...

", a French fascist group, probably on the orders of Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....


Digital Television

Lower Normandy, including Bagnoles, was the first region in France, together with Alsace, to change over completely to digital television reception, giving more channels with a higher quality of image and sound to residents. Digital signals were broadcast alongside digital from December 2009 until March 2010, when the analogue signal was switched off.

See also

  • Communes of the Orne department
  • Parc naturel régional Normandie-Maine

External links

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