well worth seeking out
The Saulges Caves
A nationally classified prehistoric and natural site (Natura
2000), the caves at Saulges are natural shelters excavated by erosion into the
limestone cliffs of the Erve valley. They have served as a refuge for Man for
tens of thousands of years. There is no other equivalent in the west of France.
Recent discoveries have unearthed etchings and fine details representing horses
and woolly rhinoceros (the Margot Cave).
The Gallo-Roman Site at Jublians
This is the best preserved site from this period in France,
with a temple, theatre, baths and a large fortress. Walking routes throughout
the village demonstrate the different aspects of Gallo life, while an Archaeological Museum close to remains of the
fortress offers a virtual tour, models and interactive terminals.
The medieval city of Sainte-Suzanne
Founded in the 11th century, the hilltop fortress of St
Suzanne was one of the only places to resist the onslaught of William the
Conqueror. It has beautiful views of the meandering River Erve, once dotted
with windmills, and a spectacular portcullis and the Musée de l'Auditoire,
located within the castle courtyard. It is a museum of the Mayenne, covering
the development of human habitation from cave man to modern times, and the
natural landscape and flora and fauna of the area.
This monastery is the main religious building from the
Middle Ages in Mayenne, founded at the beginning of the 7th century. It was
destroyed during the invasions of Brittany and Normandy, but restored again in
959. Its medieval religious architecture was the precursor to powerful Fontevraud
Abbey in Maine.
Inspired by Sainte Suzanne's successful four year siege,
Gilles Raab has created a mediaeval world at Ferte Clairbois, a farm 2km from
the village of Sainte Suzanne, and re-enacts the village's resistance to William
the Conqueror. Ferte Clairbois encompasses a blacksmith, stone keep and
dungeons, wooden palisade and jousting arena. The project employs seven actors,
six horses and one donkey with performances held every Sunday and bank holidays.
The Carolingian Palace at Mayenne
The town of Mayenne has a medieval castle, the
main part of which dates from the 13th century. It was one of many French
fortresses facing the invasion of Brittany. In the 18th century, until 1936, the
castle was transformed into a prison, and in the early 1990s, the municipality
began a programme of restoration work. An English team, the Oxford Archaeological
unit, researched the site from 1996 to 2000. They discovered the remains of an
exceptional Carolingian Palace. Old
brick work, including walls several storeys high, revealed that the original site was built between 900 and 920. There are only
one or two other examples of Carolingian buildings preserved from the time in
the whole of Europe.
The heart of the castle is now a museum highlighting life
in the Carolingian Palace and different eras of occupation of the castle as
well as collections of objects found on the site or in the department. There is
a rare collection of chess pieces, made of wood, bone and ivory dating from the
tenth and twelfth centuries.