Sainte Suzanne: Mayenne France

Sainte Suzanne: Mayenne, France

Sainte Suzanne is a small village in south-east Mayenne and it is known as one of the most beautiful Medieval villages in France and a Petites Cités de Caractère (Small Towns of Character).

The charming medieval village of Sainte Suzanne, Mayenne, (a municipality in the Mayenne department) is a small fortified town in a very picturesque location on a rocky outcrop above the river Erve. The medieval centre is perched on this rocky promontory and its charming streets are a visual treat to wander.

Sainte Suzanne - One of the “Most Beautiful Villages in France” a view of the stone houses of the town and an old sign

What are the Les plus beaux villages de France?

A total of about 160 villages across mainland France and two in Corsica have been given the prestigious ‘most beautiful villages of France’ award.  

Sainte Suzanne: Mayenne France

What is a Petite Cité de Caractère?

A Petite Cité de Caractère® is one which offers the opportunity to discover its particular and vibrant heritage, a place where visitors may be sure of receiving a warm and professional welcome. 

Located between Laval and Le Mans, the fortified town of Sainte-Suzanne was once referred to as The Key of the Maine (Mayenne) because of its strategic location.

Sainte Suzanne: Mayenne France

The history of Saint-Suzanne

Sainte Suzanne’s history dates back to pre-history. There are two dolmens dating from the 5th century and archaeological evidence has proved that the area was occupied by the Celts between the 5th and 9th BC centuries and then occupied by the Gauls.

Sainte Suzanne: Mayenne France

During the middle ages, the town had grown to be an important stronghold in Mayenne or as it was known then the County of Maine. The Counts of Maine were based in Le Mans but the Viscount of Maine held Sainte Suzanne.

The castle of Saint Suzanne dates from the early 11th century William the Conqueror attempted to claim the town in 1083 and the resulting siege which went on for 3 years meant that he never captured the Town. 

Sainte Suzanne: Mayenne France

In the surrounding countryside close to the road to Assé le Bérenger you can still see some of the remains of the camp set up by the Normans during this period. Finally, after three years a negotiated peace was settled between the two sides.

During the Hundred Years’ War in 1425, the town was captured by the English who had attacked it with the newest innovation in warfare – artillery.

Sainte Suzanne: Mayenne France

Sainte-Suzanne surrendered and was occupied by the English for 14 years. It was an English soldier in the town who was married to a French woman who betrayed the English and gave the French troops who were led by Jean de Bueil (a knight who had fought alongside Joan of Arc) entry to the town to reclaim it.

Sainte Suzanne: Mayenne France

In the early 17th century the “modern” chateau” was built by Guillaume Fouquet de la Varenne. He was given the Barony of Sainte Suzanne by the wife of King Henri IV whose wife Queen Margot had the title.

Guillaume built a Renaissance Chateau that today can be seen side by side The 11th-century Romanesque keep.

Sainte Suzanne: Mayenne France

Explore the Sainte Suzanne Castle ramparts and Keep

The castle ramparts and 11th-century keep are open to the public free of charge and you can take in some outstanding views of the area around the ramparts.

Sainte Suzanne: Mayenne France

Explore the Interpretation Centre for Architecture and Heritage

The Interpretation Centre for Architecture and Heritage is tucked away inside the 17th-century interiors of the Château de Sainte-Suzanne. Audiovisual media, models, terminals, touch-screen devices, wall projections, panels, guided tours and educational workshops give you insight into the multifaceted local heritage.

Sainte Suzanne: Mayenne France

The Auditorium Museum – Musée de l’Auditoire 

The local history museum contains an interesting collection of artefacts relating to the town, including the oldest plate armour ever found in France and a model of the siege camp of William the Conqueror.  

Sainte Suzanne: Mayenne France

Opposite the museum is a house with an exceptionally large window. This is the Carterie, a 17th and 18th-century factory producing playing cards manufactured from paper produced by the local mills. The large window gave light to the draughtsmen and printers who were producing the cards.

Sainte Suzanne: Mayenne France

Église Sainte-Suzanne

This building dates from 1884 and stands on the site of two earlier church buildings, one dating from the Middle Ages and the second from the 16th century. The carved portal from 1555 church framing the door of the present church is the only remaining vestige of the earlier buildings.

The Church houses a number of exciting statues dating from the 14th to the 18th century, most notably a particularly fine statuette of John the Baptist and, in the choir, a figure of Sainte Suzanne, patron saint of engaged couples.

Sainte Suzanne: Mayenne France

Visit the Sainte-Suzanne mill

Formerly a grain mill from the Middle Ages to the 20th century, the Sainte-Suzanne mill is now home to a traditional paper-making company.

The main activity of the Paper Mill is the manufacture of sheets of “pure rag” paper. Formed by hand, sheet by sheet, only from rag (old cotton, hemp or linen sheets). The Master Papermaker, Carlos Robert, is one of the last papermakers in France to make his own pulp. An ancient technique inherited from the Master Papermakers of the 13th century.

Sainte Suzanne: Mayenne France

During a one-hour guided tour, the Master Papermaker will take you into his universe and share with you his passion for beautiful paper. You will discover the tools invented by the Italian papermakers of the 13th century.

Visit the Dolmen des Erves

The Erves dolmen is a dolmen located in Sainte-Suzanne the first excavation took place in 1868 and the dolmen was classified as a historical monument in 1889. 

Sainte Suzanne: Mayenne France

The discoveries included fragmented human bones, corresponding to fourteen individuals 9 adults and 5 children. The grave goods, which were very poor, included a cup with a decorated base a pierced horse/pony tooth and a seashell An antler pick was also discovered. The human bones gave a date of the middle Neolithic around 4000 BC.

La Ferte-Clairbois

Not far from the town of Sainte-Suzanne, La Ferté-Clairbois is a medieval and cultural centre based within a fortified farm, that will transport you back to the Middle Ages, with horse-riding displays and medieval meals.

Bringing the 13th century back to life the “ferté” means stronghold or fortress. Housed in a magnificent dungeon near the village of Sainte Suzanne, this medieval centre offers many demonstrations on the theme of knights: costumes, staging and even food.  

Sainte Suzanne: Mayenne France
©Photo d’illustration / Mesnie de la Ferté Clairbois

Camp des Anglais – Camp de Beugy

The “Camp des Anglais” is 1 km away on the road to Assé le Béranger and is the site where William the Conqueror constructed a fortress during the siege of Sainte-Suzanne.  Also marked as “Camp de Beugy”, the earthworks and defensive ditches are well preserved, and you can explore them on foot.

Sainte Suzanne: Mayenne France
Model of Camp de Beugy at the Musée de l’Auditoire

Tertre-Ganne

From this promontory to the south of the town there is a stunning panorama of Sainte-Suzanne. It can be reached by car, taking the direction of Voutré, turning right just beyond the pond at the foot of the hill. Follow this road to the summit where there is a car park. An easy 100-metre walk brings you to a picnic site with superb views of the town.

Sainte Suzanne: Mayenne France

Sainte Suzanne is a pleasure to make a day trip to, you can wander the old cobblestone streets and sit at a cafe in the medieval centre and enjoy a glass of wine and just watch the world go by.

You might also like to read more of my French articles.

French Food Culture: The Ultimate Guide

Touring the south of France – a guide to planning your French Road Trip

Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei plus beaux villages – beautiful villages of France

Normandy Villages 22 of the most beautiful

Remarkable Rouen – things to do

Dinan France – medieval France at its finest

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Sainte Suzanne: Mayenne France

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