Alauna, the Roman City
Valognes, an ancient Gallic village of the Unelles tribe, became a Roman settlement in the 1st century of our era. It was situated on the tin road which leads to the British Isles. The village was called Alauna and stretched around today's Alleaume parish and further towards the villages of Huberville, Tamerville and Montaigu-la-Brisette. It owned major civil buildings, and large ruins of the therms and a theatre with over 3000 seats are still visible today.
From the dukes to the kings
After the Scandinavian invasions in the 9th and 10th centuries Valognes entered the privileges of the Norman dukes. The city was concentrated around the ducal manor and the parish church situated on the Merderet river bank. While he was in his Valognes mansion young duke William - the future conqueror of England - in 1047 only just escaped a plot led by the revolted barons. Towards 1060 an episcopal manor was built in the village on a large domain offered by William the Conqueror to the Bishop of Coutance. In the 12th century Valognes remained an important venue of power, frequent relay station of dukes when travelling between Normandy and England via Barfleur harbour. After the annexation of Normandy by Philippe Auguste in 1204 the village was integrated into the domain of the Capetian kings.
During the Hundred Years' War, following the treaties of Mantes (1354), the cities of Valognes and Clos du Cotentin became the property of Charles le Mauvais, King of Navarre, who fortified the ancient ducal manor and put his garrisons there. Besieged by Bertran de Guesclin in 1364, recaptured a short time later by the Navarres, the fortress gave rise to incessant conflicts, while the plague and famines devastated the rural areas. The second phase of the Hundred Years' War, marked by the occupation by the English armies between 1418 and 1450, was not so active. Only the three successive sieges from 1449 to 1450 took their toll of dead and destruction.
...and times of prosperity
The city, offered as a privilege to Jeanne de France, daughter of King Louis XI, took a fast development in the second half of the 15th century. While the castle and the parish church were partially reconstructed, a "Hôtel Dieu" general hospital and a Cordelier monk monastery were founded, leather and fabric handicrafts developed and the first mansions constructed. This era continued all along the following century, and the violence of the religious wars and conflicts of the League did not jeopardize Valognes' newly acquired position of a small economic and administrative capital.
The somptuous times of aristocracy
In the second half of the 17th century the Vologne craft industry seemed to be losing its strength because of royal taxes and heavy fees. Yet, this economic recession was concealed by an unprecedented phenomenon, which was the multiplication of manors built by an ever increasing urban aristocracy. The brilliant society living in these new residences spent their time with receptions, games, dances, vibrant discussions, local intrigues and financial speculations, and replaced ancient medieval and Renaissance homes which had been there earlier. Also in the 17th century new religious communities were set up as a consequence of the Counter-Reform. Before demolishing the ancient fortified castle in 1689, the village built an abbey for the Benectines, a convent for the Capucins, a seminary and a new hospital.
The French Revolution entailed the seizure of the possessions of the church and the end of the aristocratic luxury. Despite the progressive transfert of its administration to Cherbourg, Valogne built a City Hall in 1810 and a magnificent neoclassical courthouse in 1830. The advent of the train in 1858 generated the development of industrial and commercial activities, more particularly the dairy production and stone mining. In the cultural field this period was marked by important personalities, for example the writer Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly, the painter Félix Buhot, the historian Léopold Delisle, the theorist and politician Alexis de Tocqueville…
The major event of the 20th century remains the trauma of the American bombings of June 1944, which destroyed a large part of the city. Intelligently conducted reconstruction works gave the destroyed parts of the city a pleasant look, combining contrast and harmony with the relics of the past.
In 1992 Volognes acquired the "City of Arts and History" label and is now together with Bricquebec and Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte a member of "Clos du Cotentin County of Art and History". Valognes strives for enhancing its patrimony and is eager to share its architectural and artistic treasures left by 2000 years of history.