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The 35 Bell Towers of the Automne Valley

For lovers of history

The town is named after the most renowned bishop of Arras who was close to King Clovis and famous for his miracles and his fight against paganism.

A few legends speak of miracles accomplished in Oise, and it is thought that his relics were temporarily sheltered within the Beauvais diocese from the pillaging Normans.

Outside the village, perched upon a low verdant hill and surrounded by a cemetery, the Romanesque church proudly stands, dedicated to the saint and adorned with a stone spire. Built during the 12th century, the church underwent diverse renovations, illustrating the evolution from the Romanesque to the Gothic style. Its western portal is a lovely example of Romanesque architecture, with geometric embellishments (the "bâtons brisés" motif) adorning the archivolts.

Here we are at the western entrance to the valley of the Automne, a small 35-km-long tributary to the Oise River.

And from here, a "discovery trail" leads to the valley's 35 bell towers, celebrated each year by a heritage festival. Curious visitors can admire the valley's rich natural and historic heritage, including churches, abbeys, castles and wash houses. The Romanesque church of the old Morienval Abbey, Lieu-Restauré Abbey Church (with the flamboyant rose window of its façade) in Bonneuil-en-Valois, and the Vez Keep are all prestigious treasures testifying to the artistic genius of the men who shaped the history of this valley.

Did you know ?

The river's name has nothing to do with the French word for autumn, but is rather derived from its original Latin name Altonna, progressively transformed by day-to-day usage into the current Automne.

The valley, as illustrated by its especially rich heritage, has been a source of life and work for men since time immemorial. Its natural resources included abundant reeds for wickerwork, as well as hemp, which provided a livelihood to many pairs of hands scattered about the valley's villages.

No less than forty watermills were once powered by the river and its numerous brooks. The last operating mill continued working up until the late 1950s.

Hidden treasures

The lovely Romanesque bell tower of the Saint-Vaast Church, with its gemel windows on each side and its octagonal stone steeple, constitutes one of the first aerial markers of a long series of edifices stretching the entire length of the valley, whose local stone has served for the construction of such time-defying monuments as the Morienval Abbey Church and the Vez Keep, not to mention spectacular Lieu-Restauré.

Saint-Vaast marks the gateway to the historic Valois region, birthplace of one of the most important royal dynasties of France.