Town of Dourdan
 

History

The name is probably originating from celtic root Dour, or  Dor which means water or river, same origin as the town of Dover.

In Dourdan's shield one can see three pots which likely refer to the numerous pottery workshops that formerly existed in the area. As and when time elapsed the 3 pots became 3 nice vases with round handles.  One believe that the shield was designed back in the 15th century, but the first settlement of the town was a Gaul dwelling set-up on a hill along the Orge River.

Dourdan grew-up as from the gallo-roman period since it was an important center for pottery and ceramics and became a strategic military point on the "wheat road" linking the fields of Beauce with the Capital. Fortifications were erected early in the Middle-Age, henceforth the town played an important role in a number of wars in the French History.

Dourdan was the home of Hugues le Grand also named Hugues le Blanc or Hugues l'Abbé, father of Hugues Capet, the first King of the Capetiens Dynasty. He died there in 956. Hugues Capet was born in Dourdan's castle in 956 and the castle was the head of Capetiens Kings in their struggles against other Lords of the Paris Area. 
 

 

When Hugues Capet became king in 987, Dourdan was made "Royal Town". In 1220, Philippe Auguste had a new castle built. Most famous owners of the castle, often given as a privilege, were : Blanche de Castille, Louis d'Évreux, Jean de Berry, François I de Guise, Sully, Anne d'Autriche, and the Orleans' Family. Jeanne de Bourgogne and La Hire, Jeanne d'Arc's companion, were jailed in its dungeon. At the end of the 17th century, it was given to the Duke of Orleans who transformed it into prison. This function remained until 1852.

 

Heritage

Philippe Auguste's castle

 

This huge square building is considered as a model of the military architecture of the 13th century. Its square walls are 70 meters long and are surrounded by  waterless ditches, 12 meters width. Six towers, a fortified gate and a dungeon secure the defence of the fortress.

 

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Nowadays, the castle shelters the Town's Museum settled in an old salt warehouse, which was rehabilitated into a house in the 19th century. In the museum the visitor can see interesting collections relating to the major steps in the development of the town.

St Germain l'Auxerrois Church

Overlooking the old town centre the gothic church faces the medieval castle on one side of the central square. It is devoted to St Germain d’Auxerre and was built from 1150 up to the beginning of the 13th century.

It suffered from miscellaneous damages and destructions during the wars with the English and religion wars and was rehabilitated and enlarged during 18th and 19th centuries. In the 19th century the church was again in poor condition and was saved byAbbey Gerard as it nearly collapsed.

The dimensions of the building are impressive : 50 meters length 18 meters width and the highest steeple has 50 meters height. In the nave there is a remarkable wooden pieta (17th century).


The background of the central square cannot be complete without the market hall, rebuilt in 1836 in place of an old wooden construction erected in the 13th century

 

Other buildings

  • The Parterre mansion, which is the Town Hall was built in 1725 by Michel-Jacques LEVY, Dourdan' Provost, and completed with a big garden. In 1809, the Landlord, Family Verteillac, sold part of it to the City Council and in 1863 the whole building became the town hall.

  • The City outside fortifications. They still stand in some places along with the remainders of ancient towers, especially north side of the town.

  • The old Hôtel-Dieu Hospital. It is located in the very centre, close to the church. Pilgrims and poor people were hosted there in the past. To-day it is the City Nursing Home for elder people.

  • Ouÿe Abbey. In 1163, the land where the abbey was built was given to the monks of Grandmont by King  Louis VII . In 1763, the abbey became a Bebedictine Sisters Abbey. After the death of the Major Sister and departure of the Sisters it was sold to miscellaneous owners. Later it has been reoccupied by the Ursulines sisters, who, in 2011, have put it for sale.

 

 

 

Events and fairs

 

The fairs

 

 The Ventôse Fair, formerly an agricultural fair and, later, an important commercial show is now only a fun fair. It always takes place a fortnight before Easter. The commercial fair that was associated to it, has, since 2011, been separated to be held in May and bears the name of "Foire du Hurepoix".

 

The Medieval Festival

 

 Every year, in June, this festival is held in the historical center of the city. Troops set camp in the castle inner yard, a medieval banquet is organised, craft and art shops open on the market square. 

 

 

The associations participate in offering tales, choirs, dance and other kinds of skill. Visitors and residents are invited to dress in medieval costumes, so that the town looks again like it was ages ago, the time of a week-end.

 

Saint Félicien and associations Forum

 

St Felicien's Day takes place every 3rd week-end of September. It is the gardeners fest. Professional and amateur gardeners from Dourdan and surrounding area display vegetables and fruits of their production. The Associations Forum and sport contests are organised at the same period, but not necessarily the same day.

 

Powerpoint slides show on Dourdan (click to view)  ( (Necessitates the Powerpoint viewer - Free dowload on Microsoft Website)

For more information on Dourdan, please see our page of links