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Sifex France Guide to Oise

Mercifully the superb Gothic cathedral of Saint Pierre survived the onslaught on Beauvais in World War II. Its chancel is the highest in the world rising to 46.8 metres. In the Bishop’s Palace is the regional museum of the Oise and there are still workshops of the ancient art of tapestry which prevailed for many years there. To the west, the pretty fortified village of Gerberoy overlooks the countryside of the Bray and beyond is the superb Benedictine Abbey at Saint-Germer-De-Fly. On the banks of the Oise, the cathedral of the Romanesque town of Noyon is a ‘monument historique’. Many superb Gothic buildings remain including the Bishops’ Palace, cloister and many lovely 17/18th century houses.

In the heart of an immense forest lies Compiègne with its superb Palace, totally rebuilt by Gabriel and Louis 15th, and its charming Imperial Opera house begun by Napoleon 3rd. In 1430 Joan of Arc was imprisoned here by the English. The court regularly spent the autumn here attracted by hunting, an all consuming passion to this day. In a clearing in the forest nearby is the ‘Clariêre de l’Armistice” with a replica of the carriage in which the Germans surrendered in 1918. The massive and imposing Château de Pierrefonds, one of the most visited castles in France, dates originally from the 14th Century and was rebuilt for Napoleon 3rd by the famous architect, Viollet-le-Duc.

The spire of Notre-Dame cathedral at Senlis dominates the town and the skyline from miles around. 78 metres high, it is even older than Notre-Dame in Paris. The Musée d’Art et d’Archéologie is in the old Bishops’ Palace and the ruined remains of the royal castle, built on the site of the Roman Forum, now house an art museum. To the East, the former 13th Century Cistercian Abbey of Fontaine-Châalis, with its 19th Century Château transformed out of the 18th Century Cloisters housing the Jacquemart-André Museum, is surrounded by the forest of Ermenonville with its beautiful Château, famous gardens and lake, with the tomb of the philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a frequent guest.

Probably the best known attraction of the Oise is the Château de Chantilly, built on a rock in the middle of the Nonette River. Just a short drive from Paris, the racecourse is as famed as the Royal Stables which house the Museum of the Living Horse, with dressage, shows and guided visits. Whilst the Petit Château dates from the Renaissance period, the Grand Château was rebuilt in the 19th century in the same style. The grounds of the Château were designed by Le Nôtre, later responsible for Versailles. The Château houses a rich collection of paintings, furniture, ceramics, porcelain and tapestries.

© 2003-2006 Sarah Francis

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