Architecture in France: the churches of the north east

Discover the history behind the architecture of fortified churches in France. Pictured: Burelles, fortified part in brick, the older part in limestone.
Discover the history behind the architecture of fortified churches in France. Pictured: Burelles, fortified part in brick, the older part in limestone.

Explore the fortified churches of La Thiérache.

A remarkable concentration of fortified churches built, or transformed from existing churches, from 1531 to 1699 to protect villagers from marauding troops can be found in one area of France.

The diversity of French architecture

Parfondeval, Pays de Thiérache
Parfondeval, Pays de Thiérache

Sixty-eight churches in La Thiérache, a region of Aisne, in the north east, are still intact, and there is evidence of a further 13 which have since disappeared. All bear witness to an astonishing mix of ecclesiastical and military architecture. In many, you can clearly see the original church built in limestone and the additional fortress added on in brick.

The buildings are very different but were all clearly built for defence, with some or all of these characteristics: towers and turrets, machicolations, arrow slits, watchtowers and bretèches, through which hiding villagers could hurl stones at anyone attempting to enter the stronghold. They have rooms to hide and live in for days, with fireplaces for heat and cooking.

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