Monday, 19 September 2011

Les Journées du Patrimoine - France

European Heritage Days (EHD) is a joint action of the Council of Europe and the European Commission. Every year for a weekend in September (in 2011 in France it was 17th - 18th September), you can take the opportunity to visit (for free !) buildings, monuments and sites, many of which are not normally open to the public.  The aim of the European Heritage Days programme is to increase public awareness of the importance of heritage, and to awaken the interest of young Europeans in their common history. The event now takes place in 50 countries from the Baltic to the Balkans, from Iceland to the Iberian Peninsular and gives Europeans a chance to explore both their own heritage and also that of their neighbours if they happen to be visiting another country.

The event began in France in 1984, with La Journée Portes Ouvertes, and has now spread throughout Europe.  In France it is now known as Les Journées européennes du patrimoine and in the UK we have come to know this event as either :
  • English Heritage’s Heritage Open Days,
  • Open House London,
  • Doors Open Days in Scotland,
  • Open Doors Days in Wales, and,
  • European Heritage Days in Northern Ireland.
It is a fantastic chance to see into all sorts of building and to find out first hand what happens there. For example this past weekend in Paris, 12,000 people took the chance to pay a visit to the Sarkozy's residence at the Elysee Palace !
In total, there were over 12,000,000 visitors to all sorts of buildings around France. The website will show you what you can visit in a particular region :  In Brittany, for example, you could visit abbeys, chateaux, chapels, churches, forts, museums, manors, gardens and semaphore stations, in fact in total there were 611 open doors events in Brittany this year !

There has also been a new category added this year, with the Announcement by Frédéric Miterrand, the French Minister of Culture and Communication, that certain houses would be recognised as "Maisons des Illustres". These are houses where famous people have lived and you can find a list of the 111 houses on this website :
They include the houses of  :
  • Louis Pasteur (scientist) in Franche Comté
  • Pierre-Auguste Renoir (painter) in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
  • Jules Verne in Picardy
  • Pierre-Auguste Renoir (painter) -Atelier de Renoir - Essoyes
  • Victor Hugo (writer) in Upper Normandy
  • Napoléon Bonaparte - Maison Bonaparte - Ajaccio
  • Louis Braille (inventor of Braille) - Maison Louis Braille - Coupvray, Ile de France
  • Charles de Gaulle in Nord-Pas de Calais
  • the Champollion family house in Figeac, Midi-Pyrénées, (Champollion translated the Rosetta Stone which led to the understanding of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs) 
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