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Coordinates: 48°41′06″N 1°21′20″W / 48.685°N 1.355556°W / 48.685; -1.355556

Commune of Avranches

Botanical garden
Avranches is located in France
Country France
Region Basse-Normandie
Department Manche
Arrondissement Avranches
Canton Avranches
Mayor Guenaël Huet
Elevation 7–108 m (23–350 ft)
(avg. 108 m/350 ft)
Land area1 4.5 km2 (1.7 sq mi)
Population2 8,500  (1999)
 - Density 1,889 /km2 (4,890 /sq mi)
INSEE/Postal code 50025/ 50300
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.
2 Population sans doubles comptes: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Avranches is a commune in the Manche department in the Basse-Normandie region in north-western France. It is a sub-prefecture of the department. The inhabitants are called Avranchinais [1].



By the end of the Roman period, the settlement of Ingena, capital of the Abrincatui tribe, had taken the name of the tribe itself. This was the origin of the name Avranches. In 511 the town became the seat of a bishopric (suppressed in 1790).

In 933 Avranches and its territory, the Avranchin, were ceded to the Normans.

In 1172 (September 27-28) a council was held at Avranches apropos of the troubles caused in the English Church by the murder of the Anglo-Norman saint Thomas Becket. Henry II, King of England, after due penance done in Avranches on 21 May 1172, was absolved from the censures incurred by the assassination of the holy prelate, and reached the Compromise of Avranches with the Church, swearing fidelity to Pope Alexander III in the person of the papal legate.

Patton Square

It was forbidden by the same council to confer on children benefice carrying with it the cure of souls, or on the children of priests the churches of their fathers. Each parish was required to have an assistant (vicarius) and the Advent fast was commended to all who could observe it, especially to ecclesiastics.

The town was damaged in both the Hundred Years War and the Wars of Religion.

Álvaro Vaz de Almada was made 1st Earl of Avranches by King Henry VI of England.

The Avranches breakthrough in World War II began on 31 July 1944, and was led by General George S. Patton.


Avranches is situated at the southern end of the Cotentin Peninsula on the E40 road connecting Saint-Lô with Brittany and on the rail line between Lison (linking to Caen) and Dol (linking to Rennes).

The town was founded on high ground overlooking the dunes and coastal marshes along the bay forming the corner between the peninsulas of the Cotentin and Brittany. From Avranches, it is possible to see the Mont Saint Michel, which was founded by Saint Aubert, Bishop of Avranches in the 8th century.


Notre Dame des Champs

A museum houses the collection of manuscripts of Mont Saint Michel, deposited in the municipal archives during the French Revolution. It is one of the largest collections of medieval illuminated manuscripts in France, outside national and university libraries.

Formerly dominated by the cathedral, where Henry II did penance, an open grassed area La Plate-Forme overlooking the bay towards Mont Saint Michel displays only a few remnants of the destroyed building.

The major church Notre Dame des Champs was constructed in Gothic Revival style in the 19th century to restore the religious life of the town after the destruction of the cathedral. A smaller church Saint Gervais houses a treasury, best known for the purported skull of Saint Aubert complete with hole where the archangel Michael's finger pierced it (probably a prehistoric trepanned skull).

The botanical gardens were founded in the grounds of the former Franciscan convent in the late 18th century. The expansion and introduction of exotic species in the 19th century and the location of the gardens overlooking the bay made the gardens an important sight in the town.

The Manoir de Brion, an ancient Benedictine priory of Mont Saint Michel, is located in Dragey.

Twin towns


Avranches was the birthplace of:


  1. ^ Rene Andre, Avranches 2000 ans d' histoire, Publication Municipale

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

AVRANCHES, a town of north-western France, capital of an arrondissement in the department of Manche, 87 m. S. of Cherbourg on the Western railway. Pop. (1906) 7186. It stands on a wooded hill, its botanical gardens commanding a fine view westward of the bay and rock of St Michel. At the foot of the hill flows the river See, which at high tide is navigable from the sea. The town is surrounded by avenues, which occupy the site of the ancient ramparts, remains of which are to be seen on the north side. Avranches was from 511 to 1790 a bishop's see, held at the end of the 17th century by the scholar Daniel Huet; and its cathedral, destroyed as insecure in the time of the first French Revolution, was the finest in Normandy. Its site is now occupied by an open square, one stone remaining to mark the spot where Henry II. of England received absolution for the murder of Thomas Becket. The churches of Notre-Dame des Champs and St Saturnin are modern buildings in the Gothic style. The ancient episcopal palace is now used as a court of justice; a public library is kept in the hotel de ville. In the public gardens there is a statue of General Jean Marie Valhubert, killed at Austerlitz. Avranches is seat of a sub-prefect and has a tribunal of first instance and a communal college. Leather-dressing is the chief industry; steam-sawing, brewing and dyeing are also carried on, and horticulture flourishes in the environs. Trade is in cider, cattle, butter, flowers and fruit, and there are salmon and other fisheries.

Avranches, an important military station of the Romans, was in the middle ages chief place of a county of the duchy of Normandy. It sustained several sieges, the most noteworthy of which, in 1591, was the result of its opposition to Henry IV. In 1639 Avranches was the focus of the peasant revolt against the salt-tax, known as the revolt of the Nu-pieds.

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