Domfront was a strategic point on the ancient borders of Normandy, Maine (once part of Anjou) and Brittany. It was defended and attacked by the most powerful men of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. This in turn gave Briouze, the next castle north of Domfront, a major role in Normandy's defences. The power and significance of the de Braose family can be measured by the importance of Domfront.

Domfront castle overlooks the wide expanse of the Varenne Valley, on a spectacular craggy hilltop three hundred feet high. The castle was originally built by William de Belleme I in 1010. William the Conqueror gained it from Geoffrey Martel, Duke of Anjou in 1055 and Domfront's fortifications were strengthened by successive dukes and kings. Many historic military campaigns centred on Domfront. It was still a potential threat in 1608 after the Wars of Religion, when the goverment blew it up with gunpowder and left the ruins that are seen today.

Claude and Lynda posed for a photograph at Domfront Castle.

Eleven of the original twenty four medieval towers which defended the town still survive. It is amazing to see that some of these towers are now comfortable houses and offices. The walls of the town and its many beautiful old buildings are a delight for anyone interested in the medieval past.

Far below the castle is the church of Notre-Dame Sur L'Eau, established by William de Belleme in about 1020.

Notre-Dame Sur L'Eau was attached to the Abbey of Lonlay. It stands on an ancient route for pilgrims travelling between Mont Saint Michel in Normandy and the shrine of Saint James of Compostela, in Spain. Weary pilgrims slept on the stone floors of the church but it was an inspiring experience for many. Illustrious visitors such as Thomas Becket, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard the Lion Heart and Saint Louis added to the mystery and prestige of Notre-Dame Sur L'Eau.

The church has preserved several twelfth century wall paintings and the architecture which has survived the centuries is remarkable. Among the treasures of Notre-Dame Sur L'Eau is this fourteenth century Madonna and Child.

© Lynda Denyer, Steyning, 2000