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Tourism, holidays & weekends guide in the Sarthe

Fresnay-sur-Sarthe - Tourism, holidays & weekends guide in the Sarthe

Nestling at the edge of the Mancelles Alps, the small character town of Fresnay-sur-Sarthe, a labelled green resort, forms a picturesque ensemble with its old castle ramparts, ancient houses, bridge over the Sarthe and verdant riverbanks. A harmonious scene that can be admired from the banks of the Sarthe, as well as from the public garden of the castle that overlooks the river.

A 15th-century relic, the castle's postern, located at the entrance to the garden, is now home to the A. Loré Museum of the Middle Ages, all about the medieval era. A few streets away, the Romanesque Church of Our Lady, adorned with a remarkable carved oak door from the 16th century, is another gem to admire in the medieval town.

Also worth a look is the Headdress Museum, based in the Lion Room (Salle du Lion), which has a superb collection of Sarthe headdresses from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Additional information

The earliest origins of Fresnay date back to the 6th century when there are about ten families on the site of "Fraxinidum". It was only in the ninth century that the history of the city really began with the construction of the castle in 877 under the impulse of King Charles the Bald. Indeed the site seems ideal to the installation of a fortress because located on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Sarthe. In spite of this, the city, known at the time under the name of Fresnay-le-Vicomte, underwent several assaults, those of William the Conqueror then later those of the English. With the attack of the English, during the War of Centuries, a native of the region will be honored: Ambroise de Loré, companion of Joan of Arc, named Captain of the city in reward of its bravery.

During the following centuries Fresnay will be famous for its hemp canvas. This economy will mark the landscape of the city with in particular the district of Bourg Neuf which counts many houses of weavers. The architecture of its houses is recognizable by the external staircase which serves, on the floor the only living room, and in the lower part, slightly buried, the weaving workshop.

Fresnay-le-Vicomte will become Fresnay-sur-Sarthe after the Revolution.

Name of the inhabitants: les Fresnois.

Things to see and do

The Notre Dame built in the 12th century, then it has a single nave ending in a chamber choir. After various damages caused by war and weather, the church will be restored and enlarged. The last restoration dates from the second half of the 19th century, a period of addition of the transept.

The portal of the church: the western entrance of the church is marked by a remarkable portal carved oak. It dates from 1528 and is the work of the Brothers Dienis, local artists who worked in various buildings in the area. This portal is a side with the Old Testament illustration of the Tree of Jesse and the other New Testament including the representation of the 12 Apostles.

The castle gate: one of the best preserved parts of the old fortress. It dates from the 14th century and consists of two circular towers connected by a central building that houses the machinery of the drawbridge and portcullis. Element of defense, she also served as a prison.

The library of Fresnay-sur-Sarthe: Adult space, amphitheater, children's area, teen space, space music and multimedia. Contacts: 12 bis rue du Docteur Horeau - February 43 33 35 41. Open Tuesday from 17h to 19h on Wednesday from 10am to 12.30pm and from 14h to 16h30, Saturday from 10am to 12.30pm and from 14h to 16h30.

Places of interest

Information points

Events and festivities

Every Saturday in July and August: city tour, starting in 1530, the castle gate - free.


Cave Lion
Cave Lion
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Visits, leisure and activities nearby


Bed & breakfasts

Vacation rentals



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