Once upon a time Honfleur, Estuary Land …

« My establishment in Honfleur has always been my dearest dream. »

Charles Baudelaire

Going back into History…


© Loïc Pilon


The town’s development from the 9th century coincides with the Scandinavian invasions and the settlement of the Norsemen (the Vikings).

The town was formerly named “Honnefleur”, from the Norse. According to some etymologists, the word “honna” may have been a local surname, whereas the word “flow” meant cove, creek or small estuary. It did then become “fleu” and finally “fleur”. We find the same word in other place names such as Barfleur, Harfleur…

Honfleur is an old town mentioned in historical documents as early as the 11th century. At that time, it was one among the most important townships in the Duchy of Normandy.

Its ideal location enabled it to develop in the 12th century and to play an important role in the Duchy.

The town grew steadily and at the beginning of the 14th century it already consisted of three parishes. Because of it’s excellent position as a maritime port and its access to the Seine estuary, the role of Honfleur was both to defend this royal river and to be the embarkation point of great maritime voyages.




The age of Wars

The 14th century was a period of great military activity to Honfleur, as it played a predominant role in the Hundred Years War. It was occupied by the English at the beginning of the conflict, again from 1357 to 1361 and from August 1365 to January 1366.

Charles V, looking for a defensive military position, and recognising the strategic location of Honfleur, erected fortifications around the town, turning it into a stronghold against the English invaders.

These fortifications, situated at the mouth of the river Seine and opposite Harfleur’s walls, were vital to the defence of Normandy.



© Loïc Pilon

The Age of expeditions

Once the town had recovered from the hardships of the Hundred Years War, the glorious maritime history of Honfleur could begin. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Honfleur played an active part in the voyages of discovery.

At one time Honfleur seafarers were among the best sailors in the kingdom of France.
Great expeditions started again after the Wars of Religion, this time heading towards the St-Lawrence river and Canada. Pierre de Chauvin, Dupont-Gravé, Samuel de Champlain and other navigators sailed to these far distant countries.

In the 17th and 18th centuries the port of Honfleur developed its trading activity with Canada, the West-Indies, the African coast and the Azores. To cope with this expansion the Vieux Bassin (Old Harbour) was built at the end of the 17th century. During this period, Honfleur was a dynamic centre for pilots, ship-owners, traders and even privateers.




© Sarah Sergent

The Age of painters

Artists were already aware of Honfleur, and the remarkable light of the estuary, as early as the 18th century. As early as 1810-1820, they discovered the romantic panorama of the medieval town surrounded by two hills. At that time painters were starting to paint outside in natural light and tourism was just beginning.

Among the artists seduced by these landscapes and atmospheric phenomena were: Bonington, Turner, Huet, Leprince, Corot, Isabey, Boudin, Jongkind, Monet… It was a long and lasting friendship between these artists who met and advised each other without the limitations of any particular school or dogma.

In the 1860s, Eugène Boudin, born in Honfleur in 1824, was the unifying element between the old generation of artists and the young ones. An artistic circle developed around him, they used to meet in the Auberge Saint-Siméon where Boudin painted his famous skies of the Seine estuary, so much admired by Baudelaire.

There are still many painters today who set up their easels alongside the Vieux Bassin to try to find new ways to depict the Lieutenance and the houses of the Quai Sainte Catherine. The many art galleries and workshops also bear witness to Honfleur’s attachment to art. Local and foreign artists still come to Honfleur capture the miracle of Normandy’s skies.



Follow the footsteps of William the conqueror

In the 10th century was built the castle of Conteville, its strategic position at the entrance to the valley of the Risle was jealously guarded by the Norman Dukes. William the Conqueror, natural son of Robert, lived there in his first years. Trouble, endless battles with the endless one-hundred-year war, but also revolts repressed in the blood with the religious questions that were raised by the reform and the counter-reform succeeded one another until the 18th century, with however periods of calm in the midst of all this disturbance of history. The 17th century

© Pascal Argences

left these mansions that can be seen in St Léger and St Maclou in the style of Louis XIII. But the revolution broke out …

From the past to nowadays

Beuzeville is the capital of a canton located at the extreme point of the northern region of Lieuvin … Beuzeville was destroyed by fire in 1764, and so has very few old houses … alongside the rich country of Auge and the fertile swamps that enclose the estuary of the Seine.

Beuzeville, destroyed by a fire in 1764 has very few old houses, but this pretty village is welcoming thanks to its two market spaces.
In the center, stands its sanctuary where we find in its portal the remains of a first church of the thirteenth century, formerly surrounded by a cemetery that was moved in 1831. Inside the building, dedicated to Saint Helier, sparkle 19 stained-glass windows of the glassmaker master Francois Décorchemont, that bring up an invaluable artistic heritage.

Formerly, our commune was called Beuzeville Franches Terres and this fertile soil offered abundant resources. For centuries, small buildings for trade filled the market town of Beuzeville, which was always a very important market. It still stands today every Tuesday.