In Antiquity, the town of Alençon grew up at the intersection of the Sarthe River and the “Tin Route” which connected England to Spain. Starting in the Saint-Léonard district, the town later developed into a fortified stronghold on the southern border of the Duchy of Normandy. In the 17th century, Louis XIV established the national lace manufactory in Alençon using the same needlepoint techniques as Venetian lace. In this meticulous process, no bobbins are used, as each stitch was made individually with a needle and pins.
Alençon was to know periods of prosperity, with its famous needlepoint lace, its canvas, the printing industry and the construction of some remarkable private residences ornamented with beautiful wrought iron balconies. Each neighborhood has contributed to the town’s exceptional architecture.
Alençon has also become an important spiritual site where many pilgrims come, following in the footsteps of the famous Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus, born and baptized in Alençon.
The guided tour of the city starts beside the Town Hall and the remaining buildings of the Château of the Dukes of Alençon, takes you through the Saint Leonard district, then on to the beautiful Notre-Dame basilica, remarkable for its beautiful Flamboyant Gothic architecture. From there you will follow in the steps of the Martin family and walk to the house where Theresa herself was born, opposite the beautiful 13th-century Hotel de Guise. Finally, the tour will take in the former Jesuit college where, with your guide, you will discover the rich collections of the Fine Art and Lace Museum.