Daily Destination


Today I went nowhere.

Nanteuil le Haudouin is a town I’ve often described as a ‘rubbish rural dormitory town’. My time walking round here has honestly forced me to open my eyes and eat my words. My days in the fields and the forests all within walking distance have totally changed how I feel about being here. So OK, there is no takeaway food I’d care to eat (there is a kebab shop and a pizza place, but, well, they both just look a bit nasty… not middle class enough I think), no nice shops to visit, not much of a pretty or picturesque nature… But when you start looking, there are lovely rural French corners even in the town. And all this amazing countryside is really breathtaking when you give yourself and time and space to wander, when you allow the courage to shine through and commit to discovering it. I didn’t dream of the voyages I’d make right here, I was too locked into the big long exciting journeys I so often take to Italy, to Copenhagen, to Russia, to Mexico…

I have described the name of Nanteuil le Haudouin as having too improbably many vowels!!! But I have been intrigued by the name and just now discovered that the local town hall website actually reveals the mystery of its origins:

Si l’origine du bourg reste inconnue, on sait que le mot « Nanteuil » vient de la langue celtique et signifie « région d’étangs et de sources ». La commune s’est appelée Nantholium en 1230, puis Nanteuil la Nonette sous la Révolution. Son surnom de « Haudouin » lui vient de Hilduinus, à qui elle appartenait autrefois.

If the origins of the town stay unknown, we know that the word “Nanteuil” comes from the Celtic language and means “region of ponds and springs”. The municipality was called Nantholium in 1230, then Nanteuil la Nonette under the revolution. Its surname of “Haudouin” comes from Hilduinus to whom the town belonged in the past.

Hilduin (Hilduinus in Latin, or Guilduin, or even Guillain), the Comte de Breteuil (a town about 80 km to the north west) apparently possessed Nanteuil around about the year 1000. There’s a handy genealogy pdf for him online. This toponymic origin story seems to be based on a saint’s life mixed with other historical facts and put together in the 18th century. The De Miraculis Sancti Waldeberti Abbatis Luxoviensis Tertii was written in the 10th century by a monk called Adson. It mentions the Saint Valbert’s birthplace as Nantholium, a miracle of resurrection of birds that occurred in Nanteuil, and even a corresponding pilgrimage to Nanteuil towards the Great Fountain. The saint had brought monks from the Abbey of Luxeuil to a “baptismal basilica” in Nanteuil. These same were expelled by a certain Guillaume I, a Count of Ponthieu, whose son was our Hilduin/ Guilduin/Guillain…

The problem really arises because there are several other ‘Nanteuil’s around and about (lots of places with ponds and sources!), distinguished by different epithets, including Nanteuil-lès-Meaux which isn’t so far away and could be considered a better fit for this story of birds reviving, pilgrimage and Great Fountains.

Anyway, the point is that this ‘rubbish rural dormitory town’ has a massive history which is utterly belied by its current slightly sorry state. It’s got roots far deeper than my home town in Lancashire. Look at this picture:

a late 17th century view of Nanteuil – rather surprising when you know the town now – there is no more imposing château (demolished after the revolution) or abbey (that huge looking double tower fronted church next to the château – you can seem them closer here). I have to say that I despair a bit at these losses….

I mean, what a place!!! If those pesky revolutionaries hadn’t gleefully gone around smashing the symbols of their oppression, I’d be living in a sort of historical theme park paradise full of tourist shops and cafes with cutesy ginnels and cobbled streets full of charm…. *sigh*

Now all that’s left of the castle are two gatehouses. Here’s one of them:

I got some info from a fantastic publication, Hist&A, by the Association Histoire & Archéologie de Nanteuil-le-Haudouin (which I still can’t quite believe exists, but am very glad about). It’s kind of magazine style, obviously intended for educated but not expert history lovers. The article with the story about Saint Valbert is “Les visages de Nanteuil au Moyen Âge: (VIe – XVe siècle)” by Régis Moreau and Jean-Marc Popineau. It’s in volume 3 of Hist&A and was published in September 2018.

One reply on “still”

What a place!!!!!!-)
Nice to read your pilgrimage makes you look at it differently!