You may not know it, but just a stone’s throw from Belle Isle sur Risle, in the centre of Pont Audemer, you will come across a treasure: the Alfred Canel Museum
Alfred Canel was born on 1 December 1803 in Pont Audemer and died there in January 1879. He began his career as a politician after studying law. (He was Mayor of Pont Audemer and also deputy in the Constituent Assembly). He was very interested in history and archaeology and is best known for his memoirs and studies on the antiquities of Normandy.
Very attached to his native Normandy and to Pont Audemer, he founded the town library there in 1836 and directed for 3 years les publications trimestrielles de la Revue historique des cinq départements de la Normandie. Throughout his life, he built up a collection of 20,000 books and manuscripts, a collection of paintings and a small number of sculptures.
After his death, his family on his order donated his house and his precious collections to the town of Pont Audemer, which today form the Alfred Canel Museum. The museum is located in the centre of the town (rue de la République) and is well worth a visit, as not only is the 19th century house magnificently well preserved, but it also contains priceless treasures.
The visit is divided into several distinct parts. You can start with the museum, which includes Alfred Canel’s study, the large library (the first municipal library in France) and the library dedicated to Normandy (5550 books on Normandy and 50 maps). The visit continues in the Gallery of Arts and Sciences, a gallery of monumental proportions with collections of fine arts, local archaeology and natural sciences. The collection of paintings is composed of Norman landscapes by artists from the Risle valley or the Rouen school. It is a great way to understand life in Normandy in the 19th century and to appreciate the Norman landscape through the eyes of local artists.
Finally, you can end the visit with the contemporary part designed in the 2000s by the architect Philippe Prost. It is elevated with a beautiful view of the city and welcomes temporary exhibitions. From the 18th of September 2021 to the 3rd of April 2022, the works of Axel Cassel, a graduate of the Ecole Supérieure des Beaux Arts de Paris, will be on display. Following numerous trips to Oceania, Asia and Africa, he decided to work with wood (as well as clay, plaster and bronze) and created sculptures in the form of leaves, seeds or spinning tops. The exhibition includes more than 40 of his amazing sculptures.
Take the full day and make sure you also stroll through the narrow streets of the town, crossed by the Risle river and discover the timber-framed houses with corbels and to visit the Church of Saint Ouen, a gothic cathedral with 14 stained-glass windows from the Renaissance and an organ from the 16th century…this little town of Pont Audemer has certainly got a lot of charm! (www.tourisme-pontaudemer-rislenormande.com)
Please note that to visit the museum, you must present a health pass. Admission is free (2.70 euros per person is required if you wish to take part in the activities and guided tours. If you wish to read and get access to the ancient collection, you will be charged 1.15 euros).