Due to its ideal location along the Moselle River, the site of Epinal has been populated since the Gallo-Roman times. The foundations of several houses dating from that time have been discovered as well as coins.
In the 10thcentury the locality, then called Spinal or Espinal, was the property of the bishops of Metz. Thierry I (also known as “Thierry De Hamelant”) would have decided the construction of a market, a monastery and to reinforce the wooden castle which was on the city’s dominant spur.
During all the Middle-Ages the city prospered and grew especially thanks to the trade and the presence of Saint Goery’s relics, claimed to be miraculous.
In the 13thcentury the city had a big fortified surrounding wall and a stone castle built. The city then became an important economic centre in Lorraine.
At that time the nuns progressively abandoned the Benedictine Rule and formed a chapter of noble Ladies canonesses, following the model of Remiremont. It was a religious order of women from the nobility. Today the Chapitre neighbourhood is set at the place of this convent.
In the 17thcentury Epinal experienced the darkest days of its history with the Thirty Years War and Louis XIV’s wars. To theses deadly battles were added the diseases and starvation. In 1670 Louis XIV decided to raze the castle and Epinal’s fortifications.
After the 1870 war Epinal became a stronghold, a garrison city and surrounded itself with a fortified belt.
If the First World War did not affect Epinal, the Second caused important destructions. The fights of 19th June 1940, the American bombings in May 1944 as well as the fights for the liberation devastated the station and Rualménil’s neighbourhoods which were rebuilt in the 1950s.
Historical Centre: Discover Epinal’s historical centre and its monuments: the Place des Vosges, the vestiges of the fortified wall surrounding the city, the Chapter neighbourhood, the Bailli’s house…
Imagerie d’Epinal: Unique in the world and listed at the Historic Monuments, the Imagerie d’Epinal is a craft firm which perpetuates the old techniques of printing. Its production can be found in their shop where old and contemporary images are displayed for sale.
Musée de l’Image (Museum of the Image): Located just next to the Imagerie d’Epinal, the Musée de l’Image manages the most important collection of French and foreign popular images (110 000) from the 17th century to nowadays. The museums also exhibits in connivance contemporary artists’works .
Departmental Museum of Ancient Art and Contemporary Art: The departmental museum combines and confronts remarkable collections of classical paintings, where Georges de la Tour and Rembrandt’s paintings stand out, with exceptional works or contemporary art. The archaeological and ethnographic sections illustrate the historic and artistic past of the Vosges department.
Musée du Chapitre (Chapter’s Museum) : The Musée du Cahpitre gathers an astonishing model representing Epinal in the 17th century, archaeological vestiges and iconographic documents summarizing the last four centuries of Epinal’s history as well as the life of the canonesses of the Saint Goëry Chapter.
Basilique Saint Maurice (Saint Maurice Basilica): Remarkable edifice dating from the 11th century and reshuffled in the 13th century, the Basilique Saint Maurice combines the Rhenanan, Burgundian and the Champenois styles in architecture of pink sandstone from the Vosges.
Tour Chinoise (Chinese Tower): This remarkable tower, built in a Chinese style in early 19th century by Christophe Doublat, contains a staircase leading to the Castle’s park.
Eglise Notre Dame (Notre Dame Church): Listed Monument Historique since 2011, the Notre Dame au Cierge church is a testimony sacred art of the 1950s in France. Its contemporary architecture, its artistic furniture and above all its 180m² glass-wall made by Gabriel Loire are worth seeing.
Parc du château (The Castle’s park): As you follow sinuous paths you will reach the Parc du château which shelters the former medieval fortified castle’s ruins but also a landscaped garden of the 19th century, a wildlife park and a recreational area for children
Marina: The marina can accommodate amateur yatchsmen/women the entire year. Large green area to discover. It is also the starting point of the Véloroute which runs along the Canal des Vosges.