Pierre

On our last day in Alsace, we chose to drive South of the region to the picturesque site of Ferrette. This area is known as the Sundgau and extends from Mulhouse to the Swiss border in Lucelle.

This month, the village of Ferrette was nominated one of the 22 Best Loved Villages of France (Les Villages Préférés des Français), a popular TV programme by French channel France 2 presented by Stéphane Bern. We wanted to see by ourselves what was so attractive in the village and here are our best shots…


Ferrette in the Spring!

It was Springtime when we visited Ferrette (Pfirt in German). The visit started from the carpark in front of the church where the steep main street leads up to the castles in ruins.

Spring in Ferrette © French Moments
Spring in Ferrette © French Moments

The parish church of Ferrette is dedicated to St. Bernard-de-Menthon whose statue is featured in the tympanum of the central door. The saint is seen holding a model of the church.

Portail of Ferrette church © French Moments
Portail of Ferrette church © French Moments

Next to the church is the presbytery, the house where the Catholic priest resides.

Spring in Ferrette © French Moments
Spring in Ferrette © French Moments
Ferrette © French Moments
The Presbytery and the church © French Moments

Further up lies the little medieval garden and opposite a curious calvary with a Christ sheltered by a roof.

The medieval garden © French Moments
The medieval garden © French Moments
The entrance to the medieval garden © French Moments
The entrance to the medieval garden © French Moments
Ferrette Spring copyright French Moments
Ferrette in the spring © French Moments
Spring in Ferrette © French Moments
Spring in Ferrette © French Moments
Spring in Ferrette © French Moments
Ferrette in the Spring © French Moments

The paved main street is lined by interesting houses, some half-timbered, others in Renaissance style.

Ferrette © French Moments
The main street of Ferrette © French Moments
The entrance to the medieval garden © French Moments
The church © French Moments
Spring in Ferrette © French Moments
Walking in the high street © French Moments
Ferrette © French Moments
In the main street of Ferrette © French Moments
Ferrette © French Moments
Walking on the high street © French Moments
Spring in Ferrette © French Moments
Vintage show-windows © French Moments

The red-coloured Renaissance façade of the town-hall features mullioned windows and the coat of arms of the county of Ferrette, that is two fish and of the Habsburgs who possessed the little town and the Sundgau from 1324 to 1648.

Ferrette © copyright French Moments
Sundgau History – Coat of arms of the Habsburgs and the Counts of Ferrette © French Moments

Interestingly, today the title of Count of Ferrette is hold by the prince of Monaco due to the marriage of his Grimaldi ancestor to the heiress of the Mazarins in 1777.

The steep main street reaches a charming little square: place des comtes.

The Place des Comtes, Ferrette © French Moments
The Place des Comtes © French Moments
Ferrette © French Moments
Elegant façade © French Moments
Spring in Ferrette © French Moments
Spring in Ferrette © French Moments
Ferrette © French Moments
Looking up to the castle! © French Moments
In the old town of Ferrette © French Moments
In the old town of Ferrette © French Moments

The access to the castles is still paved with the original cobblestones of the Middle-Ages. From the village, the steep path goes under a gatehouse.

Ferrette © French Moments
The gate to the castle © French Moments

The two castles of Ferrette

The first mention of Ferrette Castle dates back to 1105 when it belonged to the Counts of Montbéliard. One of them, Frédéric 1st inherited the domain and made it his residence around 1125. He took the name ‘Count of Ferrette’ from the nearby village. During the Middle Ages, his county became one of the most powerful in Upper Alsace. In 1324, Jeanne de Ferrette, the daughter and heiress of the last count of Ferrette married Albert II of Habsburg, who had possessions in Austria and along the Rhine River.

The castle was restored around 1446, rebuilt in 1488 and considerably enlarged in 1552-53. Between 1571 and 1615, the fortress was restored by the archdukes of Austria to adapt it to firearms.

In 1635, during the Thirty Years’ War, the French army set the upper castle on fire. Ferrette and its castle became French in 1648 at the signature of the Treaty of Westphalia. Louis XIV rewarded Mazarin in 1659 with several fiefdoms including Ferrette.

In 1789, Revolutionaries from the Thur Valley destroyed the lower castle which was then permanently abandoned. The castle was listed as a historic monument by the French State in 1842.

The “Château Bas” (lower castle)

The main entrance to the lower castle goes under a semicircular arch restored in 1977.

 

Ferrette castle © French Moments
The castle of Ferrette © French Moments
The castle of Ferrette © French Moments
The castle of Ferrette © French Moments
Ferrette castle © French Moments
Ferrette castle © French Moments

The first castle is the “Château Bas” (lower castle), built around the 12th century keep in 1488. It served as a forward post for the “Château Haut” (upper castle). Originally there were four corner turrets intended for firearms. The bases of three of them are still standing and the fourth one was replaced by the St. Catherine Chapel built around 1660 to replace the original one situated in the upper castle and destroyed by a fire in 1635.

Ferrette castle © French Moments
St Catherine’s Chapel © French Moments

Around 1600, the fortress was the residence of the bailiff and tax-collector of the fiefdom and included four rooms, seven bedrooms, two kitchens, a stable for three horses, a stove and granaries.

Ferrette castle © French Moments
The castle of Ferrette © French Moments
Ferrette castle © French Moments
What’s left of the castle! © French Moments

From the lower castle there is a fine view of the rooftops of Ferrette.

Spring in Ferrette © French Moments
Ferrette seen from the castle © French Moments
Spring in Ferrette © French Moments
The small town of Ferrette seen from the castle © French Moments
Spring in Ferrette © French Moments
The view from the castle © French Moments

Spring in Ferrette © French Moments

Ferrette viewed from the castle © French Moments
Ferrette viewed from the castle © French Moments

 

The “Château Haut” (upper castle)

Ferrette castle © French Moments
Entering the upper castle © French Moments

The 13th century logis (the castle’s central dwellings) was partially carved into the rock. In 1600, the fortress had six rooms, eleven bedrooms, a kitchen, a stove and a cellar. To defend it, the garrison could make use of many weapons: small canons, muskets with stocks, double muskets, halberds and pikes.

Ferrette castle © French Moments
The entrance to the upper castle © French Moments

It is hard to believe that there was a well in this room. In 1600 fresh water was drawn via two leather buckets fixed to a big, strong, iron chain. After the Thirty Years’ War, the well was filled in and water had to be carried up to the castle every day. The brick vault that can still be seen today is the remains of the cistern that was used for collecting rain water.

Ferrette castle © French Moments
The cistern © French Moments

The keep tower dates from the 12th century and its platform is accessible to the public.

The Ferrette flag flies proudly over the old town.

Ferrette castle © French Moments
The flag of the Counts of Ferrette © French Moments

From there, visitors can enjoy a beautiful view to the rooftops of Ferrette, the Jura mountains, the Sundgau, the Vosges and the Black Forest mountains.

Ferrette castle © French Moments
The view from the upper castle © French Moments
Ferrette Spring 112 copyright French Moments
The Alsatian Jura © French Moments
Ferrette Spring 111 copyright French Moments
The view from the castle © French Moments

Although a small town, Ferrette is a place loaded with history and we wish the village good luck with its bid for the 4th edition of the Best Loved Villages of France.

Ferrette © copyright French Moments
The church © French Moments

 

About the author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. He has a background teaching French, Economics and Current Affairs, and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations, and a degree of Economics and Management. Pierre is the author of the Discovery Course on the Secrets of the Eiffel Tower and the Christmas book "Voyage au Pays de Noël".

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