History of the Saosnois

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The origins of the Saosnois

Buttes de Peray

Nestling in the first coil of the river Sarthe, almost leaning into the gentle hills of the Perche, yet opening onto the open Normandy and Mancelle countryside, the Saosnois (68 parishes or towns), was placed under the protection of the Gallic water goddess Sauconna or Saugonna. This name was eventually altered to Sagona, Saosnes, even Sonna.

Originally Gallic, Saosnes was restructured by the Romans and in the 3rd century became the meeting point of "Pagus Sagonensis", a territory which extended up to Alençon, even seemingly to have some jurisdiction further South, beyond the Orne Saosnois and veering to the East up to and including Bellême.


Saint Rémy du Val Motte When Saint Rémy du Plain became the capital

Situated in the centre of marshland, Saosnes was the headquarters and capital of the Saosnois until the 9th. century, succeeded by Saint Rémy du Plain  (now Saint Rémy du Val).

Norman invasions and the Hundred Years War marked the region, as did internal struggles for power.  Yves de Creil was the first Baron of the Saosnois.  He received the title from Richard 1st, Duke of Normandy, along with the Alençon and Bellême properties.  His mission was to defend them against the Earls of Maine and the King of France.


The Fortifications of Robert le Diable  (Robert the Devil)

The fortification of Mamers, capital of the Saosnois from the 10th. century, is attributed to Robert the Diable.  Unfortunately Robert, who was named as Ambassador of the French King at the English court, was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment.

After a time of relative peace, in 1417, the Saosnois was occupied by the English armies for more than 30 years.  French and English battled for strongholds.  In 1428, the Earl of Salisbury decided to have all the region's  fortifications dismantled and razed as he was obliged to lay siege to Orléans, but he did not have sufficient troops to guard the Saosnois garrisons.

This is how the town of Saint Paul le Vicomte, north of Fresnay sur Chedouet disappeared, and the fortifications surrounding Mamers and Saint Rémy du Plain were burnt down in 1441.


The Religious Wars

The Religious Wars seemed to have waited for the ravages caused by the Hundred Years War to have abated before adding their own lot of destruction in Mamers in 1590.

Catholic troops were sent from Le Mans and Alençon with the goal of eliminating the last of the Protestants entrenched in Mamers.  In order to dislodge them, the Catholics first burned the town, then Saint Nicolas's Church where the beseiged had taken their last stand.  As during the previous half century, Mamers had become an important centre for the reformed religion, the price to pay was high as Hugenots, Ligueurs and Royaux each fought for supremacy.



Ruines de l'abbaye de PerseigneThe Saosnois reunited with the Crown

Henri of Navarre, who was Baron of Saosnois from 1562, was crowned Henri 4th.  He reunited the Saosnois to the Crown in 1589.  The region stayed unified until the French Revolution, which saw the destruction of the Abbey of Perseigne.

Consecrated in 1145, Perseigne was the first Cistercien abbey to be established in the Saosnois and even in the region of Maine.  The second abbey was Tyronneau, near to Peray, consecrated in 1151.  One section of wall is all that remains of Perseigne and its illustrious past.




The Saosnois todayRécolte culture du chanvre


The Saosnois and its capital, Mamers, was scarcely bothered by national unrest (except during the period of the Terror).  A vast majority of the population was employed for the production of hemp, widely grown in the Saosnois.

Even if hemp weaving gradually declined during the latter half of the 19th. century, hemp itself remained an important crop until the second half of the 20th. century.

The wars of 1870 and 1939-1945 caused periods of enemy occupation.  Mamers was bombarded on the 14th. June 194O.  German troops found the town deserted upon their arrival in August 1944. The Saosnois was liberated in 1945 after fierce combats.


More information : www.saosnois.com