The Ditches of Robert Le Diable

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A Medieval Maginot Line

Carte dessinée des Fossés de Robert Le Diable - CP : Les Cahiers du Saosnois       Buttes de Saint Rémy du Val - CP : OTMS - JL Dugast


From Saint Rémy du Val to Peray, follow in the footsteps of Robert II, the Lord of Bellême at the end of the eleventh century and known as “le Diable” or "the Devil".

A document from 1098 reports that Robert, a vassal of the Duke of Normandy, began fortifying the Saösnois to counter the warlike tendencies of the counts of Maine who were greedy for new conquests.

These defences originally comprised of "mottes", small hills or mounds of earth which were surmounted by wooden watchtowers and protected by ditches.


Reconstitution de la Butte de Peray - CP : Cahiers du Saosnois N°17


Robert soon realised he needed to link these fortifications and hit on the idea of digging ditches to enable movement from one watchtower to another without being seen by the enemy. Thus a defensive line of nearly 20 km was constructed from Saint Rémy du Val to Peray, and known to this day as "the Ditches of Robert le Diable”.


Buttes de Saint Rémy du Val - CP : OTMS


The 100 years war and centuries having taken their toll, only remnants of the defensive line now exist, but it is still possible to climb a motte and imagine scanning the horizon for signs of a cloud of dust indicating danger.

Visit Courgains, Peray, Saint Rémy Val or Saosnes and you can still see these traces left by the valiant knights of old.


Saosnois - Communes avec fortifications     Butte de Peray et ses ânes - CP : OTMS - JL Dugast


For more information on the Motte at Peray : Cliquez sur ce lien