If there is one symbol of the city of Verneuil-sur-Avre, it is the tower of the Sainte Madeleine church. This 56-meter-high bell tower is visible for miles around. This monument and its twin, the butter tower in Rouen (cathedral), would have inspired the architects of the Tribune Tower in Chicago! Many artists, including Maurice de Vlaminck, painted it.

The Tourist Office, located at its feet, regularly offers guided tours of it. I signed up for one of them. 

Discovery begins on the outside with the statuary. Seen from afar, we cannot imagine that there are no less than thirty characters nestling on two levels of the monument. The Old and New Testaments are thus present on the 3 facades of the tower. Some are easily recognizable such as Moses and his tablets or Adam and Eve in their simplest device. Others are damaged or even disappeared. The guide offers us a real “seek and find” game! Other statues are more unusual, such as that of Artus Fillon, the canon to whom we owe the completion of the building in the XNUMXth century.

We enter the tower. We are then privileged since the monument is closed to the public outside of guided tours.  The ground floor is empty. We are walking on beaten earth and the space is crossed by air currents making the walls whistle. The guide draws our attention to deep gashes in the wall. These are the traces of friction of the strings that the bell ringer pulled to ring the bells in the country.

We then begin the ascent. The staircase is narrow, spiral. The steps, eroded by time, are uneven. This visit promises to be sporty. Fortunately, the guide takes the group slowly and announces a first step to the next floor.

All the interest of this room, high ceiling, rests on its walls. We discover writings or traces that include dates, names. These drawings come to us from the past. The guide explains that these inscriptions come from popular traditions. These are votive expressions of our ancestors. Here, the wish of Sieur Bignon engraved in 1789, there, the prayer of Louis Petit in 1650. 

We continue our visit to the next floor. We find ourselves facing 3 huge copper bells weighing 1 to 3 tons each! They are very impressive. Everyone is watching the time to make sure they don't start ringing ...

We painfully climb the last steps (212!) To access the top of the tower. We are more than 50 meters from the ground. Here again the graffiti is present: graffiti of German passages accompanied by a swastika then in a different register, sundials intended for bell ringers.

But the highlight of the show remains the 360 ​​° view of the city and beyond! The guide provides us with some explanations on the different districts of Verneuil. We can easily distinguish the carving made by the ramparts and canals built in the XNUMXth century when the city was a fortress. He leaves us a few more minutes to admire this splendid panorama before inviting us to come back down. 

Like the cathedral of Rouen in the eyes of Monet, the tower of the Saint Madeleine church is a heritage jewel in all seasons, at all hours of the day or night. The Normandy South Tourist Office has understood this well. It organizes guided tours mainly from April to September, but also during the autumn or winter school holidays or on request, outside these periods.