Bagnoles Orne Eau Thermal Fontaine Roc Chien 2Bagnoles Orne Eau Thermal Fontaine Roc Chien 2
©Bagnoles Orne Eau Thermal Fontaine Roc Chien 2|Maxime Letertre

The waters of Bagnoles

The discovery of the miraculous spring

According to legend, the origins of the thermal spring go back to the Middle Ages. Here is the story of how a local lord, Hugues de Tessé, made the chance discovery of the miraculous waters of the spring at Bagnoles.

Sir Hugues and his horse, « Rapide »

At the border of Normandy, Maine and Brittany, there lived a noble Lord of great renown, in possession of a large fortune, extensive lands and many fine objects. His name was Hugues, Vidame of Ferté-Macé and Lord of Tessé and Couterne.

This noble lord would have given everything to regain his youth and that of his faithful charger, with whom he had won many battles. One fine day, he decided to abandon his worn-out horse in the forest so that he could die there in peace.

But to his great surprise, the horse returned to its master a month later, as alert and high-spirited as it had been in the days of their many victories on the battlefield.

The discovery of the warm-water spring

So he decided to follow it into the forest to see where it could have been and what miracle could so have transformed it. The horse led him to a deep gorge that no one had ever dared to explore. Steam rose from a spring of warmer sulphurous water.

The horse hurried to bathe itself and breathe in the air that rose from the spring. The servant that had gone with Sir Hugues was convinced that it was an evil trap and the steam and smell came from the underworld. He dissuaded Sir Hugues from bathing.

But the noble lord watched the stags and does at bay, jumping into the water and thus escaping from the hounds. He therefore finally decided to take his turn and bathe. After a while, he too regained his youthfulness. And the servant also, after muttering a few prayers, followed his master into the water. They returned to the manor, barely recognisable and having stocked up on life and health.

The spa resort is born

In recognition of the place where he had been healed, the lord of Tessé founded a hospital and chapel for sick paupers and the infirm.
In the 16th century, however, Bagnoles was better known for its iron foundry than its spring. It isn’t until the 17th century that we find a few mentions in the documents of what at the time was known as the “fontaine de Baignoles”. At this time there was only a hut made of logs protecting the spring.
The true promoter of the resort was one Hélie de Cerny, the lord of the manor who had the first building built at the end of the 17th century. This housed three pools into which the water successively flowed. The first was reserved for men, the second for women, and the third for the poor.
In around 1770, his successor, the Chevalier de Tréperel, undertook major works so that everyone could make use of an individual bathtub. The commercialisation of the baths then passed through various hands after the revolution.