AVRANCHES, a town of north-western France, capital of an arrondissement in the department of Manche, 87 m. S. of Cherbourg on the Western railway. Pop. (1906) 7186. It stands on a wooded hill, its botanical gardens commanding a fine view westward of the bay and rock of St Michel. At the foot of the hill flows the river Sée, which at high tide is navigable from the sea. The town is surrounded by avenues, which occupy the site of the ancient ramparts, remains of which are to be seen on the north side. Avranches was from 511 to 1790 a bishop's see, held at the end of the 17th century by the scholar Daniel Huet; and its cathedral, destroyed as insecure in the time of the first French Revolution, was the finest in Normandy. Its site is now occupied by an open square, one stone remaining to mark the spot where Henry II. of England received absolution for the murder of Thomas Becket. The churches of Notre-Dame des Champs and St Saturnin are modern buildings in the Gothic style. The ancient episcopal palace is now used as a court of justice; a public library is kept in the hôtel de ville. In the public gardens there is a statue of General Jean Marie Valhubert, killed at Austerlitz. Avranches is seat of a sub-prefect and has a tribunal of first instance and a communal college. Leather-dressing is the chief industry; steam-sawing, brewing and dyeing are also carried on, and horticulture flourishes in the environs. Trade is in cider, cattle, butter, flowers and fruit, and there are salmon and other fisheries.
Avranches, an important military station of the Romans, was in the middle ages chief place of a county of the duchy of Normandy. It sustained several sieges, the most noteworthy of which, in 1591, was the result of its opposition to Henry IV. In 1639 Avranches was the focus of the peasant revolt against the salt-tax, known as the revolt of the Nu-pieds.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)