The Cathedrals, Canals and Cultural History of Dole

Client: Back-Roads Touring

Set in the beautiful Jura region in Eastern France, amid vineyards and great forests, Dole has attained the fitting title of Ville d’Art et d’Histoire or “Town of Art” and History for you non-French speakers. This sought-after award is designated by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication, and it comes with no surprises when taking the history and sights of the town into account.

The History of Dole

Dole was once the heart of the Franche-Comte (Burgundy) region, serving as the capital since the 14th century before the time of centralised government. Wealthy and powerful, this province had its own parliament and authority to mint money. However, this ended abruptly during the War of Devolution (1667–1668) at a time when Burgundy was under control of the Dutch and Spanish alliance.  When the town was conquered in 1668, Louis XIV moved the capital to Besancon for strategic reasons, leaving Dole to its fate as a peripheral town in Eastern France.

Fortunately, this meant that it could avoid the sieges and sackings that most major European cities undergo, allowing it retain the pristine architecture that we can enjoy today! (Somewhat poignantly, Besancon was besieged by Louis XIV in 1674, so we can only surmise that the monarch was overcome by the beauty of Dole and wished it to be preserved, probably.)

The Best Sights In Dole

  • The Collegiale-Notre-Dame

Built in the in the 16th century, towering high above surrounding rooftops, and nestled close to the canal is the Collegiale-Notre-Dame. This magnificent example of architecture and civil engineering has become the de-facto symbol of Dole. It is gothic in style, featuring inspiring pointed arches and impressively detailed ribbed vaults. Inside, beautiful paintings adorn the nave which is also host to an 18th-century organ of exquisite design. If you’re also looking to get some exercise, you can make your way up to the bell tower to get an incredible view of the entire town.

  • Home of Louis Pasteur

The house of the famed scholar Louis Pasteur can be visited for an inspirational tour of his life’s work. Mostly known for role in creating the rabies vaccine, the scholar studied several fields that are less documented such as silkworm and the fermentation of alcohol. Through personal effects, journals, and writings by the scholar, this museum delves deep into the mind of Louis which makes for a compelling and fun way to learn about science. During the holidays, the museum will also host scientific events which look into the role of science in contemporary life.

  • Dole Fine Arts Museum

Founded in 1821, this museum resides in the imposing Pavilion of Officers, which is a marvellous example of late 18th-century military architecture. This establishment places an emphasis on archaeology from the Neolithic to the Merovingian period and ancient art. Tithe proprietors particularly excel in paintings from the Burgundian region, some of which date all the way back to the late medieval period. Many sections of the museum are also dedicated to representing Dole back in its heydey, with depictions of life before and after Loui’s conquest of the region.

Dole is a town of humble size, but it has reached historic heights of great importance. Its prestigious past is now very well preserved and the whole area has been marked as a conservation site, making it an absolute wonder to stroll through. You can fully absorb in the majesty of late-medieval architecture in all its glory. With winding narrow streets of cobbled stone, domineering gothic churches, pleasing canals, and medieval houses, Dole is romantics dream, as the every locale is inspiration realised and around every corner is an idyllic postcard view.


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