Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Sées

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SÉES, a town of France and a bishop’s see, in the department of Orne, is situated on the Orne, 4 miles from its source and 13 miles north of Alengon by the railway from Le Mans to Caen. The very fine cathedral, dating to a large extent from the 13th and 14th centuries, occupies the site of churches founded in 440, 996, and 1053. The west front has two stately spires of open work 230 feet high, which have been restored more than once in the 19th century. The nave, built in the beginning of the 13th century, was remodelled in its upper portion fifty or sixty years after its erection; the choir, built about 1230 and restored in 1260 after a great fire, is remarkable for the lightness of its construction, the inner galleries of the presbytery being the boldest venture ever made in this kind. In the choir are four bas-reliefs of great beauty and delicacy representing scenes in the life of the Virgin; and the altar is adorned with another depicting the removal of the relics of St Gervais and St Protais. Most of the stained windows are good. Around the cathedral are the cloisters of the canons; the episcopal palace (1778), with a pretty chapel; the great seminary, located in the old abbey of St Martin (supposed to be one of the fourteen or fifteen monasteries founded in the 6th century by St Evroult); the hôtel de ville; and the statue of Conté, a member of the Egyptian expedition of 1798. The population of Sées was 3483 in 1881, and that of the commune 4687.

The first bishop of Sées (Sagium) was St Lain, who lived at the close of the 3d or beginning of the 4th century. In the 9th century it was a fortified town and fell a prey to the Normans; and the stones from its ruined ramparts were used for the erection of a church in the close of the 10th century. In the 12th century Sées belonged to the count of Alengon and consisted of two distinct parts, separated by the Orne,—the bishop’s burgh, and to the south the new or count’s burgh (Bourg le Comte). Captured in 1154 by Henry II. of England, it was recovered in the following year by Guillaume de Bellême; and in 1136 it was partly burned by the count of Anjou. After being taken by Philip Augustus it enjoyed some years of peace, during which a hospital and a Franciscan monastery were built; but it was one of the first towns of Normandy to fall into the hands of the English (1417), who retained possession until their final expulsion from France. Pillaged by the Protestants during the Wars of Religion, Sées attached itself to the League in 1589, but voluntarily surrendered to Henry IV. in 1590.