Site of Victor Hugo's Conception – Grandfontaine, France - Atlas Obscura
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Grandfontaine, France

Site of Victor Hugo's Conception

A sandstone block marks the alleged spot where the legendary writer was conceived. 

You’ve just summited Mont Donon following a pleasant afternoon hike in the Vosges Mountains of Alsace, France. You’re overwhelmed by the beautiful views of the surrounding countryside but also the poignant realization that you’re standing upon an early World War I battlefield where French and German troops suffered heavy casualties.

Filled with a combination of triumph, awe, and sadness, you make your way down the mountain, only to come across a surprise just below the top: the spot where Victor Hugo was supposedly conceived.

As legend has it, Hugo, renowned author of Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, was conceived “almost in mid-air” near the highest peak of the Vosges Mountains in May of 1801. As a practical joke in the 1960s, a sandstone block was erected to mark the place where Victor’s parents supposedly “knocked chausurres.” Hans Haug, a former Head of Strasbourg Museums, installed the cheeky memorial.

Hugo would likely have taken issue with this particular site. He often claimed to have been conceived at a more poetic location, on a mountain twice the size of Mont Donon at the intersection of France, Switzerland, and Italy. He also swapped details of the Celtic ruins atop Mont Donton with a more impressive Roman “Temple of Love.”

Know Before You Go

The GPS coordinates lead to the temple. You can find the engraved block near the summit of Mont Donon, in section 99 of the Donon forest near the remains of a Celtic temple.