Vestigia: games for the natural and cultural heritage at Port-Royal des Champs

In addition to Tevi, I have been working on a project called Vestigia for a while now. The purpose of this game is to explore how a set of video games could help valorise the natural heritage of a historical site, in relation to cultural heritage, notably architectural.

It all started in 2015 when I met Sylvain Hilaire. He is a historian of landscapes and was finishing his PhD at that time while working as archivist and librarian at a French National Museum called Port-Royal des Champs.

Comparison between a drawing of Philippe de Champaigne representing Port-Royal-des-Champs in 16541 and a picture I made of the same place today

I discovered the place on this occasion. Port-Royal is not extremely well-known for a National Museum, except for historians, area hikers and “fans” of Blaise Pascal. The place is actually quite amazing and rare: contrarily to most French monuments, here it is the nature and the landscape that bear the most value, on the material level. The abbaye that once stood there was indeed destroyed by Louis XIV (even if the museum is very interesting as well). But the landscape and nature remained, even if it evolved. This is also a place with great value for the study of science history, theology, philosophy, and architecture (Luez, 2017; Hilaire, 2011; Sedgwick, 1977).

As a “maîtresse de conférences” (tenured associate professor in France), I don’t have as much time as I would like for my research: administrative and teaching duties are very time-consuming during the term. In addition, I had a hard time getting funding for a team to work with me on this project (it was weirdly easier on previous projects not focusing on nature but architecture). As a result, I never had a lot of time to work on this project. While applying for funding, I designed a whole set of games and a big research project, still in the limbo.

Fortunately, I had the chance to be contacted by Yasser Guenifi. He is an architecture PhD student specialising in 3D reconstruction from the Université Badji Mokhtar (Annaba, Algeria). Yasser wanted to do an internship with me and was funded by his University for this. He stayed for two weeks only, so we only had 7 days to work together on this. We developed the game with Sylvain Hilaire, Port-Royal curators and especially Philippe Luez, volunteers working there, and colleagues of the UVSQ.

Picture of the final meeting, where we presented the prototype at Port-Royal to museum’s workers and volunteers of the association “Société des Amis de Port-Royal”, 2017

We created a small prototype called Vestigia-Songe to begin exploring the research questions of Vestigia. You can still play it, it’s free, but only in French, and obviously this a small and simple game. I intend to discuss this prototype a bit more on this blog 😉

Screenshot for the video game Vestigia-Songe (Lelièvre, Guenifi, Luez, Hilaire, 2017)

Once it was over, Sylvain, Yasser and I analysed the results and that led us to do a conference in Chambery, France “Corpus de paysages” leading to a book chapter (Guenifi, Hilaire et Lelièvre, to be published)! This prototype creation and its analysis greatly influenced my research. I still have a lot of questions that will require further research. Maybe I will get funding someday to create the complete Vestigia. It feeds me anyway.


  • Guenifi, Y., S. Hilaire et E. Lelievre. To be published. « Vestigia-Songe, enseignements d’un jeu vidéo portant sur le patrimoine paysager de Port-Royal des Champs » Dans : Représenter les paysages hier et aujourd’hui. Presses Universitaires Savoie Mont Blanc.
  • Hilaire, S. 2017. [Thesis]. Port-Royal des Champs, haut lieu de mémoire : étude des jardins et des paysages culturels. Guyancourt : Université Paris 13 et Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines.
  • Luez, P. 2017. Port-Royal et le jansénisme: des religieuses face à l’absolutisme. Paris, France : Belin.
  • Sedgwick, A. 1977. Jansenism in seventeenth-century France: voices from the wilderness. Charlottesville, USA : University press of Virginia.
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