In the midst of the Argonne battlefields lies this picturesque village.
There is a Museum here as well as the Memorial to the soldiers from Pennsylvania who fought during the First World War.
The village's fame however, goes back to the days of the French Revolution.
On the evening of 20 June 1791 Louis XVI, his wife Marie Antoinette and the royal family managed to escape from the Tuilleries in Paris and commenced their last desperate attempt to flee from Revolutionary France and join troops loyal to their cause in the east, commanded by General de Bouillé.
Before leaving Paris Louis wrote and left behind documentation stating that he had never voluntarily agreed to any of the demands of the new government. Letters which would prove fatal.
Approaching midnight the following day: 21 June, the family arrived here in Varennes with their small escort of soldiers.
Unfortunately for them they had already been recognised. The postmaster at their previous relay station at Sainte Menehould: Jean-Baptiste Drouet had thought he had recognised the King from the head on a coin.
Unable to do anything immediately Drouet gave chase to the royal cortege. He discovered that they were headed for Varennes and with a friend called Guillaume managed to get there first and raised the alarm.
The bridge was barricaded off and a call went out for all local National Guardsmen to come to their aid. On the arrival of the royal coaches they found the road block and demands being made for their passports.
Drouet had the local Procureur (Prosecutor): Jean-Baptiste Sauce, effect a search of the carriages to confirm his suspicions concerning the identity of the passengers.
Although he denied it at first, eventually, at gun point, the King admitted who he was. As Drouet was later to point out, the guns had not been loaded, and the escort could probably have forced the day.
With the aid of a friend, four local National Guardsmen and two foreigners Louis and Marie Antoinette were arrested and taken to Sauce's house.
This was constructed in 1793 on the site of the former chapel of the local manor. It was at this point that the royal family were originally confronted and arrested.
The tower was burnt by the Germans on 14 September 1914 but restored after the war.
Just over the bridge from the Clock Tower is the Grand Monarque Hotel.
Louis's new relay of horses and escort from Bouillé's own stables, had been waiting for him here under the command of Bouillé's second son and a Captain Raigecourt.
Neither of them however had considered it worthwhile to actually look out for the King's carriages on the far side of the river and to guide them to the new horses. The first they knew of the arrival of the King's party was the sound of the alarms in the village as the bridge was barricaded. It was now too late - Louis's fate was sealed.
By the bridge you will see this small monument.
The first floor of the house of Procureur Sauce, was where the royal family were held over night, under arrest, pending their return to Paris on the morning of 22 June 1791.
The building was destroyed during the First World War and this memorial plaque is all that exists today to attest to the location of the house.
The documents that Louis had left behind in Paris were to prove fatal to the royal family. Any intention by the Assembly to create a constitutional monarchy was removed. The king had shown by trying to leave the country that he could not be trusted and the opening of a war with Austria and the subsequent intrigues of Marie Antoinette only exacerbated her situation.
On 21 January 1793 Louis XVI was sent to the guillotine, on 16 October at beginning of the Terror, Marie Antoinette followed him.
The American State of Pennsylvania has a memorial in the town near the museum and there are two others within easy reach.The Pennsylvania Memorial at Varennes
Other places nearby that are worthy of the trip are:The Butte de Vauquois