A monument historique is a National Heritage Site of France. It also refers to a state procedure in France by which national heritage protection is extended to a building or a specific part of a building, a collection of buildings, or gardens, bridges, and other structures, because of their importance to France's architectural and historical cultural heritage. Both public and privately owned structures may be listed in this way, and also movable objects.
Some buildings may be given the classification for either their exterior or interior, or both, while in other cases a building's décor, its furniture, a single room, or even a staircase may be given the designation because of its historical significance. An example is the MH classification of the décor in the café "Deux Garçons" in Aix-en-Provence whose patrons included Alphonse de Lamartine, Émile Zola and Paul Cézanne. Some buildings are designated because of their connection to a personality, such as the Auberge Ravoux in Auvers-sur-Oise which is designated a Monument historique because of its connection to the painter Vincent van Gogh. Since the 1990s, a significant number of scientific places have been given the designation because of their historical importance.
The designation traces its roots to the French Revolution when the government appointed Alexandre Lenoir to specify and safeguard certain structures. The first classifications were given in the 19th century by the writer Prosper Mérimée, inspector-general of historical monuments (see Roquetaillade Castle), by a first list established in 1840. In 1851, Mérimée organized the Missions Héliographiques to document France's medieval architecture.