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Report 2029: France 2012 Part 1 - The Loire Valley

By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2012

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Page 13 of 33: The Indre Valley and Cormery

photo by MAW

Église Notre Dame de Fougeray

From Loches, there is a pleasant circular drive north along the D943 to Cormery and then back through the small villages along the D17. This is a lovely drive through trees along the river.

Cormery is a nice small town with well kept stone houses and a few shops. The town grew up round the Benedictine monastery founded in the 8thC. St Paul’s Abbey was one of three royal abbeys with 33 priories and 27,000 serfs. It was the third largest contributor to the Crusade of Louis I. It was destroyed by the English in 1358 and rebuilt in 1400. Towards the end of the 15thC the town was fortified with walls and a moat. It was an important town. It was attacked by the protestants in the mid 16thC and destroyed in the Revolution. The Benedictine Abbey was dismantled after the Revolution and the ruins can be seen scattered round the town, surrounded by later buildings. Part of the walls with one of the defensive towers can still be seen. Only La Tour St Paul, Chapel of the Virgin, part of the refectory, cloisters and a gateway from the Abbey survive.

Tourist Information runs guided tours and also has a leaflet with information about a guided walk round the town to find the remains of the abbey. There are a series of small information boards designed for children.

La Tour St Paul is the best preserved part of the abbey. This is a square building with round topped windows and a small gateway at the bottom. It used to have a spire but this fell down in 1891, destroying the belfry and damaging the refectory. There are the remains of carving and patterned stonework on the west outside wall. Next to it, on the outside, is the large splendid Prior’s building.

Through the gateway are the remains of the cloister buildings around a green open area. One wall of the cloisters is still intact with its covered walk and arches. The remains of the first floor refectory building abut the side of La Tour St Paul. On the wall opposite are the remains of the Chapter House with the dormitory above. There is a delightful small carving of what is described as a Basilisk which looks like a winged bird with a serpents tail which is standing on the head of a monk. It illustrates the legend that a person would be turned to stone if they made eye contact with the Basilisk.

The Chapel of the Virgin (viewed from the outside only) is the only part of the abbey church to survive and was built on the north side of the high altar between 1490-1517 by Father Jean Puy to house his tomb. It was spared demolition during the Revolution as it was used to house the horses of the gendarmes. Later on it housed a school nursery. It is an elegant hexagonal building with buttressed corners and Gothic windows.

Further along is part of a 15thC timber frame building with brick infil which was the Logis de l’Abbaye. This was built along the line of the defensive wall overlooking the moat.

Tour St Jean built at the end of the 15thC was part of the defensive wall and backed onto the south side of the Abbey. It is a solid circular structure with splayed walls and tiny windows. It had its own cellar and heated guard room.

Église Notre Dame de Fougeray is on the edge of the village and was built by the Benedictines for the townsfolk. It is a huge, fairly plain building in need of TLC.

It was built in the 12thC. The apse is later as is the belfry. It is a simple Romanesque building with a short square tower above the transept. Entry is through the south door.

Inside, the nave has a stone bench round the sides which now has small wooden seats on top and simple wooden pews. There is a wall mounted wooden pulpit, small framed paintings of the Stations of the Cross on the walls and a painted crucifix on the north wall. There are no windows on the north wall, but there are traces of a fresco described as "Madonna and Child surrounded by four angels".

The south wall has round topped windows with plain glass. At the back is a large stone font dating from the 13thC with four grotesque heads carved round the top.

The pillars supporting the transept arches have carved capitals. There is a small wooden mass altar with linen fold carving. Behind is a stone high altar with host box topped with a cupola and cross. The 15thC wooden choir stalls with misericords were originally in the Abbey church. Behind the high altar are three round topped windows which have smaller windows above with carved statues between them.

The south apse has an altar with a statue of the Virgin and Child and marble ‘merci’ plates on the walls. The north apse altar has a statue of Joseph with the young Jesus.

From Cormery we drove south along D17 and across the flower lined bridge to Courçay. The river enters a gorge here and is surrounded by steep slopes. It is another pleasant small settlement of narrow streets lined with stone houses. Église St-Urbain built 11/12thC is a small, simple church with nave and chancel. The offset square stone tower is buttressed and has a hexagonal stone top with wooden louvres on the bell tower windows. There is a rounded apse at the east end which has a stone band with carvings under it.

Inside there are a few statues on the walls and paintings of the Stations of the Cross. The high altar is a marble slab with host box. One of the old bells stands on the floor next to the wooden pulpit. At the back, stairs lead up to the wooden balcony. There is a huge bowl shaped font with smaller stone font next to it.

We did a short detour to Reignac-sur-Indre with its church with 10thC bell tower and château at the top of the street. This is private but the guide books suggested it was worth driving across the bridge to see. It wasn’t.

Chédigny is marketed as a ‘Village of Flowers’. It is a delightful small village with a stream flowing through it. There is a restored wooden lavoir (washing house) in the village and the foundations of one at the entry to the village. The old stone houses have old varieties of roses growing over them, many with slate name plates. There are colourful flower borders along the fronts of the houses and window boxes. There is a nice little stone church which unfortunately was locked.

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