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Report 2029: France 2012 Part 1 - The Loire Valley

By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2012

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Page 18 of 33: To the Northeast - Roman Remains, Châteaux and Churches

photo by MAW

Tasica Gallo-Roman site

This is château country, beloved by the tourist and the guide books. Nearly every settlement has a château and you are spoiled for choice from Amboise to Villesavin. To avoid château overload, we just visited the big three of Chambord (page 19 and 20), Chenonceau (page 21 and 22) and Cheverny (page 23 and 24).

These are all firmly on the visitor trail and do get busy with coach parties. Fortunately most are on a strict timetable and don’t stay long. Chambord is so huge that it never seems busy, in spite of the crowds. It makes sense to try and time visits for opening time, around lunchtime or later in the afternoon.

Chémery on D956 north east of St Aignan is a very neat little town with a church, square with war memorial, a few shops, large notary building and a château. The oldest part of the château is 13thC with 15th and 16thC additions. It is a good example of the transition from a moated medieval fortress to the domesticity and luxury of the Renaissance. The building had been left to moulder for 300 years but the new owners are gradually restoring it, have opened it to the public and provide conference facilities and accommodation.

It is an attractive building at the edge of the village and surrounded by open countryside with a large dove cot nearby. It is surrounded by a moat with a lot of duckweed. The only access is by drawbridge leading to the main gateway. This leads to the main range of buildings of both stone and timber frame, with turrets at the corners. The courtyard is surrounded by a curtain wall and there is a second and very rickety bridge which leads to a small doorway through the wall.

Église Saint-Guillaume was rebuilt in the 19thC and has a a large red inscription, Republique Francais and Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité over the doorway on the tower. The church is fairly simple inside with a nave and side aisle. There are nice painted carvings of the Stations of the Cross in wooden frames on the walls and splendid painted carvings of Joan of Arc and St Michael killing the devil. The chancel arch has ochre painted walls with a decorative pattern and statues of the Virgin and Joseph with the baby Jesus. The wall behind the stone altar in the north aisle is painted grey with a pattern of white lilies. The south transept has a simple wooden altar with a statue of an unidentified bishop. On the wall is an icon of the Virgin Mary with a large painting opposite of the Virgin with Joseph holding the baby Jesus. The war memorial at the back of the church has 66 names from World War One but only six from World War Two.

The château at Fougères-sur-Bièvre is one of the earlier châteaux built in 1450 and is a typical defensive structure designed to impress. It is an austere grey stone building built in a square round a small internal courtyard. There is a large square tower at one corner and a round tower at another. The slit windows were replaced by larger windows in the 16thC.

This is a well maintained village with wide tree lined streets with stone houses and an attractive 15thC Marie. Next to the Marie is Église St Eloi. This is a long, low stone building with offset square tower and a small apse at the east end. The choir is 12thC. The rest of the church is 15/16thC, except for 19thC north wall.

Entry is through the west door. It is a simple building inside with pale plastered walls. Stone pillars with round stone arches separate the nave from the side aisles.

There is a simple chancel arch with painted statues of St Madeleine and St Francis on either side. There is a modern carving of the Virgin and Child between the chancel and north aisle. The Romanesque choir has a free standing stone altar. Behind is wooden crucifix with a very old carving of Christ which has lost his arms. The base of the arches into the transept have highly carved capitals. The windows have small round pillars supporting a round arch. The stained glass is modern. Along the walls are old wooden choir stalls with carved arms and misericords.

The south aisle has a stone altar flanked by statues of St Vincent and St Eloi and a cloth covered host box.

In the north aisle is a small stone altar with wooden host box with elaborate gilt decorations. The door has a dove with cherubim and the Lamb of God. There are gilt scrolls on either side of the door with more cherub heads. On the top is a small crucifix. To one side is a small icon of the Virgin and Child. On the wall above the altar is an unframed modern abstract picture which is beginning to curl at the edges.

Montrichard (page 25) is a picturesque town with half timber frame houses on the banks of the River Cher. It is dominated by the 10thC donjon and the ruins of the castle. Église St Croix below was originally the castle chapel but is now the parish church.

Tasica Gallo-Roman site is signed off D176 between Montrichard and St Aignan and there is parking off the rough track which runs beside the site. This was closed for the season (usual charge €2.50) but in fact you can see virtually everything from outside the fence. There are the remains of three buildings. One just has the foundations. The second has part of a wall left standing. The third building at the back of the site has a long tall stretch of wall standing with rooms off to the back. There are decorative bands of red tiles in the stonework and the window arches are picked out with red tiles. There is a small information board. The site dates from about 138AD and was a multipurpose site with administrative, commercial and judicial buildings. It had no military purpose. There is a small museum with artifacts from the site in Thésée.

St-Aignan (page 26) was originally a river port on the banks of the River Cher with the old town below the large Romanesque church and château. The modern town stretches out across the high ground behind. Parking in the town is limited but there is a large, free car park on the island in the middle of the river.

The château is privately owned and not open, although you can wander round the outside and along the terrace for good views of the town.

Collegiale de St-Aignan was built in the 11thC over the remains of an earlier church which now forms the crypt. This has some remarkably well preserved frescoes dating from the 12thC. On the south wall is the hauntingly beautiful Chapelle de Miracles.

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