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Report 2029: France 2012 Part 1 - The Loire Valley
By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2012
Page 25 of 33: To the Northeast - Montrichard
Montrichard is a busy small market town on the banks of the River Cher. We managed to find space in a small car park as we entered the town. This had originally been a medieval walled town built round the donjon and château.
The donjon was built by Foulques Nerra in the 11thC and was rebuilt in the 12thC. It was the scene of fierce fighting between the French and the English and the walls and château were reinforced during this time. Little remains of the walls, although a tower can be seen on rue Porte au Roi. The Royal apartments collapsed in the 18thC, and only a few walls now remain. The donjon now houses the local museum and is reached by a steep flight of steps off Route Nacionale.
Much of the medieval street pattern remains with narrow streets and even narrower pavements. Restaurants spill out onto the roadway.
The Office de Tourisme is in nice 15thC timber frame building with a diamond pattern infilled with brick. This was La Maison de l’Ave Maria, which sheltered monks from Aiguevive Abbey and there is the remains of a wooden carving of the Annunciation on the corner of the building. Opposite are some late 15thC timber frame houses, Les maisons á pans de bois, which were protected by the church steeple when the royal apartments collapsed in the 18thC.
Steps lead up to Église St-Croix, which was originally the chapel for the castle. Foulques Nerrra brought back a relic of the ‘authentic cross’ from Jerusalem and presented it to the castle chapel when it was founded in the 11thC. It was damaged when the royal apartments collapsed, but was repaired and became the parish church.
There is a splendid double arch west porch with twisted rope pillars with capitals carved in feather shapes. Above is a round topped window surrounded by blank arches. Beneath the windows is a narrow projecting cornice with carved stones beneath. A wooden door with similarly carved arches leads into the church. It was a pity about the graffiti.
The organ above the west door has wooden balconies on either side, accessed by a wooden spiral staircase, with a sign saying 'no admittance except for the choir'. The nave is simple with a wooden slatted ceiling with support beams across. Pillars with round topped arches separate nave and side aisles. The side aisles have vaulted stone ceilings. There is a statue of Joan of Arc on the transept pillar. The apse at the east end is lined with old choir stalls. It just has a small mass altar with a crucifix on the far wall.
The north aisle has no windows. There are three apses off the wall. The back one is a chapel dedicated to the Virgin. Across the front are wrought iron railings. The altar is carved stone with pillars on the base supporting round topped arches picked out in gilt. In the center are the intertwined initials of I and S. On either side there are lily plants. The small retable has a small host box with gilt decoration on either side. Above is a stone carved statue of the Virgin. The middle apse contains the font and the one nearest the chancel has a stone carved altar and host box.
On the end of the north aisle is a green painted wooden altar with a large retable with painted panels framed in gilt. On the altar are two reliquary boxes containing bones. The retable has two pillars on either side of a statue. The walls behind the altar are painted green with a gilt and green pattern. On either side of the altar are wooden doors leading into the sacristy. Above them are small pictures.
The south aisle has a splendid altar and retable of wood. The altar base has a series of pillars painted with elaborate patterns of red, yellow and blue. This theme continues to the retable which has side pillars and an arch surrounding a statue of the Virgin. Above is a painted carved wood castle. The back walls are painted in a light and dark green pattern with a brown and green border. The ceiling is painted blue with stars. Pillars are painted red, yellow and blue. There is a marble plaque on wall saying that St Jeanne de Valois married Duc d’Orleans (Louis XII) here in 1476. The marriage was later annulled when Charles VIII died and Louis wanted to marry his widow, Anne of Brittany in the hope of annexing Brittany to the French throne. On the wall is a painted statue of the Virgin holding a cross.
Hotel d’Effiat on rue Porte au Roi is a splendid late 15thC building of white tufa stone with dark tile roof and corner turrets. It was bequeathed to the town in 1717 to house and care for the poor. It later became the local hospital until 1977.
Next to it is Chapelle de Notre-Dame-de-Mont-Carmel. From the outside it looks an unexceptional building with a plain facade onto the road. Inside it has a beautiful chancel apse.
Doors lead into a small porch and then into the church. There is a simple nave with a wooden balcony over the west door. On the plain white walls are painted statues of the Virgin, Joseph and the young Jesus, St Francis and St Theresa.
At the east end is a small chancel apse with a stone altar with an inlaid design of gold lilies. Above is a low, stepped retable with an integral host box and a painted statue of the Virgin holding the Christ Child above. There are blue drapes around the walls of the apse. The ceiling is painted blue with a gold sunburst and stars. The rest of the east wall is covered with blue and grey decorative panels with coats of arms and birds feeding. There are two small painted statues on pillars. The pillars and circular arches are picked out in gold. Above is a large picture showing God crowning the Virgin Mary watched by bishops and saints.
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