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Report 2029: France 2012 Part 1 - The Loire Valley

By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2012

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Page 8 of 33: The Area Around Perrusson - Montresor

photo by MAW

Montresor

This is one of the most beautiful villages in France, selected for its beautiful setting, fine buildings and lovely surroundings. It is an unspoilt small town with beautiful old half timber and stone houses and narrow streets clustered round the château and church. There is a nice walk along the base of the château walls.

The Hôtel de Ville is in a splendid 16thC house with a watchtower. The 17thC market hall has solid wooden pillars supporting the beamed roof. Steps lead up to the room under the tiled roof which is now a permanent arts and exhibition center. On the river is the old lavoir and a mill. There is a cafe, tabac and a small tourist type shop.

The château is built high above the River Indrois on the site of the 11thC fortifications built by Foulques Nerra. This was one of the first stone donjons to be built and parts still survive. The curtain wall with ruined corner towers and gatehouse was built by Henry II in an attempt to save his French territory from the French King. Inside are pleasant gardens and the early 16thC château built by Imbert de Bastarnay who was adviser to several French Kings and grandfather of Diane de Poitiers. It has mullioned windows on the south side facing the river, gabled dormers and two machicolated towers.

In 1849 the château was bought and restored by Count Xavier Branicki, a Polish emigré who had close links to the future Napoleon III. His descendants still live here and there are many family portraits and heirlooms. The Second Empire decor remains virtually unaltered. It receives few visitors and the atmosphere is friendly and relaxed.

The Collégiale church was built between 1519-40 by Imbert de Bastarnay, owner of the château, as a family mausoleum but is now the parish church. The Bastarnay tomb originally stood in the center of the church but was smashed and thrown out during the Revolution. When the church was restored in 1875, the tomb was rebuilt at the back of the west aisle.

The church is very tall with a small pointed tower over the transept and a small round tower at the west end. There is a small decorative cupola above the south transept. The buttresses have decorative pinnacles on the tops. There is a double wooden doorway at the west end. Above is an elaborately carved portico with statues and floral decorations. The statues were decapitated during the Revolution. The big window above has a carved double ‘pelmet’ decoration. On either side, half way up is a frieze with the faces of the four evangelists.

Entry is through a small side door at the back of the south wall which has a carved portico above. At the back of the church is a small stone font with a carved baptism scene on the lid. On the opposite side is the Bastarnay Monument made of white marble and surrounded by wrought iron rails. The figures are Imbert de Bastarnay, his wife and their son. At the corners are carved angels. The base has a series of carved figures in round arches.

The nave has a vaulted ceiling but no side aisles. The windows are blind and now have large paintings on them. Over the west door is a stained glass window with St John, St Peter and John the Baptist. There are carved stone Stations of the Cross on the walls and a memorial to the dead of World War One with 27 names and to World War Two with another 12 names. This must have been devastating for a small village.

The large chancel is almost as big as the nave. It has an elaborately carved marble altar reached by three steps. There is a carving of the last supper on the base. The retable has three gilt figures on either side of the host box, which has a gilt mosaic of Christ holding a book. Above is a crucifix in a carved box with a small cupola on it. Above the altar is a bright stained glass window. The bottom shows the scourging of Christ, the middle has Christ carrying the cross and at the top is the crucifixion with Christ and the two robbers. The 16thC wooden choir stalls have beautifully carved misericords.

There are small chapels on either side of chancel. These have decorative roofs made up of panels with carved figures and heads. There is a simple stone altar with Jesus on the north side and a large 17thC painting of the Annunciation. The south altar has a statue of Joseph and the young Jesus on one side and John the Baptist on the other side.

There are large altars at the ends of the transepts. The north transept has a marble altar with a roundel containing a sunburst on the bottom. Above is a pillared portico with gilded pillar tops and a gilt cross on the top. The apse in the portico has a decorative gold border and a crowned statue of the Virgin Mary holding a lily and the baby Jesus. Behind their heads is a shell. On the walls are statues of Joan of Arc, St Theresa, and St Francis as well as marble ‘merci’ plates.

The south transept altar is made of painted wood. On the base is a cross and a dove. The host box has Mary and Jesus with cherub heads. Paintings on the base of the retable on either side of the host box show Mary and an angel with a wooden canopy over them. There is a very old carving of St Roch with his dog on the wall.

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