Paradoxplace South West France Photo and History Pages

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Poitiers

 

The best of the "base towns" we stayed in during our September / October 2007 French explorations

 

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Poitiers was one of the important towns in the west of early and medieval France, partly because it sat on a high large flat topped hill and was thus easy to defend.  From being the capital of the west in Roman Gaul, through naming rights to three of Europe's defining battles*,  home location of the Court of the Dukes of Aquitaine (and their famous Duchess Eleanor) to being a rich renaissance garrison town full of mansions and mills and over 50 church steeples, Poitiers flourished.

 

Today Poitiers is a bustling untouristed University (1432) town with easy to walk streets, lots of food and other shops and a wide spectrum of cafes and restaurants.  Team Paradox liked hanging out here, so we stayed for a bit.

 

Paradox, who is an honorary Cajun Citizen, was delighted to find that Poitiers is twinned with Lafayette, Lousiana.

 

 

 

 

Poitiers in 1569, when it was besieged by Gaspard de Coligny, Admiral of France and later victim of the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre (painting in Poitiers Musée Saint Croix).  The Cathedral, Baptistery and Ste-Radegonde are at the bottom centre of the town, Notre Dame la Grande is back up the hill and St-Hilaire is at the top left.

 

*THE BATTLES AROUND POITIERS

 

507 - Clovis' Frankish Army marches south from Paris and defeats Alaric's Visigoths (who at that time ran southern Gaul)

732 - Charles Martel defeats an Arab army from Al-Andalus, dispatches them back across the Pyrenees and "saves Europe" from Muslim rule

1356 - England's heir presumptive Black Prince whacks the French King Jean le Bon as the 100 Years' War revives

after the 1348 Black Death has left over half of Europe dead.

 

Some Medieval French (and other) Saints, Kings and Queens, and Two Wars

 

Chronology, Photos and Maps of Islamic Spain (Al-Andalus)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Palace building dates in part from the 1000s and housed the courts of the powerful Counts of Poitou / Dukes of Aquitaine.    Aliénor (Eleanor) d'Aquitaine, who was Duchess of Aquitaine in her own right, spent quite a bit of time here early and late in her life.  She was the granddaughter of the lustily famous troubadour Duke William (Guillaume) IX of Aquitaine. 

 

It is possible that Joan of Arc's first "examination" took place in the great hall - the largest medieval hall etc etc (photo below) (all things are possible in medieval reconstructions and tourist brochures).  Certainly the event, which was a 1429 examination of her virginity and fitness to lead the French army, happened in Poitiers.  The famous trial that condemned Joan was held in Rouen in the next year, after which she was burned at the stake.  Between 1450 and 1456 a trial of nullification determined that Joan was wrongly condemned at trial 2, and was therefore a martyr.  In 1920 (that's right, nearly 500 years later) she was canonized.

 

Link to a website about Joan's life

 

Since the French Revolution (late 1700s) the Palace has housed the courts of law, and the great hall is now an hugely oversized entry vestibule occupied by little clumps of unhappy young people awaiting their moment in the courts on the left.

 

 

Poitierts - Palais de Justice

 

 

 

 

Notre Dame la Grande and its famous Romanesque Facade

 

Despite the name, Notre Dame la Grande is not very big - it was probably called la Grande to distinguish it from other, now vanished, more petite Notre Dame churches in the centre of Poitiers.  Of the "narrative levels" of the Romanesque facade, the bottom one is by far the most interesting

 

 

Square of Notre Dame la Grande, Poitiers

 

 

 

 

Église Ste-Radegonde, Poitiers

 

 

Eglise St-Hilaire, Poitiers

 

 

Église St-Hilaire, Poitiers

 

The large Abbey Church of St-Hilaire (Bishop of Poitiers c350) has the tallest apse structure of the Poitiers' churches, which gives it a much more elegant and dimensionally balanced appearance than some of its heavy pillared more vertically challenged siblings.  It also has some interesting soft coloured and delicate frescos and a few carved capitals.  Don't hold your breath about the architectural attractiveness of the much restructured nave, the result of a tower collapse, church shrinking, and a west end  rebuild.

 

 

Eleanor & Henry Window, Cathedrale St-Pierre, Poitiers

 

 

Cathédrale St-Pierre, Poitiers

 

This photo shows the bottom part of the very beautiful c1160 east window of the Cathédrale St-Pierre in Poitiers.  In the central base frame are (it is thought) the window's donors -  Aliénor (Eleanor) d'Aquitaine (left) and hubby King Henry II Plantagenet, though the inscriptions to either side of them remain unfathomed.  The bottom part of this panel is hidden behind a stone balustrade, which is a bit sad because the window is one of the few  reasons for going to the cathedral.

 

 

 

 

Baptistère Saint-Jean, Poitiers

 

No prizes for architectural attractiveness, but the Baptistère Saint-Jean, which claims to be the oldest "church" in France, has an interesting jumble of medieval fresco bits on the walls and miscellaneous stone bric-a-brac lying around.

 

 

 

 

A wonderfully primitive early image of a stonemason at work

 

Poitiers - Musée Saint Croix

 

A bishop's blessing and a stone mason - 900s

 

 

 

 

Poitiers - The church of St-Jean-de-Montierneuf was originally built (with attached monastery) by William VIII, Count of Poitou, in the second half of the 1000s, and was consecrated by Pope Urban II in 1096.  In September 2007 everything was firmly closed "durant l'installation technique des concerts allumées" though there was no evidence of anything going on anywhere.

 

 

Poitiers - Hotel de Ville

 

 

 

 

Poitiers - Place du Maréchal Leclerc and Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) - the van and exhibition tents belong to La Caravane des Entrepeneurs (www.forces.fr) - an interesting sounding initiative.  Close to here were, until they were finally cleared and built over in the mid 1800s, the ruins of a 50,000 seat Roman Amphitheatre - one of the largest in Roman Gaul and similar in size to the Coliseum in Rome.

 

 

Cafe du Theatre - Poitiers

 

 

 

 

Café du Théâtre in the Place du Maréchal Leclerc, Adriano's friendly bière pression bar of choice at the other end of town to the tourist priced Notre Dame la Grande area. 

 

 

After a few bières, an al fresco dinner and revision back at the nearby IBIS hotel

 

Foie Gras, Restaurant Antipodes, Poitiers

 

 

 

 

Left:  Poached melt-in-your-mouth cholesterol - weekday lunchtime starter at the oddly named (with no explanation available)  Restaurant Antipodes in the cellar of the Chantrerie (workshop) de St-Hilaire (65 rue Théophraste Renaudot), next to the Basilique of the same name.  Restaurant closed for weekend lunches, and Sunday dinner.

 

 

Below:  A Sunday morning tray of Carolines in the patisserie round the corner from our Ibis hotel.

 

 

 

 

Oysters, Maitre Kanter, Poitiers

 

 

Sunday lunch - freshly shucked oysters - 9 fines de claires no 3 - at La Taverne de Maître Kanter, Poitiers - followed by scampi and scallops.  Maître Kanter is a seafood restaurant group, and we became a big fan of their fresh seafood here and in Le Puy en Velay, where they have a "mates rates" arrangement with the IBIS we were staying in upstairs.

 

 

Maitre Kanter, Poitiers

 

 

Scallops & Scampi, Maitre Kanter, Poitiers

 

 

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