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Chinon

 

Chinon is a French commune located in the Indre-et-Loire department, in the Center-Val de Loire region. It is one of the two sub-prefectures of Indre-et-Loire (the other being Loches). Its inhabitants are called the Chinonais.

Placed on the course of the Vienne, in a strategic position on the borders of Touraine, Anjou and Poitou, endowed with a rocky outcrop fortified since Antiquity, the city, with its imposing fortress, has long played a key defensive role. Chinon is one of the favorite strongholds of the Plantagenets. Jean sans Terre lost it to Philippe Auguste, who added it to the domains of the Crown of France. Seat of the court under Charles VII, place of his meeting with Joan of Arc, the city will only leave the royal bosom to pass into the hands of Cardinal Richelieu and his family, who keep it until the Revolution.

Enriched by the cultivation of vines and the wine trade, the town has found, with the installation of the Oats nuclear power plant, an industrial counterpart to its traditional agricultural activity. Located near the castles of the Loire, on the detour of Vienne on the Loire à Vélo tourist circuit, Chinon also attracts many tourists. Since 2000, the city is part of the section of the Loire Valley registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List under cultural landscapes.

 

Local culture and heritage

Monuments and tourist places
The old town develops around an east-west axis, the high street, at the foot of the hill, therefore sheltered from the floods of the Vienne (today, from west to east: rue Haute-Saint-Maurice, rue Voltaire, rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, rue Diderot). Its urban network and numerous buildings date back to the Middle Ages, in particular the 15th century, when the presence of the royal court encouraged significant urban development.

Royal fortress
The royal fortress of Chinon is located on the rocky outcrop dominating the right bank of the Vienne and the city. This strategic position allows it to control the passage over the river, which flows into the Loire a few kilometers away. This medieval fortress, remarkable for its dimensions, dominates the whole of the old town, which developed below, over its entire length (about 500 meters long by 100 meters wide), its walls following the contour of the river. rocky outcrop.

The whole is divided into three distinct parts, which the kings called their "three castles", and which appear in a stylized way, in the form of three towers, on the coat of arms of the city. From west to east, the spur is blocked by a series of ditches that separate the three castles: Fort du Coudray, Chateau du Milieu, and Fort Saint-Georges, each with an independent enclosure. The main buildings, including the royal residences, as well as the Saint-Melaine chapel were located in the main castle, the Château du Milieu.

The entrance to the Château du Milieu, which forms the central part of the complex, is via the Clock Tower, built in the fourteenth century. A Marie-Javelle bell, cast in 1399, is placed in a lantern on the platform. It rings every hour, and it is operated by hand for special occasions. Towards the east, the moat that separates the Château du Milieu from Fort Saint Georges was once spanned by a wooden bridge leading to a drawbridge. A stone bridge replaced it.

Property of the departmental council of Indre-et-Loire, the fortress - a time reduced to a state of ruin - was the subject, from 2003 to 2010, of a major restoration program. The site restored 150 meters of ramparts (southern ramparts of Fort Saint-Georges, eastern ramparts of Château du Milieu), the Coudray keep, with its initial access staircase, as well as the royal residences. A new building, integrated into the site, houses the reception, the shop, the ticket office and an exhibition hall. An archaeological site prior to the work made it possible to explore nearly 4,000 m2 and bring to light the palace built by King Henry II Plantagenet around 1160, as well as several towers and a chapel.

Fortified city
At the foot of the castle, the fortified town, the original nucleus of Chinon and the best-preserved part of the town, has been surrounded by ramparts at least since the fourteenth century. It is crossed from east to west by a main street, the rue Haute Saint-Maurice where there is a succession of half-timbered houses, public buildings (House of the States General, Bailliage palace) and mansions of the fifteenth, sixteenth ( Maîtrise des Eaux et Forêts), 17th century (Hôtel du Gouverneur) and 18th centuries (Hôtel Torterue de Langardière. The district is served by the Saint-Maurice church.

Painctes cellars
Located in the fortified town, the Caves Painctes form part of the vast network of galleries dug under the hillside to extract the tufa. Some sections have been reused as wine cellars. The immense vaults of the Caves Painctes, cited by Rabelais in his work, house the chapters of the brotherhood of the Good Rabelaisian funnels, founded in 1961: chapter of Saint-Vincent (January), chapter of the Flower (June), chapter of the Harvest (September) and Diane chapter (December).

Saint-Etienne district
In the extension of rue Haute Saint-Maurice (rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau), to the east of the fortified town, the Saint-Étienne district is a former suburb that was fortified in the fourteenth century, less densely built and modified in the nineteenth century. . Historically dedicated to commerce, this prosperous district retains beautiful half-timbered houses, notably around the Puits-des-Bans crossroads.

Canonical quarter
To the east, grouped around the Saint-Mexme collegiate church, the old religious center of the city, the canonical quarter contains some very beautiful residences of canons (hotel rue Hoche, hotel de Chavigny rue de Buffon), dating from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. and often reworked in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Suburbs

Old suburbs frame the city center.

At the outlet of the medieval bridge, on the left bank of the Vienne, the Faubourg Saint-Jacques, entirely protected by dikes, was built by the Plantagenets to serve as a bridgehead and improve links to the south and their possessions in Poitou .

West of the fortified town, the Vieux-Marché suburb housed convents in the 17th century. Today remains the convent of Calvairiennes, redeveloped into housing. Further west, along the river, the Saint-Louans hill is made up of a village and isolated dwellings, around a priory founded in the Merovingian era. The landscape is rural, made up of vineyards.

From the 19th century, the city spread eastwards towards the station, inaugurated in 1876.

Religious buildings
Saint-Maurice Church
Parish Church of the Fortified City, it grows at the same time as the city: the oldest part is the base of the bell tower, which dates back to the beginning of the 12th century. The nave and the choir which was attached to it were rebuilt at the end of the 12th century in Angevin Gothic style, with very domed ribbed vaults receiving an elaborate decoration at the level of the keystones and the ribs. At the end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century, a series of chapels were added to this single nave, forming a side aisle to the south, testifying to the transition between Flamboyant Gothic art and the Renaissance. A new extension was envisaged in the nineteenth century, but was ultimately not carried out: we then contented ourselves with putting color back into the church, with stained glass windows from the Lobin workshop, a granite flowerbed and murals inspired by the Saint. -Chapel in the choir.

St. Stephen's Church
Parish church in the eastern quarter or suburb of Saint-Étienne, it was entirely rebuilt in the 15th century on a very simple plan: a single nave and a very bright choir lit by numerous bays. These bays now house glass roofs from the Lobin workshop, in particular four episodes from the religious life of Chinon and the surrounding area: the death of Saint Martin at Candes in 397, the miracle of Saint Mexme in Chinon in the fifth century, Saint Radegonde coming to visit Saint John on the site of the chapel which will bear his name, finally the recognition of Charles VII by Joan of Arc in 1429.

Collegiate Church of Saint-Mexme
Main religious building in Chinon until the Revolution, the Saint-Mexme collegiate church is today a cultural center. The Romanesque nave from the year 1000 houses a small wooden theater. The western massif from 1050 contains wall paintings from the 12th, 13th and 15th centuries, a beautiful 18th century staircase and abstract stained glass windows made from cartoons by the painter Olivier Debré. Several old residences of canons, built from the 15th to the 18th century, are arranged around the collegiate church.

Sainte-Radegonde Chapel
Chinon is rich in troglodyte habitat, established on the south face of the hill overlooking the Vienne. These dwellings are undoubtedly the first of Chinon. The many “remaining caves” built along the hillside remained inhabited until the middle of the 20th century. The Sainte-Radegonde chapel is a sixth-century hermitage on which was built a troglodyte chapel, which has been occupied since very ancient times. It was undoubtedly a place of pre-Christian worship, as suggested, among other things, by the well which had been dug there. The complex has three remaining cellars, as well as interesting galleries and interior rooms. The chapel contains numerous wall paintings, including a famous 12th-century 'royal hunt' that is believed to depict members of the Plantagenet family.

Museums
Lively Museum of Wine and Cooperage
Open since June 1, 1979, this museum is the work of one man. Chinese origin. Over the course of five years, he gathered all the tools presented and 2,500 hours of work were necessary for the realization of the fourteen automatons, thanks to which come to life the utensils that were used, at the end of the last century, in the manufacture of wine: barrel , press, bowl, gin, etc.

Carroi Museum
In the heart of the historic city, the house of the Estates-General, dating from the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, is one of the most representative buildings of Chinese architecture. It was there that Charles VII gathered the States-General in 1428, in order to convince them of the need to raise the money necessary for the fight against the English and the Burgundians. Became an inn in the 17th century, then a bakery (from the end of the 19th century until 1968), the building, restored in the 1970s, houses the Carroi museum, managed by the Community of Communes Chinon Vienne et Loire. It offers the visitor collections of works of art and objects illustrating the history of the city and its country, from prehistoric times to the 19th century.

 

In particular, we find:
the so-called “Saint-Mexme” yoke, Hispano-Moorish fabric from the 12th century, adorned with cheetahs facing each other, chained together and accompanied by elements evoking hunting. This work was restored in 198893;
a portrait of Rabelais (2.10 m × 1.50 m), painted in 1833 by Eugène Delacroix for the town of Chinon, in which is represented an image both traditional and romantic of the great “master François”. This painting adorns the room of the States-General;
Langeais earthenware, religious statuary, objects linked to companionship.

Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions
Located on the Sainte-Radegonde hill, in troglodyte cavities that served as a home and a workplace, this museum presents a collection of ancient objects relating to daily life and to the ancient trades carried out on the hill or in the surrounding area. . A cave dwelling room has been reconstructed with all its furniture and familiar objects.

Public statuary
Rabelais statue
Inaugurated in 1882 at the outlet of the Place du Général de Gaulle, the statue of Rabelais by Émile Hébert represents the child of the country seated, in a doctor's dress, holding a feather in his hand. The bas-reliefs on the plinth recall his different activities: a dissection, Gargantua and mottos recalling his contribution to humanism.

When Mirapolis Park closed, the city showed interest in recovering the 35-meter statue of Gargantua before changing its mind in view of the amount to be paid for its dismantling, its journey to destination and its reconstruction.

Equestrian statue of Joan of Arc
The equestrian statue of Joan of Arc, the work of sculptor Jules Roulleau, was inaugurated on August 13, 1893 by Admiral Henri Rieunier (1833-1918), then Minister of the Navy. This bronze equestrian group, seven meters high and weighing 7 tons, cast by the Thiebaut brothers in the Paris region, had been exhibited in Paris for the holidays of July 14, 1893. Despite all the attempts it had been impossible to ship it by the rail, and strong Percherons, attached to a solid car, had ensured the transport to its current location, the current Place Joan of Arc. The Maid is represented in the saddle, holding her sword in her right hand and in her left brandishing her standard. His horse passes over the bodies of two English soldiers lying on the ground. The inspiration of the sculptor could come from an earlier painting painted by Raymond Balze, whose composition is very similar, itself referring to the prophecy of Merlin quoted by Christine de Pisan: "A virgin will come whose horse will trample on its back." archers ”.

Sacred Heart of Chinon
This statue perched on the hillside was erected on a private site, following a vow made in Saint-Étienne, in April 1940, by the archpriest Marie-Joseph Vivien, to implore divine protection during the Second World War. Completed and blessed in June 1941, the statue, which recalls the Christ of Corcovado by its pose, is the work of sculptor Paule Richon. It was executed in cement sprayed with a trowel on a metal frame and modeled on site.