Sunday, November 16, 2014

CHINON - Our favorite Loire Town

Chinon would most likely be our favourite Val d’Loire town to date. Today was our fourth visit. We have stayed at Logis Maxme on two previous visits and once just popped in to say hello to our host Helene who with her husband, Jean-Michel run the B and B. Chinon has a most romantic history. So on our way to Saumur, we just had to stop for lunch and take the opportunity to visit Fortress of Chinon.
Lunch was at a familiar corner restaurant overlooking the Vienne River. Familiar in that we have lunched here before but last time was on a sunny spring day and we sat outside - not this time as winter descends on the Loire. The meal was as satisfying as before.

The fortress ruins that overlook the village below has had some illustrious and historic owners and visitors in its long history.

To enter the Chinon Fortress, you cross this bridge and through the arch of the clock tower.
You can actually climb the clock tower where the views over the valley really are magnificent.
The fireplace you see in this picture is supposedly the room where Jeanne d'Arc met with the Dauphin of France.
Throughout the restored building are film transposed on to the walls giving a history of the Fortress. The image on the wall seen here is the re-enactment of the meeting with Jeanne d'Arc and the Dauphin, Charles VII.
Two of the rooms are allocated to Jeanne d'Arc

Henry II Plantagenet, King of England and ruler of the Aquitaine made Chinon his base after his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine. In this time, the fortress of Chinon grows in the years 1152 to the time of his death. During that period, Henry imprisoned Eleanor at Chinon for supporting her son’s plans to overthrow Henry’s rule. She then spends the next 15 years imprisoned in England. There is a film with Richard Harris and Catherine Hepburn that dramatised the era. The film is called, “the Lion in Winter” from memory.

Some of the areas can be challenging for someone with limited mobility but Sue enjoyed the challenge and experienced the fortress for the first time on this our fourth visit to Chinon.

The plaque notes the chapel once was and where Henry II passed away.
After his death in 1189 the lands fell to Henry’s son, Richard (the Lionheart). When Richard was captured during the crusades, John Lackland, Richard’s brother plotted with Philippe Auguste, King of France to overthrow Richard. Conflicts continued later between John and Philippe and Chinon then fell to France.

In 1429, another historic figure visits the Chinon Fortress. Jeanne d’Arc seeks a meeting with Charles VII, the yet to be crowned King of France. Her meeting results in the Dauphin offering her an army to defeat the English in a battle at Orleans which was the beginning of the end to the 100 year war.

During the time of Cardinal Richelieu, much of the Chinon stonework was removed by the Cardinal to build his “Perfect City” and chateau named after himself. This was not the only grand buildings that Richelieu plundered for materials. Ironically the Cardinal's Chateau no longer exists. It was dismantled and sold, stone by stone to build other buildings in the district.

I wonder if we will ever return to Chinon again - we hope so.


  1. I just love French history especially with interesting photos. Sadly I hated history at school, useless history mistress me thinks!! Well done and I am sure you will return. D & N

    1. Same as you Diane - history is a passion these days and you will agree that we absorb what we want, not what someone else wants us to absorb.

  2. I join you in saying that I didn't enjoy history classes at school... and, my students say the same thing... but, they tell me this because they DO enjoy the history units we do in French class, and I now LOVE history. I think it's because history class has so much to cover, that you don't feel connected to anyone historic character or family.... and, it all seems like just a bunch of politics and war. Yuck. I love learning about how people lived, and seeing those places in person, and following the intrigues in their lives.

    I am especially interested in Eleanor of Aquitaine and the whole Plantagenet family, including their ancestors up to William the Conqueror, and this all started just from seeing THE LION IN WINTER. Since then, I've done so much research, and taught so much about them, that blog posts like this are especially enjoyable to me. I have yet to go to Chinon, but I plan to!

    1. After Chinon, Fontevraud Abbey is a must where the tombs of the Plantagent royal family are here including Eleanor of Aquitaine - she had a long life dying at 82. Not too bad in those days.


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