Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Pontlevoy - a French Village

Village in France: Louis Clergeau's Photographic Portrait of Daily Life in Pontlevoy, 1902-1936

Louis Clergeau
By coincidence prior to leaving on a previous trip to France, I wandered into a book shop and purchased a book on the clearance counter about a little village in the Loire Valley called Pontlevoy. On that trip, maybe 2008, we discovered that the village was only 2 kms down the road from our rented cottage at Thenay.The book featured photos from the early part of the 1900s by a local amateur photographer and business person. Louis Clergeau's many photos are mounted on the walls of buildings, showing how they once were when Ponlevoy was a thriving village. Today it is rather sleepy as many of the villages are today. With only approx 1500 population it tries to sustain two restaurants, a few cafes, an excellent patisserie and Boulanger where we enjoyed breakfast on a couple of occasions. It does have a small supermarket that we never discovered. I'm sure there is much more commercial businesses behind the many walls in the back streets. The mounted photos around the village take you on a museum walk of which we did on a previous visit.

The Abbey founded in 1034 is explained better by a Wikipedia insert below.
The chapel is well worth a visit due to its medieval architecture.
The Abbey was founded by a knight, Gelduin Charmont in 1034. The local folklore is documented on Wikipedia here;
"It is believed that Gelduin's boat was caught in a storm on the way back from a Crusade in the Holy Land. He prayed to the Virgin for help, promising to build Her a church in Pontlevoy, which he held as a vassal of the Count of Blois. Allegedly, the Virgin dressed in white, appeared above the rolling deck and calmed the sea.
Geldiun endowed the abbey with enough revenue for Benedictine monks to build a huge church, dedicated to the White Virgin. From the east, it looks like a complete Gothic cathedral with flying buttresses and trefoil stone tracery in the windows of the radiating chapels." 

Cafe du Commerce was not open on the day of our visit however we have had a beer there in the past. 
Pontlevoy during the first half of the 1900s had a great sporting tradition of cycling, football, tennis among many theatrical events as well. This photo was taken of the start of the race to Charmont in 1931
Georges Chenneveau ran the local bike shop and also was an organiser of the local club and thier races in the area.
Judging by the flowers held by him in this photo, he must have been a fairly handy sportsman himself.
Even aviation "took off" at Ponlevoy having its own airfield 1910.
Wine has always been the mainstay of the Touraine region as this photo from 1902 shows.
Note the building behind back then and below today.
Today it serves as a handy barn to the current owners who have renovated the building to a liveable property.

Little remains of the more interesting features of the local cobbler's shop above from the 1920s
This early photo doesn't show the building closer to the street that shows in my photo below.

Although this 1912 photo of the then local Mairie shows a little activity, today the building s indicates little sign of habitation.

One building that has survived economically in Ponlevoy is once school, now a Hotel and Restaurant.
We had a fine meal there one night washed down a locally produced bottle of rouge. 

It looks as though the sign dates back many decades, doesn't it.
It's a little sad to have seen what Pontlevoy once was, but I guess with little interest from the young to stay in rural France, these villages remain the home of older locals, retirees from various countries looking for a more quiet and less costly lifestyle.
I hope you've enjoyed our very small walk around Pontlevoy. There really so much to discover in the streets behind the main highway that quickly passes by. You may just have to put a visit to Pontlevoy on your list if you visit the Loire et Cher region.


  1. Interesting post, obviously the cycling history got you hooked on the rest of the area :-)
    Very cold here and I guess it is probably colder in Paris. You will enjoy the weather when you get home. I gather Perth was 39C today :-)) Take care Diane

    1. Diane - I'm sure you agree that the bike allows for a very pleasant way of exploring your surroundings. Paris expects snow tomorrow.

  2. I love the early 20th century photos of Pontlevoy's people, jobs, shops, clothing, leisure time activities etc. And how cool that they were taken by a local amateur photographer and later mounted on shop walls. Normally early photos are either thrown in the bin or locked away in archives.

    1. Hels, I also bought some early post cards of Saint Aignan, the home of Ken and Walt who have blogs in the Loire. They are on my side bar should you wish to read about the area where they live.


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