"Small Towns of Character", get off the beaten track
La Vienne matters three villages with the Small Towns of Character® label : Charroux, Monts-sur-Guesnes and, more recently, Château-Larcher. A recognition that values atypical rural municipalities by their history and heritage. A fourth municipality is in the process of winning it. Guided tour !
Charroux, the “treasures” of the abbey
Arriving at Charroux, the 37-metre high octagonal silhouette of the Charlemagne tower immediately catches the eye. Like a lighthouse planted in the middle of the village, a few steps from superb XNUMXth century hallsth century, the largest in western France, it impresses with its size and architecture.
It was certainly enough for this village of just over 1000 souls, stage village on the way to Compostela, won the Small City of Character label. But, it conceals many other treasures. By delving into its history, we discover that the tower was part of one of the most powerful Benedictine abbeys in Carolingian Europe which housed the relic of the Holy Cross: Saint-Sauveur Abbey founded in the XNUMXth century.
Today, classified Center of the National Monuments, the site invites to free or guided visits in the spaces of the abbey having resisted the assaults of time: the splendid chapter house, the so-called room of the Treasury or the cloister, bucolic space which also serves as an exhibition space. By taking a little height on the forecourt of the Saint-Sauveur church, where the view embraces the whole village, one realizes better its power.
Continuing in the quiet little streets, here and there, the houses half-timbered recall what medieval past.
Another peculiarity, Charroux perpetuates a tradition of more than 160 years: ostentations. Every 7 years, processions present the relics of saints to whom powers against diseases or natural calamities are attributed. The last ones took place in 2016, we set the date for those of 2023. But don't wait for this event to discover Charroux!
Monts-sur-Guesnes, in the shadow of its castle
Another municipality in the department which proudly displays the label, which is largely justified: Monts-sur-Guesnes. Planted on a hill, overlooked by its castle, it does not go unnoticed in the Loudunais countryside. You can see it for several miles around. Its location is not due to chance: from the Middle Ages, a medieval castle was built on this highest point of 146 m to defend the territory. In the XNUMXth century, it became a stately home, around which the town developed. While strolling in the peaceful alleys of the village, it is almost inevitable to come face to face with the impressive Gothic facade of the castle where illustrious characters such as Louis XI and Henri de Navarre, future Henri IV, stayed.
Don't miss a visit to the Castle of Monts sur Guesnes, a new fun and educational site retracing 1 years of the medieval period. The program is attractive: eight scenographed rooms, 800 m² of discovery areas, a giant video projection on the Hundred Years War, a medieval children's village, an adventure course and many workshops (archery, stone cutting, etc.).
Château-Larcher, the last “Little”
Having just entered the highly prized club of Petites Cités de Caractère, the town has spared no effort for more than 7 years to win the label. It must be said that she had good arguments in terms of heritage. In the first place, its castle, which overlooks the village, of which there remains the XNUMXth century dungeonth century, stately living room, with its singular pentagonal shape. To better realize the importance of this castral site, you have to go down along the small Clouère stream, in the green theater. From the same period, the very well-preserved châtelet guarding the entrance to the lower courtyard of the castle. The slides allowing the harrow to lower are still visible.
Other monuments, just as well preserved, the Romanesque church of Notre-Dame and Saint-Cyprien, with a tower on its side that was added to strengthen the defensive system of the fortified castle, but also lantern of the dead. Planted in the middle of the medieval cemetery to watch over the souls of the deceased at night, this lantern nearly 9 meters high is one of the last in France. Heritage elements which, from this spring, will be the subject of a signposted circuit decorated with information panels and a booklet to be collected from the town hall.
The jury of the Small Towns of Character label was also won over by the activities based on this rich heritage with strong participation from the inhabitants. Especially during the Christmas holidays but also and especially during the major event: the medieval fair, held for almost 20 years in September. On the program: exhibition and sale of arts and crafts, artisanal food market, medieval music companies, demonstrations of trades of yesteryear, dance and theater...
This label, which values historic rural municipalities offering the discovery of a remarkable heritage, valued and animated, all in a quality approach to welcoming visitors.Find out more
Lusignan, under the watchful eye of the Fairy Mélusine
It certainly does not yet have the label (in the process of being approved), but Lusignan, the cradle of legend of the Melusine Fairy, has all the assets to win it. To find out, head to the top of the village. It's on a rocky promontory, overlooking the Vonne, that this old medieval stronghold, closely linked to the powerful dynasty of the Lords of Lusignan, still proudly displays the remains of its enclosure lined with ditches and enclosed by towers. Going through the only door still standing, superbly restored, it's like stepping back in time. We seem to hear the echo of the horses' hooves on the cobblestones. A feeling that continues by penetrating a little further into the village.
Facing a half-timbered house, the magnificent north portal of the Notre-Dame et Saint-Junien church from the XNUMXth-XNUMXth centuriesth centuries, can be admired. From the viewpoint at the foot of the church, more modern architecture catches the eye: the railway viaduct built in 1850, which, for the record, features a bas-relief of the Fairy Mélusine on one of the pillars. It overlooks Lusignan beach with its two pools very popular in summer. In the 1960s, the site was the scene of the famous Fête de la Plage which attracted many stars such as Claude François and Johnny Hallyday.
Further on, the market halls with their wooden framework take us back to another era, the XNUMXth century. The narrow streets then lead to a large esplanade where the fortified castle was built, devastated during the wars of religion. There remains a trace of the Mélusine Tower, visible by taking a path that goes down towards the Vonne Valley, a place for beautiful nature walks.
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Lovers of villages & towns with a strong character where you could spend whole days strolling? Mazes of medieval streets, artisan stalls, half-timbered houses, superbly …Find out more
Fancy a nostalgic trip to the past? Direction the Vienne ! Our department is rich in whole centuries of history. Between places, festivals and legends, there are a thousand and one medieval secrets waiting for you...Find out more