Medieval Saumur


Saumur city hall via Wikimedia Commons

The medieval town of Saumur developed below the majestic Chateau de Saumur, the castle of the Dukes of Anjou.

Picturesque and well restored half-timbered houses and elegant French Renaissance buildings border a network of charming narrow alleys.

The Place Saint-Pierre is framed with delightful half-timbered houses.

The Eglise St-Pierre dates from the 12th century.

The facade, though, was rebuilt in the lavish Jesuit style or Counter-Reformation in the 17th after being struck by lightning.

The church is known for the Angevin or Plantagenêt-Gothic style vaulted nave, the 15th century sculpted stalls, and 16th century tapestries depicting the legend of St-Florent and the life of St-Pierre.

La Maison des Compagnons (apprentice craftsmen) has served as a setting for Balzac‘s Eugénie Grandet.

The popular novel considered as a realistic testimony of social life during the 19th century.

The City Hall is one of the landmarks of the city.

It used to be the ramparts’ bridgehead at a time when the river flowed at the foot of the building.


Notre-Dame des Ardilliers via Wikimedia Commons

The severe military style facade facing the river contrasts with the facade overlooking the backyard.

The latter is a successful mix of Flamboyant Gothic and Renaissance architectures and boasts an amazing stone lacework.

The oldest church of Saumur, Notre-Dame-de-Nantilly dates from the 12th century and is renowned for its vast Romanesque vaulted nave.

The right wing was commissioned by King Louis XI.

One of the pillars is engraved with an epitaph of King René dedicated to his nurse Tiphaine.

The church was fully restored in 1850 and was dedicated to the Virgin Mary after the discovery of a statue dating from the 12th century.

It has a unique collection of tapestries and furniture dating from the 16th and 17th centuries.

The Eglise Notre-Dame-des-Ardilliers became a centre of pilgrimage at the beginning of the 17th when a farmer discovered a Pietà in a field nearby.

The huge church was built in 1614 in Counter-Reformation style.

It became Royal Chapel and House of the Oratory, the official seat of the Catholic Theological College.

The Fenet District surrounds the church and had long specialized in the manufacture of rosaries and religious medals, a cottage industry which disappeared in the first part of the 20th century.

Saumur, a prestigious military town

Saumur became famous when the Régiment Royal de Carabiniers moved to Saumur in 1763.


19th century architecture

The buildings of the garrison were built three years later.

Today they accommodate the Ecole d’Application de l’Armée Blindée et de Cavalerie (Armoured vehicles and Cavalry).

The Musée des Blindés (Tank Museum) exhibits equipment from twelve different countries.

It was extended in the former premises of the tobacco company Seita.

The Cadre Noir, a school that trains the best horsemen in the country, was founded in 1770 by the Comte de Choiseul, and was named after the black uniforms worn by the instructors.

In 1940, the 1200 Cadets du Régiment de Cavalerie de Saumur became war heroes when they sacrificed their lives to keep the advancing German troops between Gennes and Montsoreau.

The old Pont Napoleon was renamed Pont des Cadets in their honour.


Notre-Dame de Nantilly

Today the Cadre Noir is under the supervision of the Ecole Nationale d’Equitation (National Riding School) and has been based in St-Hilaire-St-Florent on the outskirts of Saumur since 1970.

The Musée de l’Ecole de Cavalerie (Museum of the Horse-Riding Academy) was founded in 1936.

It relates the history of the school and of the French cavalry since 1870.

The Carroussel is an annual show proposed by the Cadre Noir that takes place the last weekend of July.

It is organized by the Ministry of Youth and Sports and aims at the promotion and quality of French equestrian sports.

The arena can accommodate 1200 sitting spectators.

Western outskirts of Saumur

Saumur Vineyard stretches on the southern bank of the Loire.

Most wine cellars are located in St-Hilaire-St-Florent.


Saumur and Loire 19th century via Wikimedia Commons

The Mushroom Museum was established in an old limestone quarry.

The low level of humidity and constant temperatures (11°C to 14°C) which are found in underground galleries create ideal conditions for growing mushrooms.

The local industry was developed in the early 19th century and became a thriving industry.

There are over 1000km of underground galleries.

The 200 000 tonnes of Champignons de Paris or Psalliota Hortensis produced in the Saumur region represent 65% of the national production.

The visit of the city Saumur should take a couple of hours, but you have obviously to allow much more for the castle and various museums.

Coordinates and map for Saumur: Lat 47.260135 – Long -0.080893

Photo via Wikimedia Commons:  City-Hall  Attribution  Public Domain –   Notre-Dame-des-Ardilliers   Attribution  Public Domain –   Saumur and Loire River 19th century   Public Domain