Bishops Visit – France and More – Limoges and the Three Villages

Before going to bed we strolled through a very cold Limoges and viewed an old cathedral sized building which we believe has been transformed into a museum. The next morning in Limoges saw the weather changed to sunshine and light winds but the chill was still in the air. We took an early morning walk to the rail station waiting for the Bishops to arise. Warmer gear would be the order of the day.

Our plan was to visit three villages all part of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (The Most Beautiful Villages of France)- Collonge la Rouge, Curemonte and Turenne.

Collonges-la-Rouge is entirely built with red sandstone. Its existence is proven since the 8th century thanks to the donation of the count of Limoges of the parish to the monastery of Charroux. The village is actually where this association Les Plus Beaux Villages de France was created.

The Saint-Pierre church, dating from the 11th, 12th and 15th centuries, is one of the oldest of the Limousin region, and was fortified during the 16th-century French wars of religion. The whole church has been a historical monument since 4 April 1905.

The fortified wall of the village dates back to the 14th century. The doors of the ancient priory are listed as historical monuments.

Curemonte is a medieval village characterised by its three castles. In a fortified position on a ridge overlooking a valley on both its eastern and western flanks, the village has historically had a strategic importance in the area. When we drove into the village we were forced to park on a ridge opposite the village where we enjoyed a picnic lunch despite the chill wind. The day was glorious – mellow sunshine and clear blue skies illuminating this ancient stronghold. Walking through the village felt like a ghost town. I guess many of the residents are holiday visitors. The three towers are in private ownership and no visitors allowed. In the warmer months I suspect the place would be alive with tourists. I think we got to see the village at its best without the maddening throng.

 

Turenne is a medieval village and castle characterised by its height and unique position on top of a cliff. The first lords of Turenne appeared in the 9th century. The town became a veritable feudal state after the Crusades and one of the great fiefs of France in the 14th century.

Turenne has seen a succession of four families of Viscounts. On 8 June 1738, Turenne was sold to Louis XV to pay the gambling debts of Charles Godfrey, the last of the Viscounts of La Tour d’Auvergne family. Thus ended the quasi-independence of this last French stronghold. The Viscounty’s subjects became subjects of Louis XV and were forced to pay taxes. The king also ordered the dismantling of the fortress of Turenne. As of the Revolution, Turenne was more like a seat of a royal provost.

We had some difficulty working out how best to gain access as the village sprawls up the side of a steep slope. I eventually just drove up risking the wrath of the locals but there was no objections until I wanted to come down when the no entry signs just had to be ignored if I was ever going to get Thistle out of there. Half way up was an interesting church – another Notre Dame.

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The remains of the castle and there was not much was closed. However it was still magical wandering through the village and viewing the valleys below. I even found evidence of an abandoned archaeological dig in the basement of one of the houses.

After navigating our way out of Turenne, we happened upon an old 11th century church under repair. It is apparently built on Roman foundations and therefore of historic interest. But it was not open which did not foil one intrepid member of our group.

Throughout this trip Kerry was doing 90% of the driving with me navigating. The lovely sunshine was so out of the ordinary that the result was a severe headache for Kerry and an early night with take away lamb sandwiches.

Bishops Visit – France and More – Limoges and St Leonards de Noblat

Limoges is the capital of the Haute-Vienne department and the administrative capital of the Limousin région in west-central France. To reach this regional centre we had to drive through some of the prettiest of French countryside. After the wide green fields, scattered forests and freshly ploughed paddocks of Dampierre it was vastly different to be climbing through the Central Massif, its small villages and woodlands. We arrived in the middle of the day and our apartments are located in the centre of the city but no one told us that our neighbour was the Benedictine Rail Station (Gare de Limoges Bénédictins). This huge station had innumerable lines running through it and numerous passenger trains of up to 30 cars in length going all night.

The apartment was not immediately identifiable but when I did find it there was no reception just the number 13 and a key pad. Reviewing the email booking we found that we collected the keys from 13 A – down an alley between buildings in a shoe shop. Then we found that our host was not adept with English more so than we were not adept with French. After a lot of hand signals and repetition we worked out that our apartments were at the top of two flights of stairs and that we had been given bigger apartments at the same price.

The apartments were newly renovated and very large and stylish. However the timber floor had not been laid properly and it squeaked with every footstep. Apart from this annoying issue the apartments appeared luxurious. Settled in we took a trip to St. Leonards de Noblat. Saint-Léonard church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site part of the World Heritage Sites of the Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France. The day continued to be bitterly cold with gusting wind and barely noticeable snow flurries – Nerida and her prayers for snow.

The village itself was interesting with its many narrow streets and ancient buildings but it was too cold to continue exploring on foot. So I charted a return journey through the area north of Limoges and Tommy found every goat track known to man for this journey. It was pretty country side and pretty hair raising at times.

Kerry had sought assistance with directions to our apartment from the owner of a kebab shop a few doors from our apartment. He did not speak English – he is a Turkish Kurd so he spoke Turk, Kurd, and French but no English. A customer translated and although it did not help we decided to try his Lamb Sandwich for dinner. Well it was simple tasty wholesome food at very little cost. We returned again the following night.

After dinner Kerry and I took a walk through the city centre for so long as we could withstand the cold before retiring for the night.

Bishops Visit – France and More – Dampierre and Ancient Aulnay -de-Saintonge

However we had an important stop to make. We had to visit Aulnay and the Church of St Pierre d’ Aulnay and view the ancient tower.

 

Aulnay, commonly referred to as Aulnay-de-Saintonge, is a French commune in the Charente-Maritime department in the Poitou-Charentes region of south-western France. The Church of Saint-Pierre d’Aulnay (12th century) is reported by Wikipedia to be “One of the finest surviving Romanesque churches. It is also classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is unknown why the church was built so far from the town but it may be related to the site of an old cemetery along the Roman road. At the end of the 11th century the building that preceded it belonged to the Abbey of Saint-Cyprien in Poitiers who, around 1045, received part of the burial rights and wax offerings from the church as evidenced by a donation by Ranulfe Rabiole. Pierre II, Bishop of Poitiers, around 1100 confirmed the ownership of the church by the monastery and Pope Calixtus II followed his example in 1119. In 1135 however, the parish belonged to the Chapter of Poitiers Cathedral which retained its rights until the French Revolution. Papal bulls dated 1149 and 1157 list the Aulnay church in the list of properties of Canons who were calculating their costs. Numerous oriental influences can be seen in its designs. For example the first arc of the gate is inspired from Oriental designs. Designs of elephants also originate from Oriental designs. The Church contains several items that are registered as historical objects….”. For further information see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aulnay,_Charente-Maritime.

 

We were told this church is on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella, but apart from its obvious history we could not see evidence of the walk. So I went to Wikipedia and this is what it says ” They follow many routes (any path to Santiago is a pilgrim’s path) but the most popular route is Via Regia and its last part, the French Way (Camino Francés).” So I guess some pilgrims’ include it on their trip from Limoges (on the French Way see map at the follow link)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camino_de_Santiago_(route_descriptions)

The Viscounts of Aulnay (or Viscounts of Aunay) were descendants of other noble families in Poitou and Saintonge and lived in a castle which was demolished in 1818 but whose tower still remains. It is this tower near the town hall (Hotel de Ville) and its unusual coloured memorial to the soldiers of WW1 that we went to visit.

Part of the old Abbey remains but it now forms part of the centre of the village and a restaurant precinct where we had a slap up dinner as a thank you to our hosts that evening.