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)
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.