NEARBY VILLAGES AND TOWNS
Saint Chartres forms part of the historic commune of Moncontour, an elegant village of old French charm dominated by its 11th century Donjon. This regional treasure is famous for the Battle of Moncontour, which took place on 3 October 1569 between the Catholic forces of King Charles IX of France and the Huguenots. The fortress offered protection to the inhabitants of the surrounding hamlets and villages and some of the connecting underground tunnels still exist today.
The swimming lake of Moncontour offers a safe beach and play area as well as water sports and there are several old wash houses (lavoirs) to discover along the river Dive, which runs through the village. The Tourist Office offers extensive information on walking and cycling routes through the Divine Valley as well as events taking place throughout the summer.
6km (10 min) from Saint Chartres
The Abbey of Saint-Jouin-de-Marnes was named after the 4th-Century hermit Jovinus, who in 342 founded an oratory church in the settlement which was then called Ension. By the 10th Century the town was renamed Saint Jouin in tribute to its founder and the abbey was one of the most powerful in the Poitou and possessed 127 daughter churches.
This beautifully proportioned Romanesque church dominates the surrounding countryside from its elevated position and inside you will find a wealth of historic features: a majestic chancel, beautiful oak stalls and an eagle-shaped lectern from the 17th Century. The Poitou region of France was one of the centres of Romanesque church-building and features many spectacular churches - of which the Abbey of Saint-Jouin-de-Marnes is a decided masterpiece.
7km (10 min) from Saint Chartres
Airvault was built along the borders of the river Thouet and still has two Romanesque bridges leading into the town and an underground fountain which is located under the square in front of the church. Lovely timber-framed houses border the narrow medieval streets surrounding the church and there is a weekly market in Les Halles, a 40 meters long exposed oak frame building dating from the end of the Middle Ages.
François-Marie Arouet might have chosen his pen name Voltaire by inverting the syllables of the word Airvault. It is a largely unsubstantiated fact but one of Voltaire's parents allegedly owned property in nearby St. Loup (see below).
11km (14 min) from Saint Chartres
The town of Saint-Loup, built on the banks of the river Thouet, originates from the end of the 11th century. The Chateau de St. Loup was built during the 17th century by the Gouffiers, one of the most influential families in Poitou, who also built Château d'Oiron. The 17th and 18th Century half-timbered houses along the picturesque cobbles main street were built by St. Loup's weavers and tanners amongst whom are the Arouet family, the ancestors of Voltaire, whose house known as "La Grande Tannerie" in the main street still preserves the remains of the masonry pits used to treat the skins.
20km (25 min) from Saint Chartres
Handsome Château Oiron was built during the 16th and 17th Centuries by the seigneurial family of Claude Gouffiers, a humanist and connoisseur of contemporary art, who was master of the riding stables of King Henry II of France.
We love the château's magnificent architecture. The building and its art collection also aim to create a social role for its human environment through a portrait gallery featuring images of children from Oiron school and by organising an annual dinner for 150 local residents - which we think is a rather nice thing to do!
15km (15 min) from Saint Chartres
The fortified town of Parthenay, on the medieval pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, was built in a meander of the river Thouet. Enter the lovely town on the north side over the Pont Saint-Jacques and through the Porte Saint-Jacques. Continuing through the narrow Rue de la Vau Saint-Jacques, you will discover the most beautifully preserved half-timbered medieval houses. A little further uphill you arrive in the ancient town centre from where you have wide sweeping views over the medieval town on one side and the river Thouet and adjacent countryside on the other side. There are plenty of fascinating historic details to be found everywhere so do go; we're sure you'll enjoy your stroll!
31km (40 min) from Saint Chartres
The awesome history and profound serenity of the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud renders you silent. This huge abbey, the largest in Europe, is home to the tombs of Henri II, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine and their son Richard the Lionheart.
Created by an eccentric monk almost ten centuries ago, the place has been home to a diverse range of simultaneously male and female inhabitants - from royalty, monks, nuns and lay sisters to lepers, prostitutes and prisoners. During its turbulent past the Abbey has seen it all.
Do go and discover this fascinating, beautiful site. It will impress and remain with you for a long time!
45km (40 min) from Saint Chartres