|• Mayor (2006–2008)||Jean-Pierre Duvergne|
|• Land1||39.02 km2 (15.07 sq mi)|
|• Population2 density||200/km2 (530/sq mi)|
|INSEE/Postal code||37072 / 37500|
|Elevation||27–112 m (89–367 ft)
(avg. 37 m or 121 ft)
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.
It is well known for its wines as well as its castle (the Château de Chinon) and historic town. Chinon played an important and strategic role during the Middle Ages, having served both French and English kings.
Chinon is in the Loire valley, registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.
The historic town of Chinon is on the banks of the Vienne river about 10 kilometres (6 mi) (6 miles) from where it joins the Loire. Settlement in Chinon dates from prehistoric times, with a pronounced importance for both French and English history in the Middle Ages. At this period rivers were the main trade routes, and the Vienne River joins both the fertile regions of the Poitou and the city of Limoges, and is a tributary of the Loire, which acted as a traffic thoroughfare. The site was fortified early on, and by the 5th century a Gallo-Roman castrum had been established there.
Towards the mid 5th century, a disciple of St Martin, St Mexme, established first a hermitage, and then a monastery to the east of the town. This religious foundation bearing his name flourished in the medieval period, being rebuilt and extended four times. The eventual complex contained a large and highly decorated church and a square of canons' residences. Closure and partial demolition during and after the Revolution of 1789 have damaged this once very important church. The imposing second façade still stands, with its nave dating from the year 1000 A.D. Its important remains have been restored as historical monument and a cultural centre.
During the Middle Ages, Chinon further developed, especially under Henry II (Henry Plantagenêt, Count of Anjou, and crowned King of England in 1154). The castle was rebuilt and extended, becoming his administrative center and a favourite residence. It was where court was frequently held during the Angevin Empire.
On Henry's death at the castle in 1189, Chinon first passed to his eldest surviving son from his marriage with Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard I the Lionheart. On Richard's death in 1199, it then passed to the youngest of their children, John Lackland. King John would lose the castle in a siege in 1205 to the French king Philip II Augustus, from which date it was included in the French royal estates.
The castle in Chinon served as a prison for a time when Philip IV the Fair ordered the Knights Templar arrested in 1307. Incarcerate there were Jacques de Molay, Grand Master, and a few other dignitaries of the Order of the Temple, before their trial and eventual execution.
Chinon again played a significant role in the struggle for the throne between the French and the English during the Hundred Years' War (1337-1453) when the heir apparent, the future Charles VII of France sought refuge and installed his court in there in 1425. The province remained faithful to him and he made lengthy stays with his court there. In 1429, Joan of Arc came to Chinon to meet and to acknowledge him as the rightful heir to the throne. With the men and arms accorded to her, she would go on to break the siege of Orleans and open the way for Charles to be crowned. This meeting is the turning point of the war, helping to establish both firmer national boundaries and sentiment.
Chinon also served Louis XII as he waited for the papal legate Caesar Borgia to bring the annulment papers from Jeanne de France, enabling him to marry Ann of Brittany in 1498, and thus solidify an even more coherent French territory
At the end of the 15th century, the commune of Chinon was the birthplace of the writer, humanist, philosopher and satirist François Rabelais, author of Gargantua and Pantagruel amongst other works, which figure in the canon of great world literature. The region is the scene of these fantastic, critical and observant adventures.
From the sixteenth century, Chinon was no longer a royal residence, and in 1631 it became part of the estates of the Duke of Richelieu, who neglected the fortress. Apart from townhouses and convents that were built, the city changed little up to the Revolution. In the 1820s, however, the fortifications were pulled down and the banks of the Vienne River were opened up to the outside.
In the late 19th and 20th centuries, Chinon grew to the east, towards the railway station, and to the north on the hill. The historic centre was registered as a conservation area in 1968, and since that time has been undergoing restoration in order to respect and preserve its historic, natural and architectural identity.
Chinon is located in the heart of the Val de Loire, 47 km (29 miles) southwest of Tours and 305 km (189 miles) south west of Paris. It extends on both the banks of the Vienne River, with the historic town mainly on the northern bank, at the foot of the medieval castle.
Chinon's importance derives in great part from its geographical position, located on the Vienne river just before it joins the Loire. From prehistoric times, rivers acted as the principal trade routes, and the Vienne not only joins the fertile southern plains of the Poitou and the city of Limoges, but joining the Loire, gives access to both the seaport in Nantes and the Île-de-France Paris region, thus providing not only a natural protective barrier, but a source of wealth.
The natural rocky outcrop that dominates the northern bank provides not only a natural fort and defensive position; it also acts as protection from flooding.
Carved into the banks of the Vienne River, and open to public visits, are the caves, or wine cellars, for Chinon's well-known Cabernet Franc-based red wines.
Collegiate church of Saint-Mexme
It was the main religious building up to the Revolution, when it was deconsecrated ; then the church partly collapsed in 1817. The remaining romanesque, timber-framed nave (1000 A.D.) is characterized by horizontal lines : rows of large arcades and a series of high windows, topped by a carved string course. Inside it now houses a small theater which has been used since 2002 for musical and theatrical events between May and October. Remains of richly painted decorations can still be seen under the upper windows and below some arcades on the north side.
The façade comprises a narthex (circa 1050) flanked by two side-towers, partly rebuilt in the 15th century. Il was richly decorated with carved stones depicting figurative scenes, but was mutilated during the Revolution : only decorative interlacing and plant motifs can still be seen. Inside, the narthex is covered by a large semi-circular arched vault, and its walls contain blind arcades. In the south chapel, 15th century paintings have been preserved, notably a large Last Judgement. A fine 18th century staircase leads from the narthex to the first floor : the upper gallery has paintings from the beginning of the 13th century. Since 2006 the openings have been embellished with stained-glass windows designed by the painter Olivier Debré. They provide an unbroken view of the surrounding landscape.
Around the collegiate church are several former canonical residences, dating from the Ancien Régime.
Sainte-Radegonde is a chapel half built into the rock-face outside the town. During Antiquity, an underground natural spring at the back of the current chapel was a site of pagan worship. The site was Christianized in the 6th century when Radegonde came to visit a hermit called John who lived there ; the name of the sanctuary comes from this event.
Two naves were created in the 12th century, one carved directly out of the rock, and the other built. Some paintings were made, among which the "Royal Hunt", depicting five riders, two with crowns, another one holding a falcon on his wrist.It is possible that this painting depicts members of the Plantagenet family who often stayed at Chinon in the second half of the 12th century ; the crowned figures could be Henry II and Eleanor, or Henry the Younger, their eldest son who was also crowned in 1170 during his father's lifetime. In addition to its subject matter, this painting is of outstanding quality in its execution, its vivacity and the variety of colours.
Other paintings, depicting the story of Sainte Radegonde and Saint John, were made during the 17th century.
The chapel was deconsecrated following the Revolution and used as dwelling places. In 1878, it was bought and restored as a sanctuary by a benefactress of Chinon, Madame Charre.
- François Rabelais, (c. 1493–1553), was a major French Renaissance writer, doctor and humanist
- Paul Lelaud, member of The French Resistance, My Story: Spy Smuggler
- Chinon Castle in 1183 is the setting for the play and film The Lion in Winter.
- French wine
- Loire Valley (wine)
- The Chinon Parchment is a historical document, published by Étienne Baluze in Vitae Paparum Avenionensis ("Lives of the Popes of Avignon"), Paris, 1693.
- List of castles in France
- Pérouse de Montclos, Jean-Marie (1997), Châteaux of the Loire Valley, Könemann, p. 178, ISBN 978-3-89508-598-7
- Clark, J. G. D. (1952), Prehistoric Europe: the economic basis, Stanford University Press, p. 282
- Garrett, Martin (2011), The Loire: A Cultural History, Oxford University Press, p. xv, ISBN 978-0-19-976839-4
- Wheeler, Daniel (1983), The Chateaux of France, Vendome Press, p. 14, ISBN 978-0-86565-036-7
- Saint-Mexme de Chinon, CTHS Editions, 2006
- Martin Aurell, The Plantagenet Empire
- Regine Pernoud, Joan of Arc : By Herself and Her Witnesses
- Frederic J. Baumgartner, Louis XII.
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