Chinon

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Chinon
Château Chinon.JPG
Coat of arms of Chinon
Coat of arms
Chinon is located in France
Chinon
Chinon
Coordinates: 47°10′04″N 0°14′37″E / 47.1678°N 0.2436°E / 47.1678; 0.2436Coordinates: 47°10′04″N 0°14′37″E / 47.1678°N 0.2436°E / 47.1678; 0.2436
Country France
Region Centre
Department Indre-et-Loire
Arrondissement Chinon
Canton Chinon
Government
 • Mayor (2006–2008) Jean-Pierre Duvergne
Area
 • Land1 39.02 km2 (15.07 sq mi)
Population (2009)
 • Population2 7,986
 • 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.

Chinon is a commune in the Indre-et-Loire department in central France well known for the Château de Chinon, a medieval castle which at times served as the residence of the kings of France and England.

History[edit]

The settlement of Chinon is on the bank of the Vienne river about 10 kilometres (6 mi) from where it joins the Loire. From prehistoric times, when the settlement of Chinon originated,[1] rivers formed the major trade routes,[2] and the Vienne joins the fertile southern plains of the Poitou and the city of Limoges to the thoroughfare of the Loire.[3] The site was fortified early on, and by the 5th century a Gallo-Roman castrum had been established.[4]

Towards the end of the 4th century, a follower of St Martin, St Mexme, established first a hermitage, and then a monastery on the eastern slope of the town. This foundation flourished throughout Middle Ages, being rebuilt and extended four times. The eventual complex contained a large and highly decorated church, a cloister and a square of canons' residences. Huguenot damage in the sixteenth century followed by closure and partial demolition during the Revolution of 1789 and onwards has left only a much-damaged façade, and part of the nave, although the building has now been restored as a cultural centre.

In the Middle Ages, Chinon developed especially during the reign of Henry II (Henry Plantagenêt, Count of Anjou, crowned King of England in 1154). The castle was rebuilt and extended, becoming one of his favourite residences. It was where court was frequently held during the Angevin Empire.

Chinon was included in the French royal estates in 1205. It was during the Hundred Years' War that the town took on a new lease of life, as the heir apparent, the future Charles VII of France, had sought refuge in 1418 in the province. The town remained faithful to him and he made lengthy stays at his court in Chinon. In 1429, Joan of Arc came here to acknowledge him.

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. Changes occurred after the Revolution, during the nineteenth century : the fortifications were pulled down in the 1820s, and the banks of the Vienne were developed to open the city 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.

Geography[edit]

Chinon is located in the heart of the Val de Loire area, within the Vallée de la Vienne (Vienne River valley). It is situated on the banks of the Vienne River.

The importance of Chinon derives from its position on the bank of the Vienne river in Chinon, France just before it joins the Loire. From prehistoric times, the rivers of France formed the major trade routes, and the Vienne joins the fertile southern plains of the Poitou and the city of Limoges to the thoroughfare of the Loire, thus giving access to the sea at the port of Nantes on the western coast, and to the Île-de-France in the east. Chinon offers an easy crossing point by means of a central island in the Vienne, and the rocks dominating the shore provided not only a natural fort, but also protection against the annual flooding of the river

Wine[edit]

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.

Monuments[edit]

Collegiate church of Saint-Mexme[edit]

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.

Chapelle Sainte-Radegonde[edit]

Chasse royale, fresque de la chapelle Sainte-Radegonde

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.

Personalities[edit]

Media[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Pérouse de Montclos, Jean-Marie (1997), Châteaux of the Loire Valley, Könemann, p. 178, ISBN 978-3-89508-598-7 
  2. ^ Clark, J. G. D. (1952), Prehistoric Europe: the economic basis, Stanford University Press, p. 282 
  3. ^ Garrett, Martin (2011), The Loire: A Cultural History, Oxford University Press, p. xv, ISBN 978-0-19-976839-4 
  4. ^ Wheeler, Daniel (1983), The Chateaux of France, Vendome Press, p. 14, ISBN 978-0-86565-036-7 

External links[edit]