Pontlevoy

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Pontlevoy
Pontlevoy is located in France
Pontlevoy
Pontlevoy
Coordinates: 47°23′23″N 1°15′16″E / 47.3897°N 1.2544°E / 47.3897; 1.2544Coordinates: 47°23′23″N 1°15′16″E / 47.3897°N 1.2544°E / 47.3897; 1.2544
Country France
Region Centre
Department Loir-et-Cher
Arrondissement Blois
Canton Montrichard
Intercommunality Communauté de communes du Cher à la Loire
Government
 • Mayor Xavier de BODARD
Area1 51.12 km2 (19.74 sq mi)
Population (1999)2 1,460
 • Density 29/km2 (74/sq mi)
INSEE/Postal code 41180 / 41400
Elevation 77–137 m (253–449 ft)
(avg. 99 m or 325 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.

Geography[edit]

Pontlevoy is a commune in the Loir-et-Cher department of central France.

The village of Pontlevoy is 14 miles southwest of Blois, in the department of Loir-et-Cher, the eastern part of Touraine. It is a 20 minute drive from the chateaux of Amboise, Cheverny, Chaumont or Chenonceau, and about an hour's drive from Azay-le-Rideau, Loches or Chambord. The summer is their tourist season. The French spoken in Touraine is said to be the purest in the country.[1] The medieval battle of Pontlevoy took place in its neighbourhood.

History[edit]

Pontlevoy's main street, the Rue du Colonel Filloux, named after the colonel who is identified on the sign as a Humaniste et Technicien (1869-1957). Colonel Filloux perfected the 155-millimeter howitzer for the French army.[2]

Most of the shops and houses were built between the 15th and 19th centuries. The architectural detail makes Pontlevoy charming: a crouching monkey carved in limestone on the cornice of a building on the Rue des Singes (Monkey Street), a sun over the doorway of the 17th-century Maison du Dauphin. According to legend, Louis XIV's grandson stayed there overnight.[3]

The Rue de la Juiverie is the only remnant of the ancient Jewish community of Pontlevoy. Touraine was settled by Jews and Romans until their persecution and eventual expulsion from the region in 1306 caused by anti-Semitism.[4]

Pontlevoy's abbey made the town an important commercial and cultural center. A local knight named Gelduin de Chaumont founded it in 1034 to fulfill a vow. It is believed that Gelduin's boat was caught in a storm on the way back from a Crusade in the Holy Land. He prayed to the Virgin for help, promising to build Her a church in Pontlevoy, which he held as a vassal of the Count of Blois. Allegedly, the Virgin dressed in white, appeared above the rolling deck and calmed the sea.[5]

Geldiun endowed the abbey with enough revenue for Benedictine monks to build a huge church, dedicated to the White Virgin. From the east, it looks like a complete Gothic cathedral with flying buttresses and trefoil stone tracery in the windows of the radiating chapels. There is a gravel courtyard where it the nave should be.[6]

The church was almost completely destroyed during the Hundred Years' War. The monks rebuilt the apse and choir but couldn't afford to replace the rest. Inside, on the wall behind the altar, there is a little 11th-century statue of the White Virgin with her Child in her arms. The child leans against her left shoulder. She presses his left hand to her heart. The naif style indicates it was done by a local mason rather than a professional sculptor. The monks ran a hospital here, with a sanctuary for lepers, until the 16th century. But by 1623, when Cardinal Richelieu was named abbot, the monks had abandoned their vows and the buildings were in ruins.[7]

Richelieu repaired them and brought in six Benedictine monks from St. Maur. They started a seminary for the sons of the nobility and the rich bourgeoisie. Students came even from England. In 1776, Louis XVI turned the school into one of the 12 royal military academies of France; a huge cedar of Lebanon in the courtyard was planted in honor of his accession to the throne.[8]

In the 19th century after The Revolution, the college became a private, secular institution, proud of its conservative tradition producing famous scholars, provincial officials, priests and soldiers. It was a boarding school; some families moved to Pontlevoy to be near their sons. They built large, elegant houses with steep, slate roofs, walled gardens and spiked wrought-iron fences that still grace the town. The huge 18th-century building - three stories high with a mansard roof - resembles those government ministry buildings around the Palais Bourbon in Paris. The college closed for a period of time after the Second World War.[9]

The previous owner of the abbey and the college was the Marquis du Vibraye, a descendant of Gelduin, allowed Pontlevoy to open a municipal museum on the third floor. The first two rooms displayed a collection of 19th- and early 20th- century cards advertising Poulain Chocolates. The company, founded by Auguste Poulain, who was born in Pontlevoy in 1815, is still a major manufacturer in Blois. Poulain was a pioneer of modern advertising. Each year his company issued a new series of brightly colored cards commemorating notable men (including Benjamin Franklin) with flowers and illustrations of fairy tales. They were collected and traded throughout Touraine in the 19th century.[10]

Between 1902 and 1963, Louis Clergeau, a local watchmaker, and his daughter took more than 10,000 photographs of life in Pontlevoy. The museum also highlighted their work. The Clergeau collection is as remarkable a picture of French life as the work of the photographer Jacques H. Lartigue. In the 1980s there was a Museum of Heavy Trucks at the Abbey which was a project of the former mayor, Mr. Maffre. It included about 40 vehicles. Mr. Maffre's pride: a 1935 electric delivery van from the Poulain factory; a Deux Dion Bouton, from 1918, the oldest truck in the collection, and an American G.M.C. used by the Swiss army in 1942.[11]

Pontlevoy is about five miles from the Cher River, which up to November 1942 was the dividing line between occupied and unoccupied France. Pontlevoy was occupied, many refugees were hidden there.[12]

Pontlevoy's memorial to all its dead from World War I and II is behind a green iron fence on the Route de Montrichard, On the four sides of the monument are the names of 81 men, listed year by year, who were killed in 1914-18 and 10 others, who died in 1939-45. In World War I Pontlevoy lost about 10 percent of its population.[13]

On the corner of the Avenue Malingie and the Route de Montrichard, Pontlevoy has erected a small concrete cenotaph commemorating its martyrs and victims of Nazism from 1939 to 45.[14]

See also[edit]