Surgères, City of dairy industry, is equidistant from Niort, La Rochelle, Rochefort and Saint-Jean d'Angely, and about 30 km from the Atlantic Ocean.
Leading sports towns with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants, it specializes in rugby, and organizes annual "Walking 48", great racing background of international renown.
At the heart of downtown, the medieval walls of Surgères, home to the Romanesque church of Notre Dame Surgères, will welcome you and guide you in the footsteps of Ronsard and Helen of Fonseque. With or without a guide, you will discover one of the finest examples of religious architecture of Aunis and Saintonge, a facade rich in mystery and a crypt with frescoes dating from the 16th century were discovered during work.
Feel free to walk along the wall: you will discover the latest towers and gates of the old prisons ...
The park encourages walk and stroll ... The chestnut trees all have a story to tell, listen to the whisper of the leaves and you'll see maybe a few secrets ...
The door is decorated with Renaissance emblems of the old families of the city, behind it stands the last medieval tower, lonely tower, called "Tour Helene" in honor of Helen of Fonseque.
City Hall is housed in the former mansion of the 18th century. Along the Ceres, facing the moat and walls, a recreation area will allow you to lunch in the shade of chestnut.
Visit the castle.
Route discovery Surgères:
First step: Feudal La Motte:
This is probably in the late ninth century that the site Surgères really began to make history. From the far North, the Vikings spread terror and ruin on the west coast of Gaul to 843. Given the lack of central power, Ranou 2, Count of Poitiers, took the title of Duke of Aquitaine to defend its own land of the invader. Thus in this remote place in the bottom of golf Pictons, near a small village called St. Pierre, he will choose to build a fortress. The Saint Pierre is now the one that surrounds the church. The small garrison moved here to stop the onslaught of looters Norman will become, over the years, a veritable fortified camp called "Castrum surgeriacum". For many years the land Surgères were guarded by soldiers to the charge of the Counts of Poitou, in order to protect plunder. The mound to where we are has also been high in the Middle Ages to protect and monitor this land that was devoid of highlights. It was a feudal Motte 6 to 10 m in height, on which was most often built a castle or a tower. She was surrounded by a wide gap to make it even more inaccessible and thus strengthen its protection. This mound was usually flanked by a semicircular enclosure forming a yard where the homes were made lords.
Go around the left and find an arcade originally owned by the church and down the road opposite the Tour Helena.
Second step: The Tower Helena:
The isolated tower that can be seen to stand here before us, has recently received the name "Helen Tower" in honor of Helen of Fonseque, Surgères lady and muse of Ronsard. Daughter of Rene de Fonseque, Lord Surgères, Helen was strong intelligent often frequented the salon of the Marschallin de Retz which gathered all the poets of the era including Ronsard. He was immediately attracted by his spirit rather than by its rare beauty, made her his muse and wrote for her the "Sonnet to Helena." But Helen had lost her fiance in the war drove the passionate outbursts of the poet and became Girl Demoiselle Catherine de Medici. On the death of the latter, Helen decided to return to Surgères with his brother, the Lord again, where she founded a hospice. She died here, January 15, 1618, at the age of 72.
The trick here is only a vestige of the large stone castle that was built during the 12th century. At that time, the line of the Lords of Surgères is rich and powerful, and as in many places, the fragile and dilapidated wooden tower was quickly replaced by a home which will extend from the tower to the wall Helena in the garden.
The castle was flanked by eight towers all similar to this one. The first lords to live in this home were the Maingot, representative of the Counts of Poitiers Surgères, and who later became owners through the kindness of Eleanor of Aquitaine. And became one of the largest families of French chivalry, the Maingot played an important political role throughout their rule.
Go towards the church.
Step Three: The Romanesque church of Notre Dame Surgères:
The churches of Aquitaine, especially those counties and baronneries of the seaboard, are like the people who live there. In Aunis and Saintonge, they are often calm and serene, firmly rooted to the ground, always open and welcoming, often small, richly decorated, but without ostentation. Our Lady of Surgères is the number thereof. Assigned at the request of the Lords of Surgères at renowned works of the masters, the monks of the Abbey of Vendôme, this is nevertheless a multitude of local workers who is mistress of the site. The facade itself constitutes the traditional stereotype of Roman art, which, though rebuilt many times, still remains one of the finest examples of Aunis and Saintonge. The date is not easy but the quality of the sculptures willingly thinking in the 12th century: The first register is composed of a central doorway flanked by three blind arches, except the second to the left of the main entrance, which serves TODAY 'Today a secondary entry. The second register can be seen that this symmetry is broken by the decay of arches: this apparent discrepancy seems due to creative freedom of the supervisor. The pediment is plain, without decoration. Note that the decoration is everywhere on this front: there are sculptures in high relief for the most part, capitals, cornices and arches. This decoration was not purely an aesthetic, but also educational. Indeed, only people from the bourgeoisie and the nobility could read and had the right to religious education, so it was through these sculptures that villagers could learn about religion, differentiate right from wrong, Hell of Heaven. On some churches can be also discovered whole scenes from the Bible such as the Crucifixion, the Last Judgment ... Here we have little biblical representations, but many legendary figures, foliage, fantastic or monstrous animals, most often symbols of evil, pushed out of the sanctuary. It should be noted among them, including the corbels, the distorted face of women, representation of original sin and temptation. Geometric shapes were also often used in church decoration, here they are found on the arches. The second register you can admire two splendid high reliefs flanking the central bay. Their state of degradation makes their identification difficult, but we will see, however, on the left, "Christ's victory entering the left hand of God in Jerusalem" and right "Constantine, treading the Pagan at the foot of his horse." Originally, you could see six statues in the niches rise arches of the first register. There remains more than two, one representing "Christ Blessing" and the other, "the fight of Samson and the Lion".
Inside: As you can see inside, unlike the facade is stripped to excess, symbolizing serenity of the place and the Pays d'Aunis. We perceive some sculptures on the capitals of cruciform pillars that support the central nave. The sanctuary, behind the altar consists of a vault ass oven was originally lit by two large windows. This shrine is decorated with these relatively small columns, their capitals and their acanthus high reliefs depicting two dogs diabolical. The capitals of the central bay reflected the anguish of the medieval world: the duality between heaven and hell, between good and evil. While on the left, two demons are a man bound hand into the flames of Hell, thus symbolizing the sin and punishment, right, two angels, kidnap a naked man carrying the scales of judgment, witness good deeds.
Down in the crypt.
The Crypt: This crypt was built here after the construction of the church, running the 12th century, and thus begat the raised sanctuary. Here it is built around a central pillar and arches house some modest 16th century fresco. A staircase gives access to two graves located under the pavement, one of them might be that of Helen of Fonseque.
Exit the crypt and the church through the side door.
The head of the church: the foothills and gutter walls of Romanesque churches are very thick and sturdy but mostly devoid of decoration. Here we can only see a border of stars, interlacing, acanthus leaves and animals on the capitals and some Jacques scallops on the sidewalls, thus confirming the passage of pilgrims to Compostela. The apse is not original. Originally framed by two Romanesque chapels destroyed in the 14th century, today it is flanked by two Gothic chapels and two chapels. It is therefore interesting now that its central apse composed of five bays, three of which are still visible and the modillion cornice is richly carved in the image of the facade.
The tower: the tower is at the crossing. It is an octagonal tower consists of 16 columns, beams of about 10 m high.
Step Four: The entrance porch:
The fortifications, which develop according to an elliptical shape along a length of 600 m were built in the 12th century following the construction of the medieval castle. Initially composed of about twenty laps, it was rebuilt many times as a result of various wars. The enclosure was surrounded by a moat wide and deep, put in water by the diversion of Ceres. The main access road to the castle was then formed by the front porch where we are.
La Porte Cochere was flanked by a double drawbridge of which remain today where the cells came to stay vertical beams lifting aprons of two parts of the bridge. At left, a small bridge was connected to the pedestrian entrance. This entrance is now walled up, but still has its door to large nails probably dating from the 16th century.
Above the doorway, a rectangular frame bears the Latin inscription "Charles de Fonseque, Baron Surgères, firmly establishes these walls leveled to the ground and fallen in decay - 1576 year of piety", and below the cartridge, "fourth civil war." This allows us to date its last reconstruction of the era of religious wars. Above the porch is installed a guard, itself topped by a hipped roof of slate.
Crossing the porch.
You can see at right guard, a small walled door that opens onto the remains of a walkway.
To the left of the doorway, had three small doors give access to the dungeons, and an external staircase to access the room from the guard.
Step Five: The Renaissance door:
It's a beautiful building that was made in the 17th century, but the decoration is borrowed in the previous century. This door was intended to mark the entry of the private domain of the castle. Originally there was only one doorway arched door and a trample, also semicircular, on his right. The reconstruction of the left gate, designed to complete the symmetry of the whole, is much more recent.
The fluted columns, the staples with acanthus leaves, the molded arches, palmettes cornices, rosettes, triglyphs and skulls of cattle adorned with tasselled cords of the entablature, all these elements constitute the elegant decoration that is this bears his name. The pinnacle, adorned with a large rectangular frame, an oval shield surmounted by a lion's head and recessed clusters of fruit and flowers, is a heavier bill, more reminiscent of the 17th century. Above the doors are painted, left, the arms of Maingot who were the first lords of Surgères, during four centuries, and, right, the arms of De La Rochefoucauld, who were lords of Surgères the 17th and 18th century even some time after the revolution. Beautiful ironwork grilles complement the Renaissance door.
Step Six: The stately home - the City Council:
What is the town hall of the castle today is the beginning of the 18th century, sold to the city in 1856 by the widow of Baron Coupe, last owner of the Castle and its dependencies.
This castle was built by François de la Rochefoucauld, younger son of Charles Francis, Marquis of Surgères, who had bought his parents of the Baronnerie Surgères. It replaced the "evil dungeon roomy" mentioned a manuscript quoted by the engineer Mass in 1703. At the time of construction, it was a rectangular house, with thick walls. Built with stones from the old castle, it includes three main apartments opening onto the gardens to the south, with large patio doors to double doors. The centerpiece, wedding hall today, is adorned with beautiful woodwork Renaissance. North, a beautiful stone staircase leads upstairs to three beautiful rooms with many windows. The two pavilions that give the building a horseshoe plan were added later. The roofs are covered with slate. The whole maintains a very simple, almost severe, but not without elegance.
The castle was accompanied by a delivery that can be seen behind the church, which were stored on the ground floor, carts, and upstairs, the grain.