Saint-Calais is a city of Sarthe, Pays de la Loire region, 40 kilometers south-east of Le Mans, on the borders of Loir-et-Cher.
The municipality is located southeast of Maine's natural and historic region.
Saint-Calais which today has nearly 3,500 inhabitants was born in the sixth century after the establishment of a monastery that will become one of the most important Benedictine centers of the Middle Ages. There are 300 monks guarding more than 200,000 hectares of land.
The small town that crosses the Anille, a sub-tributary of the Loire, is still developing in the ninth century when a feudal mound is built on the heights of the territory, transformed into a castle in the twelfth, as if to compete with the monastic power.
However, the Hundred Years and Religion wars affect the prosperity of the monastery as the small city before small industrial units (weaving) complement the agricultural and commercial activity of the small town.
The castle is dismantled under Richelieu, then the Revolution leads to the decline of the abbey. However, in the nineteenth century important urban developments restore its luster to the locality.
The richness of its heritage, the quality of its environment and its associative and cultural dynamism make Saint-Calais, labeled "small city of character" and member of the Perche Sarthe which has the label of Country of art of history, a stage of choice. Especially when there is celebrated the apple slipper whose commune prides itself on being the capital!
Several elements of built historical heritage must mark a discovery route of the small city.
This is the case of the grain hall built in tufa stone and brick in the nineteenth century. Its plan and its four turrets reflect the architecture of the castles of the Loire. It was built on the site of the abbey church, whose fifteenth century frame was reused.
To see next, the Notre-Dame church composed of a nave resting on a straight wall pierced by an ogival window, flanked by aisles at the end of one of which stands the bell tower of 58 m. The four upper bays are from the 15th century. The church being too small at the end of the 15th century, it was extended by three bays. The Renaissance façade and its 16th century carved door depicting four scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary are worthy of note.
The ruins of the castle dating from the 12th century also deserve a step: we still distinguish the dungeon and the remains of another tower.
Along the Anille, visitors will still see many wash houses. The river also fed the tanneries and mills. A canal was built in 1797 to avoid floods and walks on the docks were highlighted in the early nineteenth century, punctuated with small brick pavilions for leisure use.
The court built in a neo-classical tufa stone style inaugurated in 1843 to replace the courtroom installed in the old church is also worth a look.
We will continue the journey in the small city of character with its charm by its amazing "museum-library", inaugurated in 1889 by Charles Garnier, the architect of the Paris Opera native of the locality. The building was intended to house the town hall, and a museum-library allowing the public to apprehend the history of art, local history and natural sciences...
The ensemble is still visited and includes the natural history cabinet of Elie Cottereau, a taxidermy and botanical enthusiast, and Gigault de la Bedollière's travel agency, a naval officer who bequeathed a rich collection of trophies. and colonial products from Asia, West Africa and the Americas. To see also in these places, a precious cloth called "Shroud of Saint-Calais" having enveloped the relics of Carilephus, founder of the abbey. Finally, in the former home of the abbey, was installed from the beginning, in 1889, the great room of the heritage library. More than 10,000 old volumes are kept there. Open Wednesdays from 10h to 12h30 and 15h to 18h30 and the first Saturday of the month from 10h to 12h30. Free entry. Information on +33 2 43 35 63 03.
The old center and the heritage sites of the city are connected by a marked pedestrian circuit. Information on +33 2 43 35 82 95.
We can take advantage of this walk to make a stop in the three public parks, walking and botanical areas of quality: the Jean Moulin Park, the conservatory garden and the promenade of Urca.
It is also possible to consider larger hikes, on foot or by mountain bike, including the city center as the plots still agrarian territory. Documentation and information on +33 2 43 35 82 95.
These circuits will include for the most part Saint-Calais lake and its leisure center. All year round, pétanque courts, mini-golf, games for children and picnic areas are available. You can go around the lake on foot or by bike.
In July and August, rental of kayaks, paddle boats or paddle boards. Information on +33 6 86 77 48 91 or +33 2 43 63 00 54.
For swimming, however, we will choose the municipal swimming pool (boulevard Dr Gigon), discovered in summer, the access is free. Information on +33 2 43 35 03 54.
Culture side finally, note that the media library houses a multimedia point and offers entertainment for young children (contact +33 2 43 35 35 03) and that exhibitions and quality shows are offered at the cultural center (tel: +33 2 43 35 63 03) and the MJC Manu Dibango (tel: +33 2 43 35 20 05).
End of May, fair exhibition: commercial and musical animations.
At the end of June, over two days, Saint-Calais hosts a famous international triathlon (combining swimming, running and cycling).
The first Sunday of July, on the shores of the lake, outdoor market with local products and fun and musical entertainment in parallel.
The first Sunday of September, Saint-Calais celebrates the apple slipper. The tradition goes back to 1630, when experienced by an epidemic, the population received from its chatelaine apples and flour that we cooked in the form of apple slippers! On the program: shows dedicated to street arts, exhibitions, craft market, gourmet entertainment on the theme of apple slippers, fireworks... Information +33 2 43 35 63 03.
Finally, every Thursday morning, under the halls, a market is held which allows to appreciate the riches of the soil, which is also the subject of a Sunday market reserved for local producers.