Between Tours and Saumur, let's explore Chinon in Indre-et-Loire. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the town enjoys an ideal location at the heart of the Loire Valley. The character of this ancient medieval town is alive and well in its old town and its castle. Strolling through the narrow streets of Chinon is like taking a trip back in time with its pretty half-timbered houses and old dwellings. Among them are the Red House (Maison Rouge), one of the oldest in the city, the former Bailiwick's Palace and the Hôtel des Etats Généraux, a mansion now housing the Museum of Old Chinon. Then take the little sloping path to the castle, a genuine royal fortress that still has its vast defensive walls.
As well as offering a lovely view of the town and the surrounding area, the castle is worth a closer look to learn about its history. For example, it was there that Charles VII met Joan of Arc in 1429 before she liberated Orleans. Chinon also has beautiful religious buildings such as the Chapel of St. Radegund. Built in a Romanesque, semi-troglodyte style, its mural paintings from the end of the 12th century depict the Plantagenets. To find out more about local art history, Le Carroi Arts and History Museum invites you to discover a rich collection, the centrepiece of which is the Cope of St. Mexme, a cloth woven from silk and gold in the 12th century.
And how could we talk about Chinon without mentioning its vineyards? Spanning 2,300 hectares, their varieties of red grape, like the renowned Cabernet Sauvignon, and their rosé grapes delight the palates of amateur oenologists. Several cellars in the area are open to the public if you would like to sample the region's finest wines.
City of Indre-et-Loire, on the banks of the Vienne, Chinon takes place at a strategic location between Touraine, Anjou and Poitou. It is located in the heart of the Regional Natural Park Loire-Anjou-Touraine, thirty kilometers from Saumur and fifty kilometers from Tours.
Former favorite stronghold of the Plantagenet, Chinon went through history from the Gallo-Roman era, becoming the place of many great events that have marked the country. In the thirteenth century, the city leaves the lap of England, joining the kingdom of France. It is here, in 1429, that Joan of Arc meets Charles VII for the first time, thus lending him allegiance. High place of Protestantism during the wars of religion, the city then passes from hands to hands, to take the face we know today.
Always appreciated for its wines, which benefit from an AOC, the region also attracts many tourists every year because of its exceptional architectural and historical heritage, as well as for its many popular cultural events.
Located on the rocky outcrop overlooking Vienna and the city, the royal fortress of Chinon used to control the passage over the river. Listed as a Historical Monument, it was originally built in the 10th century, and has had several additions until the 15th century. Under the Plantagenets, she knows her finest hours of glory, before passing into the hands of France. In the seventeenth century, it gradually lost interest, soon falling into ruins. Sold as a national good under the Revolution, it is soon inhabited by private individuals who build their houses there. Set up as a public promenade in the first half of the 19th century, the park gradually develops, revealing a circuit allowing to appreciate the ruins still present. The fortress is today the subject of one of the largest restoration projects in Europe. Visitors can enjoy with pleasure the royal residence, as well as the remains of the old dungeon which offers a breathtaking view of the surroundings.
Just at the foot of the royal fortress, you can discover the city-fort, the oldest center of Chinon. There are still beautiful half-timbered houses, mansions of the fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, or the House of the States General, or the palace of the Bailiwick. Do not miss to admire the Painctes Caves, a vast network of galleries dug under the hill to extract the tufa. The Saint-Maurice church has a 12th century bell-tower base, as well as a nave and an Angevin Gothic choir. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, the addition of several side chapels presents a transition between flamboyant Gothic and Renaissance.
Entirely rebuilt in the 15th century, the Saint-Etienne church takes place in the district of the same name, known for being an old fortified suburb of the fourteenth century. Inside, windows reveal four episodes of the religious life of the city and its surroundings such as the death of St. Martin, the recognition of Charles VII to Joan of Arc, or the miracle of Saint Mexme.
Listed as a Historical Monument, the collegiate church of Saint-Mexme was once the main religious building of Chinon. Its oldest parts date back to the beginning of the eleventh century, but the building was enlarged in the course of the twelfth century. Disused during the French Revolution, the collegiate gradually falls into ruins, and is partly demolished. School until the early 1980s, it now houses a cultural center including a small wooden theater used in summer.
Formerly a place of pagan worship installed around a well dug in the rock, the Sainte-Radegonde chapel dates from the Middle Ages. It was built around the burial place of the hermit Jean de Chinon. Inside we can appreciate several murals, including that representing members of the Plantagenet family in the twelfth century.
Several museums take place in the city like that of wine and cooperage, that of popular Arts and Traditions, or that of Carroi. Housed in the House of the States General, the latter unveils collections of works of art retracing the history of the town and its surroundings, such as this portrait of Rabelais by Delacroix, faience of Langeais, or the screed of Saint -Mexme, a Hispano-Moorish fabric of the twelfth century.
Walking through the city, you can discover several statues representing the great figures of Chinon following the example of Rabelais, Joan of Arc, or the Sacred Heart which reminds by his pose Christ of Corcovado.
Equestrian sports fans will be able to head to the racecourse of Grigny to have a good time.
The market is held every Thursday morning. At the beginning of August, a medieval market and an old market offer several animations. A Christmas market takes place in December. A flea market is also held every third Sunday of the month on the banks of the Vienne.
In April, it's time for the spring fair with its flea market and carnival. It is also an opportunity to participate in the contest of the most beautiful beard.
In May, Chinon in Fanfares proposes a guinguette on the banks of Vienna, as well as parades of fanfares.
A popular tourist rally, Chinon Classic takes place in June.
A fireworks and a popular dance are organized on July 14 on the occasion of the national holiday.
Nocturne Gourmande is a craft and gastronomic market taking place in September.