The ancient city of Poitiers

Having soaked up all the sun in Bourges, we headed for Poitiers today. Everyone else in France seemed to also be on the road, but they didn’t get off at our exit. Since Bastille Day is Tuesday, this must be the holiday weekend to head to the beaches.The empty streets of Poitiers were deserted, which was rather charming. This city was founded by the Celts, and then along came the Romans. It was also in a strategic location. Two major military battles took place near the city: in 732, the Battle of Tours, in which the Franks commanded by Charles Martel halted the expansion of the Muslims – on which the future of Europe turned –  and in 1356, the Battle of Poitiers, a key victory for the English forces during the Hundred Years’ War.

Yes, Joan was here, and suffered through a series of interrogations over her faith in the 11th century palace of the Dukes of Poitou. Unlike us, she did not get rest breaks between events…

The most amazing site we saw was the Baptistery of St. John, a 4th century building restored in the 10th century, built atop Roman ruins. It is considered to be France’s oldest existing Christian building. The frescoes are from the 12th to 14th century, and the baptismal pool (immersion was the style) was used until the 17th century. This was stunning.

The other site of note was the Église Notre-Dame la Grande, a Romanesque church of the 12th century. The most beautiful part was the painted columns which give a great sense of how spectacular the church would have appeared in its youth.

A quiet city, with centuries of stories and secrets.

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