26 July 2011

XIIe Siècle

THE REGION OF France where we are spending the summer is perhaps most well-known as the battleground between the House of Valois and the House of Anjou in the 100 Years War. It's complicated, but the two feuding families both claimed rights to the French throne after the end of the Capetian line of the kings in the early 1300s. The Anjou, also know as the Plantagenet, also claimed rights to the crown in England and were in fact ruling England at the time so the war involved both English and French armies.

Much of this area was already quite established by the time the war began and we have seen lots of evidence of that already. Every little village in the Poitou-Charentes has a Romanesque church that dates from the 12th or 13th century and they are incredible to see. Many are very small -- with only room for 50 or 100 people -- but to know they were erected so long ago is amazing. Our village church was completed in 1189.

We've been exploring cities and villages (like we like to do) and two of our favorite so far are Angouleme and Poitier. I wouldn't call either 'spectacular' in the way Sienna or Avignon are (to pick cities of roughly the same size), but each has some very nice parts. Poitier, for example, has a gorgeous cathedral that dates from the 12th century and was the setting for one of the rounds of questioning of Joan of Arc in the mid 1400s. It also has a market right next door that has been running (almost) continuously since the 1150s. A market virtually every day since the 1150s!!

Rare family shot in Angouleme.

The Chateau in Angouleme.
As the sun is setting over the Notre Dame in Poitier. Can't see us, but can see the cathedral.

Hotel de Ville, Poitier, France

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