Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Loire

As well as Poitiers & les Musee des Blindes, I found some other items of military interest in the Loire.
The Loire valley is lousy with chateaux, but most of them are architectural fantasies for showing off wealth rather than defence. The French use the one word "chateau" for both a castle and a grand house. Some are built from scratch simply as grand chateaux, others are built on the site of old fortifications which have been eliminated to various degrees. But I have found a few examples of real fortifications.
Chateau Larcher is a small mostly ruined castle above a small village we stumbled on lookng for a cafe for a pit stop on the road north.
Chateau Saumur looks magnificent on the hill over the town. The original medieval castle has been fancified, but it and the adjacent barracks buildings are surrounded by an artillery age star fort which is partially intact. It was used as a prison for English POWs in the Napoleonic wars.
The fortress of Chinnon covers the hill top above the town.
Chateau Angers is the original inner fortress for the town of Angers. The town itself was outside and also surrounded by a wall, but that has long gone. Henri III ordered the fortress pulled down, presumably so it couldn't be used as a centre of rebellion, but the local goveneror proceeded so slowly with the work that Henri either died or forgot about it before the work went too far. Only the conical roofs of the towers and the tops of some of them were removed. What remains is pretty impressive with massive walls, a deep dry moat & very close spaced towers around a 1km perimeter. There are large gardens inside & in the moat, originally for food, but now mainly ornamental.
I also found one WWII battlefield - Les Rosiers 1940. The cadets from the Saumur cavalry school defended the bridge over the Loire before blowing it up. This was as far as the Germans got before the Vichy armistice.

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