Vue des toits de LoudunFondation du patrimoine
Loudun: at the heart of the conflicts that shook the Middle Ages
Located on the borders of the historical provinces of Poitou, Anjou, and Touraine, Loudun was at the heart of the conflicts between the counts of Anjou and dukes of Aquitaine, but especially between the kings of France and the kings of England. The remains of the town's ramparts and defensive structures, and its religious buildings, demonstrate the town's strategic location.
La Tour carrée de Loudun by PhotoFondation du patrimoine
The Square Tower
The Square Tower is the most emblematic architectural feature of this rich military history. For a long time, it was believed that this tower was built in 987 by Fulk III Nerra, count of Anjou, modeled on the tower in Loches, located 80 km away. However, a recent study of the building's beams showed that it dates from the reign of Henry 2nd Plantagenet, king of England, between 1159 and 1172. Dominating its surroundings at over 100 feet (31 m) high, its purpose was to watch over the area, but also to be seen. As a watchtower, it was never inhabited and only has four landings enabling people to reach the top using ladders.
However, the Square Tower was built on the remains of an older building, probably constructed by Fulk III Nerra.
Philip Augustus, king of France, joined Anjou to the French crown in 1206 and decided to create a fortress around the Tower.
Façades restaurées de la Tour carrée de LoudunFondation du patrimoine
This complex became a symbol of royal authority and a tool used to secure the territory. It was completed during the Hundred Years' War, which was raging around Loudun.
In 1598, Loudun became a safe haven for Protestants, who sought refuge behind its imposing walls.
After the Peace of Alais, which dismantled these strongholds, Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu decided to destroy these cities' fortifications.
Loudun was no exception, and the entire fortress was destroyed, except for the iconic Square Tower.
Façades en cours de restauration de la Tour carrée de LoudunFondation du patrimoine
Listed as a Historic Monument in 1877, Loudun's Square Tower has greatly deteriorated over the centuries.
Rainwater has significantly damaged the stones, destabilizing the building and putting its entire structure in danger.
The town of Loudun has hired a company offering full restoration, with the support of the Fondation du patrimoine (French Heritage Foundation), to save and restore this almost one-thousand-year-old building to its former glory.
The stones on the façade have been completely restored, but none of the interior has been changed.
A metal staircase has been installed to allow the public to reach the top, but it does not touch the walls, in order to avoid giving the idea of a false reconstruction.
Porte du Martray à LoudunFondation du patrimoine
Other than the Square Tower, which dominates the town, Loudun also retains some portions of its fortifications. An example of this is the Porte du Martray. Built by Philip Augustus at the same time as the fortress, it is one of four access points into the town.
After the Hundred Years' War, the Porte du Martray became a site where local taxes on all the goods coming into the town were collected.
Its highest floor was lost during an earthquake in 1711.
Very dilapidated, it was restored with the help of the Fondation du Patrimoine (Patrimony Foundation).
Enceinte médiévale de LoudunFondation du patrimoine
This is also the case for the remains of the ramparts, which have been improved through a job integration program.
An important religious heritage
The collegiate church of Sainte Croix (Holy Cross) is the oldest religious building in the town. It was founded in the 11th century by Benedictine monks from the abbey at Tournus. First dedicated to Notre-Dame, (Our Lady) its name was changed when Fulk V, count of Anjou and king of Jerusalem, placed a piece of the True Cross there. In the 17th century, this church was at the center of the incident known as the "Loudun possessions." Several exorcisms took place there, and the priest in the middle of the scandal, Urbain Grandier, was burned alive in the square in front of the church.
Intérieur de la collégiale Sainte-Croix de LoudunFondation du patrimoine
Although it has experienced several fires throughout its history, the collegiate church has preserved exceptional paintings from the 12th and 13th centuries.
Sold as national property during the Revolution, the collegiate church was transformed into a grain market, then a covered market until 1991.
It now hosts an exhibition hall, which features artists and artisans creating contemporary art.
Intérieur de l'église Saint-Hilaire du Matray à LoudunFondation du patrimoine
The church of Saint Hilaire du Martray was the abbey church of the Carmelite convent until the Revolution. It became a parish church in 1803 and obtained the largest stained glass window in Poitou to decorate its chevet.
Salle capitulaire de l'ancien couvent des Carmes de LoudunFondation du patrimoine
The Carmelite convent's chapter house is still adjacent to the church. This was the place where the priest Urbain Grandier was judged in relation to the Loudun Possessions incident in 1634.
Today, it houses a depository for the town's religious art containing stonework.
Rencontre avec Mélanie Tarrondeau et Jean-Pierre Jager - Loudun à l'époque médiévaleFondation du patrimoine
Watch a video on Loudun's Medieval heritage, as well as the restoration policies established there.
Our thanks to Natacha Grollier-Dumas, Head of Cultural Affairs and Heritage Promotion, Mélanie Tarrondeau, cultural interpreter, and Jean-Pierre JAGER, Deputy mayor, Urbanism and Heritage of the Town of Loudun for their invaluable help.
To support the Fondation du Patrimoine's activities follow the link https://www.fondation-patrimoine.org/recherche-projet