Les Eglises de Poitiers: Old Beauty in A Small French City

Hello from Nouvelle-Aquitaine! I am in Poitiers for two days, in yet another historic and scenic part of southern France. I picked Poitiers on a whim, because a sentence in the Lonely Planet guidebook about it sounded appealing. And oh, how wonderful this little city is.

A history of Poitiers in churches

For one, here is the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre-de-Poitiers, built in the 11th century. Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II Plantagenet were wed here in 1152. V cool, non? It also has one of the oldest stained-glass windows in France.

Poitiers was a large Roman city during the empire, and traces of that heritage can be found in the crumbling walls all over town. The 5th century Baptistère St-Jean was constructed on those even more ancient Roman foundations, which you can still go and see along with the total immersion baptismal font.

In La Église Notre-Dame-La-Grande (which is grand indeed), the 12th century Romanesque church has a bright and colorful interior! It had a few added Gothic touches too (see below).

And the Église Saint-Hilaire-Le-Grand was my favorite. Sculpted of soft gold stone and consecrated in 1049, it literally glows in the late-afternoon sunlight (my iPhone pictures don’t do it justice!). It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site because it was one of the most important stops on the Chemin de St-Jacques de Compostelle.

Candles in churches and hope, too

I love visiting very old churches, even though I’m an atheist. And at most of them, I light a little votive candle in front of the Virgin Mary. It started when I was in Angers three years ago, when my brother Walt was deployed in the Navy and I was suddenly moved in the beautiful and ancient medieval church there to light one for him. Now he’s home safely, and I’m not sure what I light them for. For the builders those many centuries ago, who created these incredible edifices totally anonymously? For the people in my life who do believe? Do I just like candles?

Maybe it’s a little bit of everything.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Walt O'Donnell

    Thanks for the candle a few years ago! Always appreciated, especially at such beautiful, magnificent places as those cathedrals. The artwork is incredible, the details are so minute! I could look at that Gothic alcove all day with all the intricate little designs, and its more than 800 years old! You wouldn’t be able to get Dad out of there.

    Can’t wait to hear about your upcoming adventures!

    1. katwoman634

      ? I love all the medieval churches here! They are indeed so intricate, you can just look and look endlessly. Love you bro!!

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