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.