Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Come stroll with me...

Fortress Montbazon
… through Montbazon for my last post from this little town on the Indre.  Regrettably my time here has come to an end but I still have some interesting things about the place to share.

Camped beside the river Indre means that it’s a short walk from the site to the heart of the town.  It is also impossible to miss the remains of the fortress that sits on the high ground overlooking the plain.  The fortress was built by Foulque Nerra – The Black Falcon – who in reality was Fulk III and son of Geoffrey I, Count of Anjou. He was born around 970 and died in 1040 in Metz, eastern France.  His life’s work was to defend, maintain and extend his territories in and around the Loire.  As a result, he is best remembered as one the great builders of the medieval age with the fortress at Montbazon being only one of the many similar structures, abbey’s and other buildings that he had constructed around Tours during his lifetime.  It is possible to visit the castle and see demonstrations of medieval baking, tile making and calligraphy.  You can even practice your archery and your sword fighting if you wish.  I decided to give the latter two a miss.

Old Mill, Montbazon
Taking the steep path down from the fortress brings you right to the last vestiges of the original city walls and the remains of one of the gates.  Here I take a right and visit the old mill which sits on a branch of the Indre.  There has been a mill here since the 14th century.  In the 16th century it became the property of the Ducs de Montbazon who rented out its use to local milling families who formed a consortium and could then control the price of flour - and their own income, of course! - within the area.  A plaque on the wall denotes that in November 1770 a devastating flood engulfed the town and had I been standing in that spot then, the water would have reached a good two feet above my head!  In 1798, following bankruptcy, the mill was put under administration until it was sold to a merchant in Tours as a result of an act of the revolutionary government.  Numerous changes and improvements later, the building is now privately owned, but is still worth the short walk to see it.

As we stroll along Rue de Moulin, take in the facades of the ancient houses and, don’t miss the
detail on the eaves of the house at number 37.  And just here on the right is the ruelle des Anges.  And there’s a little picture for those who are unsure of the translation!  As I look down the narrow covered walkway I'm reminded of a conversation I had at a wedding a few years ago.  An elderly gentleman, once I'd told my name, remarked that Angela was derived form the anciet greeek and that it meant 'messenger of the gods.'  I remember smiling politely and thinking to myself, if my first name means that and my second name is that of a bird, what happened to my wings?  I guess I'll never know, so I wander a little further down the street and on the right is the church of Notre-Dame de la Bonne Aide.  I stop to read the notice on the open door which gives the history of the building of the church and tells me that the original church from 1550 was replaced by the current building. neo-roman in style, between 1851 and 1862.  But I can not get further than the fourth sentence before Madame encourages me to come in.  ‘We have a special exhibition,’ she says.  ‘Patience please,’ I say and, after a further encouragement she eventually leaves me to read the rest of the historical notes.  

Vestments froming part of the exhibition, Montbazon
The outside of the building does not prepare me for the interior.  Apart from all the VIP’s, the Maire and numerous other people being lectured about the exhibits and the church, there are some of the most exquisitely embroidered vestments that I have ever seen.  All beautifully displayed in the central aisle and surrounded by walls and a ceiling that are painted with not a single scrap of bare plaster to be seen anywhere.  The interior was.  The interior of the church, painted in 10863 by Henri Grandin, is a marvel.  By the alter I come across the most important item in the exhibition.  A chasuble, stole and various other pieces embroidered by Marie, the Duchess of Montbazon and dating from 1642.

This is a town with a fascinating history, a marvellous community spirit and a zest for survival that I doubt will ever be diminished by its proximity to Tours.  And, if after your walking tour of the town you are feeling a little peckish then I can thoroughly recommend the Milles Feuilles from the pâtisserie in Place André Delaunay.  It’s just by the Hotel de Ville, you can’t miss it.

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