Archive for April 9th, 2017

April 9, 2017

You know the Vendée, Noirmoustier island, part VII

Well this is the end to the series on the island of Noirmoutier in the Vendée of the Pays de la Loire, France. This is part 7 and it has been a wonderful experience recounting these experiences to all and for me to keep as a great souvenir for years to come and to come back of course. Noirmoutier is gorgeous island living.

I have posted several times the tourist offices of the region , department and island so here will tell you just the last and best item there other than the beaches lol!

I will tell you about the Castle of Noirmoutier ;it is right in city center on the square place d’Armes facing the dam, the harbor with great views of the whole city and beyond.

Getting there either thru the bridges or the passage du Gois is easy as can’t miss this castle in town.

the Château  de Noirmoutier is from the 12C. And in its dungeon you can see now a museum housing collections of Noirmoutier heritage (dating back to Pre-history) and a large collection of Jersey porcelain.

Before the 17C the harbor reached until the ramparts of the Castle where you see now douves. The current entrance did not exist as the old entrance was done by the side of the Church of St Philbert (see previous post). It was the Dutch who invaded Noirmoutier in the 17C that destroyed the two small towers and took the bells Marianne and Suzanne with them; they were found in the Netherlands in 1980 ! . The date of the construction of the castle is not known precisely; it appeared for the first time in writing dating from 1205 so the city historians think it was built between 1170 and 1180.  It was built by  Pierre V de La Garnache, to show his feudal power especially to his rival the English. It maintained military uses until the 19C. 

The visit starts by the chemin de ronde, to discovered the exterior parts of the Castle; and then comes inside the donjon towers that has been renovated into a museum of local culture.  The first two levels that in the old times serve to house the ammunition and food and the opening are tight and narrow. Here we find a memorial to the wars of the Vendée between the white royalists and the blue republicans in the 18C.  On the island this war begain on March 10, 1793, and  Noirmoutier change side three times until finally the Republicans of Gen Haxo took it. The main furniture here is the chair in which the royalist general Maurice D’Elbée was executed in 1794. You can see several souvenirs brough by the marines such as English  faïences (Jersey) , and measurement instruments. On the upper level, the decoration change and the ceilings are higher with great lighted windows to host the permanent collection.

There are a group of about 10 canons in the courtyard of the castle from a sunken ship as well as sarcophagus of Mérovigian origins on a square section in the castle as you go in to your left.  You can see as you entered on your right a long house attach to the ramparts ; this was the residence of the governor, and it was one of them ,Mr  La Paunière, governor of the island and castle that had it renovates in 1690. It is today that we conserved all the archives of  Noirmoutier.

 Right now there is a temporary exposition entitled « Noirmoutier, une île au cinéma »  or Noirmoutier and island of cinema, where films filmed here since 1925 even if those shown with posters, photos paintings etc as well as old film cameras re telling the story of cinema here from 1960 to our days . Films such as those by Agnès Varda, Robert Bresson,  Claude Sautet, as well as more recent films such as those of Les Vacances du Petit Nicolas(Nicolas on Holiday).  This exhibition will run until November 12, 2017.

The castle belongs to the city since 1901 and it has more here in French:

To remarks that from the panoramic view on top of the castle it is said that on clear days you can see as far as 20 kms or about 12 miles. We certainly saw lots of beautiful sights from above.

There is a non profit organization that helps protect this castle with upkeeps coming from donation and they are house in the former governor’s house inside the castle, Les Amis d’île de Noirmoutier; link here in French:

More on our visit, we came from the free parking by the Church St Philbert and entered the castle by the reception ticket office. You, then come into the courtyard, where on the left and right side you will see the rows of canons. On the far left you see remnants of what was the old prison of WWI and you continue on the middle to the Keep (12C), you see the small castellum and former entrance in the 13C on your right, a small portion of it. Next to it you see the Governor’s house from the 17C, all along the walls you can have a rampart walk for about half the enclosure, and on the back of the main castle building you climb up to the top for the panoramic views.

The First floor or level 1 you see the pre historic permanent exhibition , oldest found from the Bois de la Chaise woods, and the Neolithic period from La Fosse to the Luzéronde with megaliths stones. Photos of the old crypt of the current Church that was built on the former monastery of Herio the old name for Noirmoutier.

The Second floor or level 2 you entered the vaulted room to really know the history of the castle from the 9C wooden structured to the now Romanesque keep.

The Third floor or level 3, from the Dutch attack in 1674 to the wars in the Vendée against the French revolution, it gives you part of this stories.

From the top of the Keep the whole island stretches before you. You see as far as the harbor of L’Herbaudiére, the heritage port, the Jacobsen dyke/dam, and the Mûllembourg nature reserve as well as the boat cemetery.

In all, a nice visit to a pretty castle ,full of history and interesting things to see. The views are gorgeous as it was a sunny day. Enjoy by all, see you here some day. Enjoy your Sunday, Cheers!

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April 9, 2017

You know the Vendée, Noirmoutier island, part VI

Moving right alone on the trip to Noirmoutier island in the Vendée dept 85 of the Pays de la Loire region; this is part 6 of the series.

Today, I will show you the religious monuments of the city of Noirmoutier ,itself full of history. To recall the area tourist offices are:

You can meander thru the little tight streets  with a beach scent of the island and its white houses, colorful merchants and restaurants of all sorts but especially ,the sea. The season actually starts in April, and on the first day it was already packed. Talking with locals , we were told to rent in summer you need about a year in advance to get the best properties; it is very sought after here.

While walking alone the dam or digue out into the harbor and the salt and oyster beds we saw a small bell cross pointed within the houses towards town. We walk further towards it and found on a private road but accessible by the public a small Chapel right between the private homes. This is the Chapelle Notre Dame de la Pitié.

It was done in 1950 by the Abbey Raymond in order to honored the 1500 or 1800 soldiers of Charette leader of the counter French revolution who were executed here in 1794. These soldiers were taken prisoner in the church of St Philbert (see below) an taken here in groups of about 60 to be executed in what was a garbage dump place. Most of the soldiers were entered in the sand dunes around it.

Upon entering the Chapel you see the Cross of the Martyrs ,and inside the rock of pieta is from the 16C given by the Marquis de Chauvelin. Amongst the bones found are those now in an encased glass cabinet of the General D’Elbée executed by firing squad on January 7, 1794 ,he was the military chief of the counter revolutionaries in the Vendée region.   This is probably why there is not much info and nothing in the tourists office but here is a site on the period of counter revolution of the Vendée and the Chouans of Brittany, my area now. Of course, in French:

Just going over to the town, it was that time to finally eat something hot so we passed by the picturesque square or place Saint  Louis of many restos and we just pick by chance the Le Blé Noir II at 14 Place Saint Louis. Very friendly, and the waiter had lived in New York and London, so nice expat conversation indeed lol! Michel was a great topic of conversation and the food price/quality was excellent, the bill came to 25,50€ per person including 8 beers Licorne, 2 diabolo menthe drink, one galette chevrette or goat galette and one galette anglaise or English galette with bacon egg and fresh cream, 3 menus of 15,80€ entrée of fish soup, main dish Hake fish in a white sauce with shrimps, and two scoops of ice cream. Just lovely and a fair price for a chic upper island vacation spot!! no webpage just mentioned in the help pages I used in my blog roll as well :

Now much better equipped ::) we continue our walks into the main Church in town, that of one its founders Saint Philbert; a great travelers born in the Gers around 616AD; he became a monk at the age of 20. After many bad adventures and even prison he ends up here to found a  monastery. He encouraged the cultivation of salt and creates dams to protect the harbor. He died in 685AD and his body was placed in the crypt of the Church for several centuries. It now only remained a phalanx in a ossuary in the crypt of the Church ; that now bears his name as many other buildings in the island.

The Church of Saint Philbert is just next to the castle (more later in last post); on the square or place d’Armes. The church of a Roman style enclosed in a model frigate or boat. In the Choir of the Church in the crypt laid his body from 690 to 836; it now has some relics of the Saint.

More on the Church from the tourist office here:

And from the Catholic diocese in French :

A better description beyond the tourist office is here:

The Church Saint-Philbert is in the spot of an Abbey founded in 677. It was plundered by the Saracens in the 8C and then burnt by the Normans in 846. It was then rebuilt at the end of the 11C on the original Chapel, which is the current crypt, only the choir and the nave. The end of the 14C  to the 17C , the  left and right nave were taken down, it was consecrated in 1849.  The bell tower is neo-Roman, and  it was built in 1875 to replace the former bell tower which had been destroyed by a fire in 1848. Inside we can admire a model of a frigate, made by an artisan watchmaker of the village in 1802 for Auguste JacobsenThe crypt: it is located under the choir, she welcomed the body of St. Philbert between 690 and 836, date at which he was transferred to Saint-Philbert-de-Grand-Lieu, then to Tournus where the monks had fled after the invasions of Normandy in 875.  A  chasse on the altar contains some relics of the saint, transferred in 1863 date that this crypt was restoredThe Merovingian crypt where rested Saint Philbert is what remains of the Abbey destroyed by the Normans. Indeed the Abbey that stretched to the location of the Church and the castle was never relieved within its walls once the monks fled the occupation of the Vikings who had made the island their rear base for their raids on the Loire. Only a Priory was restored which became the Church as we know itThe stained glass windows of the nave tell of Saint Philbert: the former Abbey, the Castle, the arms of the Abbey and of the other side four steps and foundations of Philbert: Jumièges, Saint Philbert de Grandlieu, Cunault and TournusThe altarpiece Sainte Marie is the oldest altarpiece of the Church, and the most richly decorated. You can admire the garlands of roses and Sun carved in stoneThe retable of the altar of St. Anne was built in 1711.
Indeed a wonderful Church that must be visited and admire. You are just across from the castle and we found free parking right in front of the Church. Enjoy Noirmoutier another jewel in my belle France!
Enjoy your Sunday y’all, cheers
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