FONTENAY-LE-COMTE, “VILLE D’ART ET D’HISTOIRE”
Fontenay-le-Comte, located at the gates to the Marais Poitevin, has been enjoying the prestigious label “City of Art and history” since December 2001. This former capital of the Lower Poitou is marked by striking facades from the 16th century as witnesses to its golden age during the Renaissance Period.
During your sightseeing tour through the city center, enjoy its shady parks and elegant squares, testimonies of a glorious past, which is the best preserved in a sector unique for the Vendée (86 hectares including 1700 buildings).
In total, 42 instructive signboards and panels guide the visitor along the city’s treasures and artistic monuments. The itinerary “Mille ans d’histoire” (thousand years of history) and guided tours take you to the Place Belliard and its arcaded townhouses, the Church Notre Dame and its crypt, and the municipal museum. You will also see the Hotel Gobin, close to the Fontaine des Quatres Tías, the city’s emblem located at the foot of the former castle, now transformed into a park (Parc Baron). Do not omit the “rue des Lodges” with its timber-framed house, la Maison Millpertuis, the Louis XV period house, or the Maison-Manoir in “rue des Tanneurs”.
Just about every historical period from the Middle Ages to the 21st century have marked the city. Which only adds to the originality and diversity of its heritage. The protected architecture is highlighted with a lighting system that won the “Lumière dans la Ville” (light in the city) award in 2002.
Fontenay is now also part of the very exclusive association “les Plus Beaux Détours de France” after having received the “Prix National de l’Art de Vivre” in 1996, as well as the status “Ville Fleurie” (3 flowers).
There are also numerous festivals: “les Ricochets”, a festival staging street art in July and August , the “Bienniale” with its flower float parade at Pentecost. Otherwise, there are shows, exhibitions (“Parcours des Fontaines” in the city centre throughout summer), and numerous events at the Espace Culturel et de Congrès Congress René Cassin with a capacity of 500 and 4000 seats to assure a dense and diverse cultural life throughout the year.
Travel back in time to discover the rich history of Fontenay-le-Comte, the former capital of the Vendée.
The meseum was founded in 1875 through a bequest. Located in the former presbytery of the Notre Dame church since 1922, the Fontenay Museum bears witness the intellectual temperament of the city since the Renaissance period.
On three levels it displays a remarkable collection of Gallo-Roman glassworks, Vendée furniture and a gallery of fine arts. The first curator of the museum aimed to highlight its regional character through a multidisciplinary procurement policy covering archaeology, ethnography, and the fine arts.
All year round, the museum stages exhibitions, and organises guided tours. It also arranges workshops for children on Wednesdays and even birthday patries inside its premises.
LE CHÂTEAU DE TERRE NEUVE
Jewel of the renaissance period, the chateau de Terre Neuve is listed as historical monument. It is a must-see heritage site of the period.
This protected historical monument was built at the end of the 16th century for Nicolas Rapin, grand provost-marshal of the French Army and Companion under King Henri IV.
Octave de Rochebrune, famous engraver, refurbished the castle in the 19th century. The well-known writer Georges Simenon also lived here between 1941 and 1943.
Quoted in many tourist guides, the castle is renowned for its alchemical chimney, its coffered ceilings of carved stone, the wainscoting from the Château de Chambord, and the gilded suns acquired from the chambers of King Louis XIV.
On display as well are paintings, furniture, collections and extravagant closes from the 17th and 18th centuries.
THE TOWNHOUSE “BEAUX ESPRITS”
In the centre of the historic district of Fontenay the owner of this 18th century mansion proposes a guided tour lasting 45 minutes.
ROPES COURSE “LE DONJON DES CIMES”
Time-out in the historical center of Fontenay-le-Compte. Have fun at this 2000 sqm large adventure park, 9 m above the ground! Make your way through suspended nets attached to the trees of the Parc Baron.
An unforgettable experience and accessible for children over the age of 4. Tourist itinerary through the Parc Baron.
A play area is specifically reserved for toddlers between 2 and 4.
WiFi-access, bar, conveniences, relaxation area, games for children, orientation table, playground and picnic area, parking.
LUÇON – A CITY AND ITS CATHEDRAL
About 20 km into the plain from the Atlantic beaches and close to the perimeter of the Marais Poitevin is the city of Luçon, yet another of Sud-Vendée’s must-sees! As the ecclesiastical capital of the Bas-Poitou since 1317, Luçon has many worthwhile sites to offer, of both religious and culture-historic nature, such as its old port, the fishermen’s quarters, the chapels, the cathedral and its cloister, and even a water tower built in a unique architecture.
Enthusiasts of bucolic promenades will be inspired by the the Jardin Dumaine nestling inside the city centre. Your visit will make you understand why people had chosen to settle in this auspicious climate as early as the time of the Pictons, and also why they still today remain so attached to their “Belle”, which thanks to the diversity of its services and commerce, benefits from all possible advantages a country town may offer.
THE CATHÉDRALE NOTRE DAME DE L’ASSOMPTION
Being mostly built in the Gothic style, Luçon cathedral, also displays some Romanesque architecture and some more recent classical parts.
It was elevated to the rank of cathedral in 1317, and classified as a historic monument in August 1906. It had also been the seat of Cardinal Richelieu. As a bishop, he was mandated to carry out local reforms while reconstructing the devastated city after the wars of religion.
The cathedral’s cloister, which harmoniously integrates to the surrounding architecture, is also known for its furniture that you can either admire on your own, or in guided tours.
LE JARDIN DUMAINE
Beautiful park of more than 4 hectares and listed among the “Plus beaux jardins de France. Near the gates of the park, just behind the bust of the legatee Pierre-Hyacinthe Dumaine, a sumptuous yew-line avenue from 1830 leads to a sylvan theatre.
You can also admire a fountain and its bronze naiads, a bandstand, topiary figures from the the fables of La Fontaine, and a small orangery (1875).
Throughout the year the park hosts concerts and events. In mid-July it is lit by some 3500 lanterns (“Jardin en Fête”).
Luçon also holds other cultural heritage treasures, including many buildings from the 18th century concentrating in the Bourgneuf neighbourhood, but moreover industrial ones, like the water tower (1914) now classified as a historic monument.
PROMENADES BY FOOT, BIKE, OR ON HORSEBACK
The Luçon district may be explored along numerous pedestrian and cycling tracks available at the tourist office. Explore the Luçon canal, the Charrières loop, the Sentier des Iris, the Circuit des Chènes de Chasnais, and the forest at Emouchet in Sainte Gemme la Plaine. Appreciate the soothing calm of these vast areas of marshes and plain marked by man’s enduring maintenance efforts. Discover not only the rich flora in the marshlands, but also the numerous local animal breeds (maraichine cattle, draught horses, mules).