La Devinière: museum and native house of François Rabelais.
In this beautiful little part of France, these few lines will start you off on a journey. From Chinon, the road south crosses beautiful farming country and puts visitors in a certain frame of mind. François Rabelais, who died in Paris in1553, is thought to have been born in Seuilly, in an attractive country house that comes into sight as you turn a bend.
Welcome to La Devinière, with the “Maison des illustres” and “Musée de France” labels for a museum devoted to François Rabelais, author of Gargantua, Pantagruel, the Third Book, Fourth Book and Fifth Book (where Pantagruel, Panurge and their companions reach the “Dive Bouteille”, the Divine Bottle). Without necessarily having read them, many people still know the names of these books. They are seen as the earliest forms of the modern novel, combining the worlds of the tale, the epic and satire.
Rabelais the thinker via Gargantua and Pantagruel.
François Rabelais was first a Franciscan and then a Benedictine monk. He was given “fast-track” training at the medicine faculty in Montpellier, took a great interest in anatomy and medicinal plants, and then qualifed as a doctor in Lyon in 1532. He stayed in Rome, in 1534 and 1535, accompanying Jean du Bellay, a cardinal and diplomat. Pantagruel and Gargantua were printed at this period. In his books, there is a combination of enthusiasm for popular culture and criticism of the excesses of the ruling class, as well as a quest for knowledge, making the author a representative of Renaissance Humanism.
Many of his expressions are now part of the French and other languages: “Panurgian sheep”, “retournons à nos moutons” (“let’s get back to the point”), “la substantifique moelle” (“the pith”), “pantagruélique”, “gargantuesque”, “Picrocholine War”, “quintessence”, “laughter is proper to mankind”, “appetite comes with eating, drinking drives away thirst” and “everything comes to those who wait”.
Visiting the François Rabelais Museum
A 16th century residence, a pioneer of the 17th century, outbuildings and beautiful scenery: this is the setting for your immersion in the works of François Rabelais, also known by his pseudonym Alcofribas Nasier, an anagram of his real name.
La Devinière, François Rabelais’ birthplace, is also the home of Grangousier and Gargantua, colourful characters issued from his pen, like Pantagruel and Panurge. During your visit, you can immerse yourself in the adventures of these characters, the writer’s life and the new ideas of the Renaissance. You can also investigate the house’s “belly”, with its troglodyte caves, the medicinal plant garden and the Clos de la Devinière vineyard.
What to see near François Rabelais’ birthplace
A wonderful 8 km hike takes you through rural landscapes with a view of the Abbaye de Seuilly and the Château du Coudray-Montpensier. The hike includes an educational trail, “in the footsteps of Rabelais the botanist“, a great way to round off a visit to the museum.