Religious and cultural heritage
Christianity is inseparable from the history of France over the last two millennia and has left a significant religious heritage in our towns and villages. Towns would grow up around a castle or else around a church (or a cathedral, when the town is the seat of a bishop, or a collegiate church for a college of canons). Sometimes an abbey forges the identity of a village, with an abbey church, conventual buildings or even an irrigation canal or vineyard.
The religious heritage of Tours
With its two towers, 68 and 69 metres high and dating from the 16th century, St Gatien Cathedral looks down over the city of Tours. The stone lacework decorating the façade makes this one of the most extraordinary examples of the Flamboyant Gothic style. Inside, meanwhile, the choir (Rayonnant Gothic) and stained-glass windows provide a beautiful spectacle. From the northern wing of this landmark of Catholic worship, you can access the Psalette Cloister, owned by the National Monuments Centre.
Home to the tomb of Saint Martin, the Basilica of Tours is an age-old pilgrimage site. Before they arrive, the pilgrims can also visit Marmoutier Abbey, founded by St Martin of Tours. Saint Julien Church is all that remains of a Benedictine abbey. It miraculously escaped the air-raids during the Second World War and combines Romanesque and Gothic styles. Two kilometres away, Saint Cosme Priory immerses visitors in the world of the poet Pierre de Ronsard, an illustrious prior at the monastery.
Many remarkable religious buildings in and around Chinon
As well as a royal fortress and wine cellars, Chinon can boast the beautiful Romanesque St Radegonde chapel, a semi-troglodytic building, as well as St Mexme collegiate church, now a cultural centre. All around this city celebrated by François Rabelais, a large number of buildings linked to Catholicism are well worth a visit.
- The royal abbey of Saint-Michel de Bois Aubry is currently being renovated. As well as visiting the site, which hosts the grave of the Hollywood actor, Yul Brynner, visitors can stay at two cottages.
- The town of Champigny-sur-Veude can boast one of the 7 holy chapels still standing, as well as a café / concert venue / restaurant on the site of the Bonne Dame chapel. The building’s religious function has given way to social and cultural activities, bringing new dynamism to village life.
- Candes-Saint-Martin collegiate church: looking out on the River Loire, this is the focal point of one of the most beautiful villages in France.
- The old Carolingian church in Cravant-les-Coteaux, an ancient sanctuary.
- Notre Dame de Rivière church, the oldest church in Touraine.
- Near the Saint Leonard Priory, Saint Gilles Church is on L’Île Bouchard, a destination for many pilgrims each year. In 1947, the Virgin Mary is believed to have appeared to 4 young girls here. Close by, the Avon-les-Roches trail is a chance to see the remains of the Roches Tranchelion collegiate.
- Tavant Church and Lignières-de-Touraine Church are places of worship decorated with Romanesque frescoes.
- The beautiful church in Azay-le-Rideau stands near one of the finest Loire châteaux;
- Cheillé Church is unusual in having an oak tree growing in one of the walls. In fact, the oak tree has the “remarkable tree of France” label!
Other religious buildings in Touraine
In Loches, the Royal City stands next to Saint Ours collegiate church, housing the marble tomb of Agnès Sorel. A former garrison town, Loches kept watch over the neighbouring abbey in Beaulieu-les-Loches. With the “Petite Cité de Caractère” label since 2019, the town is well worth a visit for the abbey church, the starting point for a fascinating heritage tour.
In Montrésor, another of the most beautiful villages in France, the guest rooms at La Corroirie chateau monastery delight everyone in search of an original stay. The monastery has historic links to the Chartreuse du Liget. In the Carthusian order, the Brothers prayed and worked in La Corrorie, while the Fathers devoted their lives to prayer and contemplation in the Charterhouse. And don’t miss: Saint Jean du Liget chapel in its beautiful countryside setting!
One last highlight of the region’s religious heritage? Head north to see the Bueil collegiate church, founded in 1394, the resting place of the lords of Bueil (including John V of Bueil, a companion in arms of Joan of Arc), and the starting point for a 10 km hike.