30 December 2017

Chinon from above

I went back into my photo archives again and found these photos that I took more than 17 years ago. It was October 2000, and we had rented a little house in Vouvray. We wanted to spend a week exploring old Touraine and adjoining areas of the Loire Valley. It was the trip to France that led us to decided to come live in the Loire Valley in 2003.

This has to have been the first time I ever went to Chinon. Even though I had spent a couple of days in Tours back in 1972, and had seen Chambord, Chinon was not on my itinerary. I knew about it, however, because one of my professors at Duke University was a French Renaissance specialist who had written at least one book and a number of articles about the Chinonais writer Rabelais.

One of the most striking things about these views from up in the château de Chinon is how dark they are. It's all the black slate rooftops. In Saint-Aignan and points east, a lot of the roofing material is red terra cotta tiles. The towns are more colorful seen from above. The slate is much more characteristic of Brittany to the west. I once knew a French woman in Paris who said she didn't like going to Brittany because all the black slate roofs were too depressing.

I think I might have taken the photo on the right from the top of the Tour de l'Horloge, which I posted photos of yesterday — or one of the other old towers. I can't believe I climbed all the way up there and took only one photo, but the others don't appear to have been taken from so high up. I bet Walt has more pictures but he was taking slides back then, not digital photos. I was using my first digital camera, a Kodak I got for Christmas in 1998.

There are several churches and chapels in Chinon. I'm not a historian or architect, but my reading leads me to think the one above is the Eglise Saint-Maurice, which dates back to the 12th century. The Plantagenets donated money to help finance its construction at that time. Chinon had been an important religious center before the Viking invasions of the 8th and 9th centuries.
My googling tells me the church with two towers in the photos above and on the right is the église collégiale Saint-Mexme. Mexme (the name is a variant of Maxime) was a hermit and disciple of saint Martin who lived in Chinon in the 5th century. An earlier church named for him was replaced by the current church around the year 1000 (about the same time as the church in Saint-Aignan). Like nearly all the churches in France, it has been modified and enlarged over the centuries. The other church in the photo, on the far right, is L'Eglise Saint-Etienne.


  1. I think the slate roofs in Chinon and vicinity can be explained by the presence of wellknown slate deposits near downstream Angers.

    1. What I've never understood is the roofs with red tiles on top and gray slate toward the bottom. As in Montrésor and many other places.

    2. I seem to remember that my booklet from the Fondation du Patrimoine on Touraine architecture says that the red tiles with a band of slate at the bottom indicates a past repair, where they've reused all the useable existing roofing tiles then made up for broken ones with the higher status slate if they have the money. I'm not at home though, so can't check this.

  2. We really enjoyed walking around the old parts of Chinon, and I was so pleased to visit the ruins, after all of these years teaching about the Plantagenets.

  3. I connect the red roofs architecturally with the Burgundians, or is that only the red geometric patterns such as on Hotel-Dieu in Beaune? I really enjoy these posts, happy end of the year!

  4. Toits d'ardois? I've seen roofs where they throw in different colored slates to create a pattern. It's a pretty town.


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