Loches

FRANCE CENTRE Loches

Loches (pop 6,300) is a medieval masterpiece wrapped around a rocky bluff above the Indre, a left bank tributary of the Loire.  The town is the home to an historic medieval square that seems like an acropolis with its fortresses and surrounding ramparts. The area saw historically significant events, such as the residence of the Plantagenets, the beginning of the northward march of Charles VII to claim his crown and the infamous torture of Louis VI.

Layout
Loches is divided into Ville Basse (Lower Town) and the perched walled
Citadelle sitting above it.  There are a number of town gates that date from the 9th century:  Porte des Cordelier provides access to the Lower town, while Porte Picois marks to entrance to the Citadel. The commercial street is at rue de la République and the bus/train station is east of this, at Place de la Gare.


 

LOCHES STREET MAP:   1. Tourist office  2. Train station  3. Porte Royale  4. Maison Lansyer  5. Logis Royal (Château de Loches)  6. Porte des Cordelier  7. Porte Picois

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The Logis Royal and an ensemble of buildings within the citadel walls form the Cite Royale, and form the principal draw card of the town.  (Note that the term Logis Royal is commonly used interchangeably with Château de Loches)


Maurice Emmanuel Lansyer portrait by Carolus DuranAt the end of rue de la République, lies the old Porte Picois which brings you to the citadel’s entrance- the 15th century Porte Royale. This gate is an imposing medieval stone structure that is bordered by two 13th century towers.
From Porte Royale, you can enter the Citadel to visit the Logis Royal,
the Keep and the Collegiate Church Saint Ours.  As you proceed further up you come to the Maison Lansyer [Rue Lansyer, +33 247590545] the former family home of 19th century landscape artist, Emmanuel Lansyer (see portrait), and where you can enjoy a sweeping view of the town. The house was bequeathed to the town upon his death, together with his paintings and today, it functions as a museum that focuses on the Lansyer’s works as well as those of Canaletto, Millet and Delacroix.

 

 

Southeast of the museum house, is the Collégiale Saint-Ours, which houses the tomb of the late Agnés Sorel, mistress of Charles VII, whose name is forever tied with Loches, as she spent her time here after being presented with the royal residence of Loches by the Charles II. Agnés was dubbed Dame de Beauté by a smitten king as she was famous for her good looks and fierce intelligence. She was chosen by the Chosen to be his mistress, and was a great influence during his reign. This earned her some courtly enemies, eventually leading to her suspicious death when she was pregnant with her fourth child.

Agnès Sorel Madonna by FouquetAt the north end of the Citadelle, lies the Logis Royal [Château de Loches, +33 247590132 ad/ch €7/4.50]– the royal residence of Charles VII and his successors and also where Sorel resided.  While the royal apartments evoke feelings of majesty with its rich Flemish tapestries and exquisite Fouquet paintings, such as the Virgin Mary painting portraying Sorel as the Virgin (see painting), the rest of the place has a dark history thanks to Louis XI, son of Charles VII. Since Louis XI preferred to stay in the château in Amboise, he used this building as a prison and torture house. The basement houses the circular chamber that is said to be where the Cardinal Balue was kept suspended from the ceiling, in a cage, for betraying the king. Elsewhere lies the infamous Salle des Questions (Inquisition Room). The castle also houses the Tour Ronde and Tour Martelet, which held prisoners during the Revolution.

Associated with the chateau is an 11th century square shaped Donjon (Keep) built by the terrifying Count of Anjou, Foulques Nerra ('The Black').  The Keep stands 36 metres high and the walls are over 3 metres thick and is considered to be one of the most impressive keeps of the Norman period.