Orléans

FRANCE CENTRE Orléans Statue de Jeanne d'ArcThe capital of the Loiret department Orléans (pop 113,000) sits just 100km south of Paris, and its strategic location has always made it a viable city to conquer throughout the ages. Orléans was already an important Gallic town by the time the Romans captured it and it became more prolific when Julius Cesar rebuilt it. The city became the centre of attention again, during the Hundred Years War when it was liberated from the English, by the legendary Joan of Arc. Her legacy lives on in the city, as she was named Maid of Orléans with numerous statues and museums dedicated to her.

Today, the city comprises of a bustling commercial centre alongside its medieval quarters. Boutiques and cosmetic stores line the streets of Orléans which stands cradled by many gardens and nurseries at its periphery.  

Layout
The old city is located close to the Loire riverbanks, in the area around the
Cathédrale Ste-Croix. The commercial centre is situated north of this, starting at Place du Martroi. You can arrive via train at either Gare d’Orléans (near the commercial centre) or Gare des Aubrais-Orléans (further up north). The bus station is at rue Marcel-Proust and most of the city is linked by the tram.

 

 

ORLÉANS STREET MAP:  1. Tourist office  2. Train station (Gare d’Orléans)  3. Gare des Aubrais-Orléans  (north of map limits; zoom out to view)  4. Hôtel de Ville/Hôtel Groslot  5. Cathédrale Ste-Croix  6. Place du Martroi/Joan of Arc statue  7. Musée des Beaux-Arts  8. Musée Historique et Archéologique  9.  Maison de Jeanne d’Arc 

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CENTRE Jeanne d'Arc, OrléansOrléans is home to the Musée des Beaux-Arts [Place Sainte Croix,  +33 238792155, ad/ch €4.60/Free] which is considered to be one of the finest art museums in France, outside Paris. It holds a diverse collection of European art (sculptures, drawings, prints and other objets d’art) that spans from the 16th century to the present. Its displays represent schools of art from around the continent, including Italian, Flemish and Dutch works. Modern artworks include those by Rodin, Maillol and Picasso.

A ticket to the art museum also grants you access to the Musée Historique et Archéologique [Square Abbé Desnoyers, +33 238792560 ].  This museum is befittingly housed in the 15th century Hôtel Cabu which still bears the scars of the massive fire that engulfed it during WWII. Already functioning as a museum back then, the fire destroyed most of the collections in the building. The museum was reopened in 1960, housing an array of decorative arts and other historic objects. Its entire ground floor is dedicated to the Gallo-Roman period of Orléans’ history.

If you head opposite the Fine Arts museum, you will come across a striking Renaissance building- Hôtel Groslot [Pl. de l'Étape F +33 238792230 Free] that doubles as the Hôtel de Ville. Built in the 15th century as a private mansion for Jacques Groslot, the house has been graced by the presence of notable kings such as Charles IX, Henry III, François II (who died here) and Henry IV.  The building’s interior is largely Neomedieval and as you head out, you will find a bronze statue of Joan of Arc.

CENTRE Cathédrale Sainte Croix d'OrléansSoutheast of this, stands the grand, old Cathédrale Ste-Croix [Place Ste-Croix] whose construction spanned across 4 centuries. Partly destroyed by the Protestants in 1586, proper construction works were begun by Henry IV in 1601. Hence, it sports a Flamboyant Gothic style in its architecture. The choir and nave were done by Louis XIII, the transept by Louis XIV, the western façade, towers and arcs were commissioned by Louis XV and XVI. Fine woodwork decorates the chancel inside, where you will also find a marble statue of the Virgin Mary, made in 1706 by Michel Bourdin.

As expected, Orléans is filled with many references that are made to Joan of Arc. The city owns the Maison de Jeanne d’Arc [3 Place de Gaulle,  +33 238529989, ad/ch €2/Free], which was presented to St-Joan when she was made Maid of Orléans. The humble building housed her for a month in 1429. The current building is a reconstruction of the original, which was destroyed by bombings in 1940. Inside the house, lies a small collection of manuscripts, flags and vintage swords.

Another Joan of Arc-related sight in Orléans, is the proud statue [Place du Martroi] of the legend located in an important city square area. Created by Denis Foyatier in 1855, the statue shows a triumphant Joan of Arc, sitting atop a prancing horse.  

The last reference is the Fêtes de Jeanne d’Arc which is held annually in early May. This festival is held to commemorate the city’s liberation from the English and has been celebrated in Orléans since 1430. This week long medieval affair is filled with tributes, market feasts, concerts and street parades.