Sunday, 10 March 2013

Ruins on a ridge

Tucked away on a ridge not far from Avon-les-Roches is a lieu-dit called Les Roches Tranchelion. Not that we knew this at the time.

We were on the D21 coming from Chinon and heading towards the very pretty village of Crissay-sur-Manse when we spotted, away in the distance, what looked like the tip of a ruin on a ridge. On a whim we took the next wee road which branched off to the left and which seemed to head in the right direction. With a few meanders it duly took us to the brow of a hill which produced the following panorama:
Les Roches Tranchelion
There were not one but two ruins on the ridge, and it turned out both ruins had interesting stories to tell! On the right is the collegiate church of Sainte-Marie-des-Roches-Tranchelion and on the left - harder to see- is what little remans of the Chateau des Roches. The vista reminded us of the way you can almost "trip over" ruined abbeys such as Rievaulx in Yorkshire.

We dropped down into the little valley below the ruins and apart from a sign telling us that this was Les Roches Tranchelion and a small wooden randonnée signpost saying 'eglise' there was no information to be had. Back home we did some digging....

The 'Collégiale Sainte-Marie-des-Roches-Tranchelion', to give it its proper name, was built in 1524 for a college of 5 canons by one Lancelot de La Touche, 'Panetier du Roi' or pantler to the King. This was the court officer in charge of the supplies of bread and the pantry, although by this time the office would have probably been largely ceremonial with more menial officials taking on the actual tasks. He was the seigneur of the Chateau des Roches at the time.

Seemingly, the 'collegiale' is one a the few examples which remain in the Touraine of Renaissance religious architecture. Others include la chapelle de Champigny-sur-Veude, Rigny-Ussé and the church at Montrésor, which has some lovely stained glass windows.

Collegiale Sainte-Marie-des-Roches-Tranchelion
The 'collegiale' has huge windows which are typical of the Flamboyant style [a late form of medieval gothic architecture] which, when they were filled with their original glass, would have allowed a kaleidoscope of light and colour to enter the building. The west front also clearly shows elements such as columns and roundels which are typical of the Renaissance.***
The 'collegiale' survived up to the Revolution and, though then empty, remained intact for some time afterwards, but by 1855 the church was in ruins.

According to a 19th century antiquarian source there is a legend associated with the 'collegiale'. History records that in 1559 King Henri II held a jousting tournament in the Place des Vosges, Paris to celebrate the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis. Henri II's opponent in the tournament was Gabriel de Montgomery, captain of his Scottish Guard. Unfortunately during the encounter Gabriel fatally wounded the king. The legend has it that Gabriel de Montgomery, in panic at what had occured, fled to Les Roches Tranchelion.The basis for this legend is the fact that Gabriel was married to Isabeau de La Touche, daughter of the same Lancelot de La Touche who built the 'collegiale'. The legend then goes on to suggest that it was this tragedy of involuntary regicide by his son-in-law that caused Lancelot to sell the chateau later in the same year [1559].
Ruins of Chateau des Roches
The chateau is older. It was built by Guillaume de Tranchelion in 1420. He was the Seigneur de Palluau. Ken, on his blog Living the life in Saint-Aignan has written about Palluau-sur-Indre. Guillaume de Tranchelion was quite a 'big cheese' at court; so much so that two kings, Charles VII and Louis XI, are known to have sojourned at the Chateau des Roches between 1449 and 1461. It was convenient stop on the way to/from Chinon.
King Charles VII by Jean Fouquet - not a pretty boy!
In 1449 King Charles VII [he, whose reign is so linked with Joan of Arc] summoned his 'Conseil du Royaume' [great coucil] to convene at the Chateau des Roches. It was at this council that the decision was taken to re-start the war against the English with the aim of finally driving them out of their remainng French holdings and by 1453 the English had lost all their French territory with the exception of the Pale of Calais. However, despite being such a 'big player' in the second half of the 15th century it seems that the castle had already fallen into a ruinous state by the late 17th, well before the Revolution.

What a lot of history for two relatively little bits of ruin on a ridge!

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***If you'd like to see more photos of the 'collegiale' go to the Avon Patrimoine blog [in French] set up by an association of Avon-les-Roches inhabitants.

20 comments:

GaynorB said...

All of this from spotting the tip of a ruin and a whim.

I'm impressed!

Craig said...

Lovely view! That chateau has your name all over it... a nice wee project for the weekends :)

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Gaynor - it's called being nosy ;-)

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Craig - LOL if only!

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

It amazes me how when driving through France, if you keep your eyes open what you can see. I just wonder how much I drive right past when driving back and forth in a hurry to the UK!
Lovely post. Have a good week Diane

ladybird said...

Very interesting post, and a spot to put on this year's 'to-visit' list. We usually stop at Crissay-sur-Manse for a salad lunch at the 'auberge'. They do huge and extremely delicious salads, which I highly recommend :). So visiting this little gem of a place only requires a short but worthwhile detour. Thanks for bringing it to my attention! Martine

Tim said...

Very Rievaulx'ish...
fascinating history, too.
Charles remind me of a sad dog...
and, given that painters in those days tended to flatter their subjects...
he probably looked much worse.

Susan said...

This is a fascinating post. I had no idea this place existed. I knew the story of the fatal joust of course, but I hadn't twigged that Montgomery was married to a local girl.

I have been told there is an excellent winemaker at Crissay, so one day we should visit. We really must visit the chapel at Champigny sur Veude too -- we have friends who live just down the road from it, and have never been -- it's shameful.

MorningAJ said...

That's a bit like Hardwick Hall and Hardwick Old Hall, right next door to each other in Derbyshire. Few people realise it's two properties. And the history they contain between them is incredible.

You'd think they'd have preserved more of the Chateau, considering it was where they planned the final rout of the English. ;)

I spent my honeymoon near Chinon (a long time ago and the marriage went out the window some time later, so don't ask me exactly where!) I remember that 'Chinon' came to mean 'It's raining again' by the end of the fortnight. I suppose you need that much rain to make the grapes juicy!

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Diane - there's always something interesting. It was the pointed tip of the gable which we just spotted peeping through the bare trees which made us curious.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Martine - the auberge goes on the list :-)
Les Roches Tranchelion would make a great place for a picnic if the auberge was willing to do salads 'a emporter'.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Tim - Let's be frank, he was pug-ugly! :-)

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Susan - combination of winery, ruins in the sun and pretty village -- what more could one ask for? :-)

We've looked at going to Champigny sur Veude but haven't been yet. The opening times are somewhat limited -- specific hrs & high season only and, if I recall correctly, guided which isn't our favourite ... still we really should go and have a look at the glass.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@AJ - or at least a plaque if not a flashing neon sign ;-)


I visited Hardwick [oh many many years ago; think it was a school trip] and have read about Bess of Hardwick -- she was quite a character in the Elizabethan period and held her own in a man's world. :-)

The Broad said...

Your mention of Rivaux Abbey brings back lovely memories of a visit my parents made to Britain many years ago now. My mother is the great historian in the family and she had on her 'list' of place to see, Richard III's castle in Middleham and Rivaux Abbey. And I have, in fact, some of the best pictures of her which were taken among the Abbey ruins.

I am so impressed at your ability to spot these places as you are driving around -- nevermind the history that surrounds them! How very interesting -- it also coincides with recent BBC programming about that period, which have me riveted! How smart I feel to have immediately recognized the portrait of Charles VII!

the fly in the web said...

That's the value of being flexible...you spot something and follow it up.
If you're on a schedule and think you'll come back later it just doesn't happen.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Broad - I guess with Charles VII it's a case of once seen, never forgotton ;-)

Rievaulx is an amazing place. The Cistercians certainly knew a good spot when they saw one.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Fly - exactly! :-)

Perpetua said...

A very interesting post and the photos are lovely. So much history hidden in such a small and out-of-the-way place. I'm now racking my brains to remember whether the chateau was mentioned in the recent BBC 4 series on the Hundred Years War....

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Perpetua - probably not; Chinon was much more of a player. It's just down the road and looks the part too :-)