Poitiers - ancient and modern
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The 4th century baptistry - the oldest church building in France.
A traditional stopping spot on the route from Paris to Bordeaux, southwest France and Spain, it is a city that has catered for passing travellers since Roman times.
Defensively located on a hilltop beside a main route, Roman Poitiers, known as Limonum, was one of the major cities in western Gaul, and possibly the capital of the area; however little remains of classical Roman Poitiers. On the other hand, Poitiers is home to one of the oldest churches in Europe, the fourth century Baptistry, built during the Gallo-Roman period. Today a small archaeological museum, the Baptistry is decorated inside with some of the earliest mural paintings in France.
Remarkable polychrome Burial of Christ, from 1555, in the church of Notre Dame la GrandeIt was in the Middle Ages that Poitiers really came into its own again; and there are several impressive buildings dating from this time. Most important is the church of Notre Dame la Grande, which was consecrated in the year 1086. With its ornately decorated facade, Notre Dame la Grande is one of the finest examples of western French Romanesque architecture.
Poitiers also has a fine early gothic cathedral, built in the 12th century on the instigation of King Henry II of England and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine. The cathedral has some beautiful mediaeval stained glass windows.
There are two other interesting mediaeval churches in Poitiers, the church of Saint Hilaire, a classic but unusual 11th century Romanesque church, and the church of
In addition to its cluster of mediaeval churches, Poitiers has an old town centre with narrow streets, many half-timbered buildings, and other ancient town houses. The town centre also has plenty of cafés and restaurants, as well as shops and boutiques.
Poitiers' main museum is the Musée Sainte Croix, close to the town centre. Housed in a modern building from the 1970s, the museum has a collection of historic and archaeological artefacts, as well as an art gallery with a collection of mostly French paintings and sculpture from the 19th and 20th centuries, including works by Rodin, Bonnard and Sisley.
The Kinemax building at the Futuroscope - an Imax cinemaWhile the sights and monuments of old Poitiers illustrate the city's historic past, the same cannot be said for the most popular tourist attraction just ourside Poitiers. This is the Futuroscope, a future-themed hi-tech theme park located at Jaunay Clan, one of the northern suburbs of Poitiers.
Opened in 1984, the Futuroscope has grown from a few futuristic pavillions round an Imax cinema, to become the world's most sophisticated cinema theme park. It has giant screens, IMAX and 3-D and 4-D shows, some of them using technology that is unique in the world, all in all over twenty future-themed attractions. Among the latest attractions is a high-tech aquatic evening show by Cirque du Soleil, that started in Feb 2016.
Saint Savin sur Gartempe
11th century frescoes in Saint Savin.For anyone interested in mediaeval architecture, the church of Saint Savin sur Gartempe, 45 km east of Poitiers. A UNESCO world heritage site, this large 11th century abbey has the largest and among the best preserved collection of mediaeval frescoes in France, and among the best anywhere. Unlike most large churches of its time, the abbey still has its original barrel vault, on which most of the fresoces are painted. Its interior is a unique example of how many large churches would have looked in the 11th and 12th centuries.
Chauvigny, with its cluster of castlesHalf way between Poitiers and Saint Savin, Chauvigny is a historic town perched on a rock beside the river Vienne. The centre of the small town is remarkable for having no less than five castles, two of which can be visited. Chauvigny also has two 11th century churches, notably the Collégiale Saint Pierre, in the historic city, which is best known for its unique collection of mediaeval capitals, coloured as they would have been in the Middle Ages.
Dienné - 26 km southeast of Poitiers. A wildlife and adventure park for kids and families; lots of animals, and games and activities to make kids and adults aware of the environmental challenges facing our planet in the 21st Century. The park also offers accommodation in tree houses, gypsy caravans and other quirky structures
Vallée des Singes
Romagné, 31 km south of Poitiers. Vallée des Singes, or Monkey valley in English, is Europe's largest primates wildlife park, with over 400 gorillas, apes, lemurs and other monkeys in large open enclosures. the park is heavily involved in the protection of endangered species.