A New Podcast – The Medieval Masterpieces of Poitiers

Poitiers has been one of my favorite towns in France since I lived there in the early 1960’s. While the town and its suburbs are fairly large, the city center has changed little in centuries. Rising above the rivers Clain and Boivre, Poitiers is built on a series of hills which rise forty meters above the streams that surround it on three sides.

Those hills are home to an astonishing collection of churches. The most venerable is the Baptistère Saint-Jean, a 4th century Christian site, perhaps the oldest in France. Just outside of town is the 5th century Hypogée des Dunes, an underground crypt and chapel. The Romanesque churches include Notre Dame la Grande with its extraordinary sculpted facade, the Basilique Saint-Hilaire, and the Église Sainte-Radegonde. Just few blocks from Sainte-Radegonde is the Angevin Cathedral Saint Pierre featuring perhaps the finest single stained glass window in the world, a gift from the builders of the cathedral, Henry Plantagenet and Eleanor of Aquitaine. There is an interesting church that started out Romanesque but after destruction in wars, was updated to the Gothic form, the Abbaye Saint-Jean de Montierneuf. As if this were not enough, it is also home to the Palais de justice where Joan of Arc was interrogated in 1429.

North Side Aisle, Notre Dame la Grande, Poitiers (Vienne) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Poitiers was also the site of many great battles of French history. In 507 Clovis defeated Alaric II at the Battle of Vouillé, just a few miles away. At the Battle of Poitiers (or Tours) in 732, Charles Martel defeated the Saracen forces under Abd al Rahman. In 1356 the English inflicted a major defeat on the French in the Hundred Years War. Edward, the Black Prince defeated and captured the French King, Jean le Bon at Nouaillé, just south of town.

Poitiers, as much as any place that we have ever seen, is a living historical monument.

Here are some links to articles we have written about the churches of Poitiers.

Notre Dame la Grande
Cathédrale Saint Pierre
Église Sainte-Radegonde
Medieval Bounty of Poitiers

This podcast can also be found at the following hosting sites along with all of our other previous episodes.


Please listen and if you are so inclined, follow and comment. We are anxious for feedback on this newest Via Lucis venture.

9 thoughts on “A New Podcast – The Medieval Masterpieces of Poitiers

  1. Wonderful piece. You made me so hungry early in the morning with your descriptions of the meals, especially the mussels. I returned to your original post on the Cathedral, and marveled once again at the Crucifixion Window. I must see it in person one day. Thank you for a most informative podcast. I will await your next one with curious anticipation.

    1. Vann, next up is the podcast on the Pyrénées, mostly around the eastern side = Cuxa, Canigou, Serrabone and the like. We love that area. We have so much to talk about, though, that it might end up a two parter!

  2. Really enjoyed listening……especially as we are on holiday in the Vienne. Based at Lusignan this time, we have been into Poitiers a few times and taken hundreds of photos of the Romanesque carvings. This is our third stay in 86…..and it won’t be the last!

    1. Chris, I am so jealous! We have to wait until fall to return. Lusignan is, of course, just about an 8 mile shot across on D742 from Vivonne and we went there often. I always loved the romance of the ramparts leading into town, the chateau, and of course the church – Notre-Dame-et-Saint-Junien. We will probably go back in September. Thanks for writing and reminding us of this wonderful town.

  3. Reading about the Hypogee I wondered why I did not remember this when I visited Poitiers in 2004. Looking up some notes I wrote at the time I see the reason as I have written ‘closed since 1998!’ I did see the Dolmen up there.
    I remember the church of Saint-Porchaire which has a curious double nave. I happened to walk past one evening and heard the most glorious choir singing inside. I went in and was lucky to hear a concert which had just started and was given by an African choir from the area who had voices of angels.
    On looking up your article on the Cathedral I see what I missed there too. There had been a large notice inside saying that the stained glass window had been removed for cleaning. I remember being shocked to see the detail saying ‘OWNER – THE STATE’ I had known that the French State owned all churches and cathedrals built before 1905 but I still found it shocking to see it in print in black and white there. It seemed to emphasise the reality that the Church no longer owned these gems.

    1. Elizabeth, so good of you to mention Saint Porchaire. When we went to photograph there, the tower was being restored and we really couldn’t do our work. We plan to return this year and make up for lost time. It has always interested me, mostly because of the Carolingian west facade. I do remember the double gothic nave and the flat chevet as well. When were you in Poitiers? It seems that you must have spent quite a bit of time there

      1. Not at all! Just a week in 2004 and another week in 2006. I featured Saint-Porchaire in an article I wrote in a British Postcard magazine in 2006 which I illustrated with postcards showing the same view from 1905, 1925 and 2005. The cards emphasised both the similarities and the differences in this view depicted over the years. It had been shocking to learn that if the town council had had its way in 1843 Saint-Porchaire would have been knocked down.

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