Cloisters of Saint John Lateran, Rome. Source:

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Poitiers, France (Part One).

Text and Illustrations from Wikipedia - the free encyclopaedia,
unless otherwise stated.

The Church of Notre-Dame La Grande,
Poitiers, France.
Photo: 3 October 2007.
Source: Own work.
Author: Gibert Bochenek, Gilbertus
(Wikimedia Commons)

Notre-Dame la Grande is a Roman Catholic Church in Poitiers, France. Having a double status, Collegial and Parochial, it forms part of the Catholic Diocese of Poitiers. The West Front, adorned with statuary, is recognised as a masterpiece of Romanesque Religious Art. The walls inside the Church are painted.

Français: Cette image représente les armoiries la ville de Poitiers, Vienne, France.
D'argent au lion de gueules, à la bordure de sable besantée d'or;
au chef d'azur chargé de trois fleurs de lis d'or.
English: Coat-of-Arms of Poitiers, France.
On Silver, a Red Lion. On the Black Border, Gold Discs.
On the Blue Chef (Head/Top), three Gold Fleurs-de-Lys.
Date: 15 March 2005.
Source: Own work.
Author: Odejea.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Poitiers is a City on the Clain River, in West-Central France. It is a Commune and the Capital of the Vienne Department and of the Poitou-Charentes Region. Poitiers is a major University centre. The centre of town is picturesque and its streets include historical architecture, especially religious architecture, and especially from the Romanesque period.

Two major battles took place near the City: In 732 A.D., the Battle of Poitiers (also known as the Battle of Tours), in which the Franks, commanded by Charles Martel, halted the expansion of the Umayyad Caliphate, and, in 1356, the Battle of Poitiers, a key victory for the English during the Hundred Years' War. This battle's consequences partly provoked The Jacquerie.

Inhabitants of Poitiers are referred as Pictaviens (male) and Pictaviennes (female), from Pictavis, which was the ancient name for the town. It is not uncommon for inhabitants of Poitiers to call themselves Poitevins or Poitevines, although this denomination can be used for anyone from the Poitou Province.

Poitiers was founded by the Celtic tribe, the Pictones, and was known as the oppidum Lemonum, before Roman influence. The name is said to have come from the Celtic word for elm, Lemo. After Roman influence took over, the town became known as Pictavium, or, later, Pictavis, after the original Pictones inhabitants.

Historic centre of Poitiers
and Palace of Justice in the background.
Picture by Mario Vercellotti (
Date: 2005-11-01 (original upload date).
Source: Originally from en.wikipedia; description page is/was here.
Author: Original uploader was Vermario at en.wikipedia
Permission: Released into the public domain (by the Author).
(Wikimedia Commons)

There is a rich history of archeological finds from the Roman era in Poitiers. In fact, until 1857, Poitiers hosted the ruins of a vast Roman amphitheatre, which was larger than that of Nîmes. Remains of Roman Baths, built in the 1st-Century and demolished in the 3rd-Century, were uncovered in 1877.

In 1879, a burial-place and tombs of a number of Christian Martyrs were discovered on the Heights to the South-East of the town. The names of some of the Christians had been preserved in paintings and inscriptions. Not far from these tombs is a huge dolmen (tomb) (the Pierre Levée), and around which used to be held the Great Fair of Saint Luke.

The Romans also built at least three aqueducts. This extensive ensemble of Roman constructions suggests Poitiers was a town of first importance, possibly even the Capital of the Roman Province of Gallia Aquitania during the 2nd-Century.

Français: Poitiers Cathédrale (Saint Pierre).
Façade (ouest) de la cathédrale.
English: The Great West Door of Saint Peter's Cathedral,
Poitiers, France.
Photo: 13 October 2006.
Source: Own work.
Author: user:Rigolithe.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Poitiers Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Poitiers) is a Roman Catholic Cathedral in Poitiers, France. It is the Seat of the Archbishop of Poitiers.

Its construction began in 1162, by King Henry II of England and his Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, on the ruins of a Roman Basilica, and work was well advanced by the end of the 12th-Century. It is the largest Mediaeval monument in the City of Poitiers.

It is built in the Romanesque, and Early Gothic, Styles, the latter predominating. It consists of three Naves, almost equal in height and width, all three of which decrease towards the West, thus enhancing the perspective. Its length is 308 ft., and the keystone of the central Vaulted Roof is 89 ft. above the pavement. There is no Apse, and the exterior, generally, has a heavy appearance. The principal Front, which is broad, relative to its height, has unfinished Side-Towers, 105 ft. and 110 ft. tall, begun in the 13th-Century.

The Organ of Poitiers Cathédrale (Saint-Pierre de Poitiers),
Photo: 12 May 2010.
User: Derivative work: UHT.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Most of the windows of the Choir, and the Transepts, preserve their Stained-Glass of the 12th- and 13th-Centuries; the end window, which is certainly the first in the order of time, contains the figures of King Henry II and Queen Eleanor. The Choir Stalls, carved between 1235 and 1257, are among the oldest in France.

On the night of 25 December 1681 the Organ was destroyed by fire. It was not until 1770-1778 that a campaign was launched to build a replacement. François-Henri Clicquot, at that time the leading Organ-builder in France, was appointed to undertake the work, but died in 1790, before completing the work. His son, Claude-François Clicquot, finished the job, handing it over for presentation in March 1791. The instrument is a beautiful example of 18th-Century Organ design, and is still largely intact.

The West Front of Saint Peter's Cathedral,
Poitiers, France.
Photo: 2 August 2005.
Source: Own work.
Author: Enzo627.
(Wikimedia Commons)

As Christianity was made official, and gradually introduced across the Roman Empire during the 3rd- and 4th-Centuries, the first Bishop of Poitiers, from 350 A.D., to 367 A.D., Hilary of Poitiers or Saint Hilarius, proceeded to evangelise the town.

Exiled by an ignorant Emperor, he risked death to return to Poitiers as Bishop, after discovering that the Christian "Eastern" Church were not Heretics, as believed in Rome, but had, rather, reached many of the same conclusions about the Holy Trinity as had the Western Church. The first foundations of the Baptistère Saint-Jean can be traced to that era of open Christian evangelisation. Saint Hilary of Poitiers was named "Doctor of The Church" by Pope Pius IX.

In the 4th-Century A.D., a thick wall, 6 m (18 ft) wide and 10 m (30 ft) high was built around the town. It was 2.5 km (2 miles) long. Around this time, the town began to be known as Poitiers.

The Great West Door,
Poitiers Cathedral,
(Saint Peter of Poitiers)
(Saint-Pierre de Poitiers),
Poitiers, France.
Photo: 2002.
Source: Own work.
Author: JC Allin.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Fifty years later, Poitiers fell into the hands of the Arian Visigoths, and became one of the principal residences of their Kings. Visigoth King Alaric II was defeated by Clovis I at Vouillé, not far from Poitiers, in 507 A.D., and the town thus came under Frankish dominion.

During most of the Early Middle Ages, the town of Poitiers took advantage of its defensive tactical site and of its location, which was far from the centre of Frankish power. As the Seat for an évêché (Bishop) since the 4th-Century, the town was a centre of some importance and the Capital of the Poitou County. At the height of their power, the Counts of Poitiers governed a large domain, including both Aquitaine and Poitou.

Français: Église St-Hilaire-le-Grand Poitiers, France.
English: Church of Saint Hilary the Great, Poitiers, France.
This File: 12 April 2008.
User: MainMa.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The first decisive victory of a Christian army over a Muslim power, the Battle of Tours, was fought by Charles Martel's army, in the vicinity of Poitiers, on 10 October 732 A.D. For many historians, it was one of the world's pivotal moments.

Eleanor of Aquitaine frequently resided in the town, which she embellished and fortified, and, in 1199, entrusted with communal rights.

During the Hundred Years' War, the Battle of Poitiers, an English victory, was fought near the town of Poitiers on 19 September 1356. Later in the war, in 1418, under duress, the Royal Parliament moved from Paris to Poitiers, where it remained in exile until the Plantagenets finally withdrew from the Capital in 1436. During this interval, in 1429, Poitiers was the site of Joan of Arc's formal inquest.

The University of Poitiers was founded in 1431. During and after the Reformation, John Calvin had numerous converts in Poitiers and the town had its share of the violent proceedings which underlined the Wars of Religion throughout France.


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