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Silver Traveller Review

Eglise abbatiale de l’Abbaye de la Sainte-Trinite (Attraction - Castles & places of worship)
Loire Valley, France

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"Burial place of Foulques Nerra, Count of Anjou"

Date of visit:
September 2012

   ESW (GB)
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Église abbatiale de l’Abbaye de la Sainte-Trinité was built in 11thC by Foulques Nerra in atonement for his murder of Hugh de Beauvais and also as a suitable burial place.

He was one of the most powerful men of his time but has been described as a ”character of a violent nature and uncommon energy, one of the most restless warriors of the Middle Ages. He could be a cruel and harsh ruler and waged incessant war against his neighbours. He made three trips to the Holy Land and built Abbeys in atonement for his sins.

The Abbey was sacked an burnt by the English during the Hundred Years War and there was further damage during the Wars of Religion. In the 16thC the nave and choir were badly damaged and in the 18thC, the transept tower collapsed.

Now only the 12thC west tower survives with its spire and corner pinnacles. Parts of the north wall of the nave remain attached to the tower, and the position of the nave pillars is marked on the ground. The 20thC church is built into the ruins of the old chancel. This has a small squat tower above the transept and a small pinnacle in the south west corner. Flying buttresses support the east end. The remains of the original windows can be seen on the the outside wall of the nave. The large west doors are kept locked and entry is through a small door at the end of the south wall.

The chancel and the east end of the nave are 11/12thC. The rest of the nave is later. It used to have an ambulatory but tis is now blocked off. Rest of nave is later.

The nave is very tall with two side aisles. It is very plain inside. Tall pillars support pointed arches and have a small band of carving round the top. The Stations of Cross are very stylish stone carvings. The vaulted ceiling has carved bosses. The wall mounted wooden pulpit has an open crown above the canopy.

The south aisle has a stone sarcophagus in the floor containing the body of Foulques Nerra (970-1040). There is an inscription carved in the wall above. On the end wall of the south aisle are carvings of Joseph and the young Jesus, and also Mary with Jesus, with a small wooden cross between them. At the back is a statue of St Philomene. There is a very ornate altar at end of the north transept which has a glass coffin underneath containing a body. There is no documentation about this. Above is a wooden table with a frieze with gilt carved grapes along the top and a gilt host box. Above are gilt statues, separated by pillars with a cross and palm tree.

Steps lead up into the chancel. This has a small wooden mass altar and very stylish carved wood eagle lectern. On the side walls are old choir stalls with beautifully carved misericords. These are mostly heads but there is a carving of a cat with foliage coming out of its mouth. There is no high altar, but on the east end is a splendid Abbot’s chair of carved and painted wood. The misericord has a carving of a head with foliage coming out of the mouth.

Below the windows are three triangular blind arches painted with an outline of red diamonds with a small red motif in the centre. Above the Abbot’s chair is a crucifix. On either side are statues of St John and St Fiacre holding a watering can and a spade. On the outside of these are St Paul holding a sword and St Peter holding the key of Heaven with a cockerel at his feet. A small gilt and white wood host box is mounted on the north wall of the chancel arch. The large stained glass window at the east end has pictures of Christ with the apostles.

Beaulieu-sur-Loches across the river from Loches, was an important settlement which grew up round Foulques Nerra's Abbey. It didn't have the strong defences of Loches and during the Hundred Years War, the merchants, burghers and peasants began to move to Loches for protection.

Recently as a means of promoting tourism, there has been a renewed interest in the history and heritage of the town. The Marie has produced a town trail with information abbout its history.

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