The History of France from the Middle Ages to the present day

The medieval period

Let’s start with the medieval period and the visit of the inescapable Fortress of Chinon. Listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the Royal Fortress of Chinon is unique in Touraine. It is one of the few medieval castles in the Loire Valley. Its history is associated with famous people: Henry II Plantagenet, Jacques de Molay, Charles VII, Joan of Arc, Prosper Mérimée. A fun visit is possible thanks to the Histopad! A real immersive tool, it takes you back to the world of the Middle Ages with a reconstruction of buildings that have now disappeared.

Let’s stay in the medieval period with the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud. Would you like to combine French history and religious art? Further south but still from the hotel Le Bussy, take at least half a day to visit the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud. It is one of the largest monastic cities inherited from the Middle Ages. Classified as a Historic Monument in 1840, it has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000, along with the entire Loire Valley.

A bit of history… The Royal Abbey of Fontevraud was founded in 1101. It was envisaged as an “ideal city”, a place of exaltation of faith dedicated to prayer and work, in abstinence, silence and poverty. The Order of Fontevraud quickly spread over a vast territory, from England to Spain. From 1189, Fontevraud became a royal necropolis, housing the tombs of Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard the Lionheart. Over the course of 7 centuries, 36 abbesses, often of high nobility and sometimes of royal blood, succeeded one another at the head of the Abbey. In 1792, following the Revolution, the last abbess of Fontevraud was expelled. Twelve years later, the Abbey was transformed into a central prison by Napoleonic decree. Fontevraud, which housed up to 2,000 prisoners, was considered one of the toughest prisons in France. During the Second World War, several resistance fighters were imprisoned and then deported. Ten were shot on the spot… In 1963, the prison was closed and the restoration of the buildings began on a large scale. In 1975, the Royal Abbey opened to the public, thus putting an end to nine centuries of life behind closed doors and opening the way to this “ideal city”.



Foundation of the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud


The Duke of Anjou acquires the Manor

The Renaissance period

Just opposite the Hotel Le Bussy, visit the Château de Montsoreau. In the early 11th century, the seigneury of Montsoreau was a strategic and military point as well as a octroi located on the river. The fortress of Monte Sorello belonged to Gautier de Montsoreau, a fervent believer who in 1101 gave Robert d’Arbrissel and Hersende de Champagné land to build the Abbey of Fontevraud.

The lordship of Montsoreau then became the property of the Savary de Montbazon family, then the Craon and Chabot families. It was the marriage of Jeanne Chabot to Jean II de Chambes that brought the Château de Montsoreau into the great History of France. Private adviser to King Charles VII, he began the construction of the castle in its present form in 1450. We’ll let you discover the rest on the spot…

With its avant-garde architecture and its strong link with the river, the Château de Montsoreau has inspired artists through the centuries, from Rodin to Turner, Flaubert, Rabelais and Alexandre Dumas with his famous “Dame de Montsoreau”.

Today, it is a Mecca for contemporary art in Montsoreau, which you will discover as you walk through the rooms.

Continue with a visit to the Chateau de Saumur. The castle-palace of the Dukes of Anjou in the 14th and 15th centuries, the Château de Saumur, in which King René resided, is the last example of the princely palaces built by the Valois dynasty. It was the residence of the city’s governors, a prison, and then an arms and ammunition depot. It was bought by the city in 1906 to house the municipal museum, now the Musée de France. Today, the rich collections are displayed in the former flats of the Dukes of Anjou and in the abbey church in a didactic museography. On the first floor of the monument, you can admire the Decorative Arts section. Furniture, tapestries and ceramics from the 14th to the 18th century are on display. In the abbey room, the history of harnessing is retraced through an exhibition of saddles, bits and stirrups from antiquity to the 20th century. And always… an exceptional view of the Loire and the town.

Don’t miss the visit of the incredible Château de Brézé. Built between the 11th and 19th centuries, the Château de Brézé has an extraordinary underground network. You will discover the old seigniorial residence and its stables, a covered way, a drawbridge, a silkworm farm, kitchens, cellars, huge wine presses; all opening on the deepest dry moat in Europe.

Would you like a more intimate castle? Visit the Manoir de Launay in Villebernier. After 3 years spent in his kingdom of Naples (1435-1442), the “Good King René”, Duke of Anjou, acquired the Manor in 1444. Enlargement and embellishment made Launay a favourite residence for René and Isabelle de Lorraine, his first wife, and then Jeanne de Laval, his second wife, where the legendary “Joyeuse Garde” tournament was organised.


The contemporary period

Cross the Loire and discover the Château de Champchevrier in Cléré-Les-Pins A small architectural nugget nestled in the heart of the forest, this castle is well worth a visit! Even if the estate was already home to a fortress in the Middle Ages, it was in the 16th century, thanks to the Daillon family, that the Château de Champchevrier took on its full dimension in a renaissance style. Many châteaux in the Loire Valley have welcomed distinguished guests: this is also the case here! Louis XIII was the first to visit, at the invitation of François De Daillon, Governor of the King’s brother and then owner of the château. The estate was bought by Jean-Baptiste de la Rue du Can, who, by letters patent from King Louis XV, became Baron de Champchevrier. The current owners are the direct descendants! The present family has owned the château since 1728! One of the owners, Laurence Bizard Hamilton, will personally show you the secrets of this family home, which is no less royal!