Candes Saint Martin is a listed 'most beautiful village of France' found ten kilometres south-east of Saumur in the Indre-et-Loire department of the Centre (Loire Valley) region. The village sits on the banks of the Vienne River, at the confluence with the Loire River, on a small hill with beautiful views across the surrounding countryside.
Saint Martin (who gave his name to the village) arrived here secretly towards the end of the 4th century, destroyed the existing pagan temple (although some remains of the earlier building can still be seen) and converted the residents. When he died in the village he was laid to rest in what is now one of the chapels in the church.
The best way to approach the village is by walking from the neighbouring village of Montsoreau. Both villages are classified as ’most beautiful villages of France’ and one really merges into the other.
The highlight of Candes-Saint-Martin is the fortified collegiale church and the chapel Saint Martin, which dominates the village. The church was built in the 12th century, although much of the decoration was added three centuries later.
It is especially known for the many statues that decorate its facade, and for the stained glass windows tracing the story of the relics of Saint Martin. When I visited taped choral music was playing and added to the atmosphere inside.
The main village lies between the church and the Vienne River, and has an attractive old centre with some pretty streets and houses to explore and admire. Built in the lovely white stone of the area and with grey slate rooves the slightly austere look is softened by the fine detail given to some of the stonework and the plants springing up from every available spare bit of ground.
Above the village there are some troglodyte cave dwellings set in the cliff.
Don’t miss the walk along the Chemin du Panorama to the viewpoint above the village. This gives you a great view of what is a particularly beautiful stretch of the River Loire. (You can also see the first Nuclear Power station built in France (1957)
Candes-Saint-Martin is classified as a one of the most beautiful village in France (plus beau villages)
Address: Candes-Saint-Martin, Chinon, Indre-et-Loire, Loire Valley, 37500, France || GPS: latitude 47.211667, longitude 0.074167
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The French version of this page is at Candes-Saint-Martin (Francais)