Melle, Deux-Sevres tourism & sightseeing
Visit Melle (Poitou-Charentes, France)Photo Gallery
The town of Melle is to the north of the Poitou-Charentes region, east of La Rochelle and south-east of Niort, in the Deux-Sèvres department.
France This Way comment: Melle is a pleasant if not extraordinary town that would probably go unnoticed by visitors, if it did not also have three very impressive roman style churches that are the main reason to visit - it is very rare to see such a range of roman style churches in such a small town
Melle is a town on one of the more important pilgrimage routes to Santiago di Compostella and with all facilities such as supermarkets, banks and restaurants. The town is best known for having three fine examples of roman-style churches, constructed in the 11th-12th centuries.
The churches of Melle
The church of Saint-Hilaire
The Church of Saint-Hilare is the most important of the three churches in Melle, and is included by UNESCO as a world heritage site because of its historical importance to pilgrims. This church was built in the late 11th century and 12th century, and is a few hundred metres west of the town centre.
The church of Saint-Hilaire is especially interesting because of the the large amount of ornamentation and carvings in the facade and the exterior, for example the sculpture of the horse and rider above one of the entry doors, the representation of Christ on the south side, the many columns and arched windows of the facade and the small turrets either side of the facade.
The chevet at the rear of the church is also very attractive. Although it is less impressive on the inside, there is further decoration with carved characters and other sculptures to be seen in the nave of the church.
For more information see Melle church of Saint-Hilaire.
The church of Saint-Savinien
The Church of Saint-Savinen is the oldest of the three churches in Melle, and was built on top of the fortifications of the medieval town. The church became a prison in the 19th century and traces of their graffiti can be seen in the church. There is a great deal less original stonework to be seen here than in the Church of Saint-Hilaire, although the doorways are interesting to see.
The church is best seen during the art exhibitions that are often held here during the summer.
The church of Saint-Pierre
The Church of Saint-Pierre was also built in the 12th century and is a few hundred metres north of Melle town centre. Although it is smaller than the church of Saint-Hilare it has several interesting characteristics, such as a chevet that is particularly decorative and some carved capital stones inside the church.
Art exhibitions are also organised in this church during the summer.
Melle town centre
As well as this 'triade romane' of churches, other sites to visit in Melle include the old lavoir (washhouses), and the Hotel de Menoc is another interesting building, with 15th century towers and an interesting facade rebuilt in the 19th century in neo-gothic style.
You wll need to visit Melle tourist office before you explore, because they can provide you wih a guide to the town: there is quite a lot of more recent development, and the sites of interest such as the colombage house (on Grand Rue) and the vestiges of the fortifications are not all easy to find.
Outside the centre of Melle to the north there is an arboretum to explore, with a walk that introduces many different species of trees as it follows the route of an old railway track, and you can follow the Chemin de le Découverte route to discover many more trees (they claim to have over 1000 species planted).
When you visit Melle be sure to try the local speciality, a goat's cheese called chabichou - or even better, buy some at the Friday market if possible, the best and liveliest time to visit the town.
One kilometre outside the town at Le Loubeau you can see the remains of the silver mines that once made Melle the centre of the Mint for France. The "mines d'argent des rois francs" ("silver mines of the French Kings) were active from the 7th century onwards and guided tours are available, although only 350 metres of tunnels can be visited out of a total of more than 30 kilometres!
Enthusiasts of roman style churches can also see an example at Ruffec, to the south-east of Melle.
You can find more travel ideas in the Poitou-Charentes guide.
Map of Melle and places nearby
Visit near Melle with France This Way reviews
Address: Melle, Niort, Poitou-Charentes, 79500, France || GPS: latitude 46.222, longitude -0.143
Plan your visit to Melle, Deux-Sevres
Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby
- Arboretum du chemin de la découverte: remarkable garden
- Melle église St Hilaire (monuments on French pilgrim routes): heritage site
- Zoodyssée: zoo or wildlife park (21 km)
- Eglise de Saint-Brice (Saint-Mande-sur-Bredoire): religious monument (25 km)
- Eglise de Saint-Pierre (Dampierre-sur-Boutonne): religious monument (27 km)
- Aulnay église St Pierre (monuments on French pilgrim routes): heritage site (28 km)
- Eglise de Notre-Dame (Lusignan): religious monument (31 km)
- Sanxay: national monument (32 km)
- Eglise de Saint Pierre (Saint-Pierre-d'Exideuil): religious monument (33 km)
- Vallée des singes (monkeys): zoo or wildlife park (33 km)
- Eglise de Saint André (Ruffec): religious monument (34 km)
- Eglise de Saint Nicolas (Civray): religious monument (35 km)
Market days in Melle, France
Regular market(s) are held in Melle each Friday. (Markets are held in the morning unless stated.)
The French version of this page is at Melle (Francais)