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Moncontour, Vienne travel guide

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Visit Moncontour, Vienne (Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France)

Moncontour is a pretty, historical village on the border between the Vienne and Deux Sevres departments.

Wrong Moncontour? See also Moncontour, Brittany

Exploring Moncontour

Watched over protectively by it’s 11th century donjon, Moncontour has a water sports lake and is surrounded by branches of the River Dive and beautiful forest and riverside walks.

Leisure lake close to  Moncontour, Vienne

The area is a nature lovers paradise - you can find deer, birds of prey and even a wild boar or two and you may be lucky enough to spot a heron or two along your route, usually stealing a fish or two from the fishermen

The grounds of the donjon, the village park and surrounding area play host to a number of events during the summer, including the largest Vide Grenier / Brocante in the region on 1st May each year; Le Dives Buissonieres – music and crafts middle of June each year, the Fete de la Musique which occurs all over France on June 20th each year; and the July 14th celebrations when you can watch the fireworks being set off from the donjon – just to name a few.

Plaques around the village of Moncontour describe the history of the 11th century donjon, the history of the ancient lavoirs (wash houses found along the rivers edge), and history of the region, of it’s people and of it’s patois - language.

The donjon of Moncontour

The castle keep is the result of four phases of work between the 11th and 14th century. The original was built of limestone under the direction of the Duke of Anjou, Fulk III, in the 11th century on the top of a hill surrounded by impassable marshes that provided an unobstructed view.

In the 12th century the English tower was seized and modified by the lords. After a demolition of the upper part, it took on the appearance of an apartment building. The stairs have been added to connect the floors, chimneys and new windows added. Finally, in the 14th century during the Hundred Years War, the tower was strengthened to provide greater defense and it now supports a solid roof from which you can get a superb view of the local countryside.

The tower is now the only remnant of a magnificent building. The other architectural parts of the old fortified site have all seen better days. The elevated tower on the hill is protected by an enclosure of high walls and accessible by a vaulted entrance.

Nearby you can see the ruins of the old church of Notre Dame which was built inside the castle walls. A walk in front of the castle offers breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.

Donjon

The battle of Moncontour

Long before the Battle of Moncontour, the donjon had seen war during the Hundred Years War between England and France, with Duguesclin swearing in 1372 ‘I will never sleep in a bed before I have taken Moncontour and hanged the Englishman who insulted me'...

In 1569 the donjon was witness once more to combat, this time between the Protestants and the Catholics. In the middle of the sixteenth century, Protestants and Catholics were engaged in unprecedented violence leading to murders, lynching, burnings and a massacre on the plateau of Moncontour.

Under Admiral de Coligny, leader of the Huguenots and the Duke of Anjou, head of the Catholics, the castle was powerless to stop one of the bloodiest battles in the history of France between 25 000 protestant troops and 30 000 catholc troops.

The battle of Moncontour took place on Monday 3 October 1569. In total it is thought that 20,000 were killed and placed on a great pyre. The glowing lights of the gigantic fire could be seen around the countryside for several miles. Coligny was injured and departed for La Rochelle, while the Duke of Anjou quickly announced the good news of his victory to his brother King Charles IX and their mother Catherine de Medici.

The former chapel of the chateau-donjon is a masterpiece of Romanesque art, the church of Notre-Dame of the Chateau. Some restoration has taken place recently to repair damage and restore some of its glory. It still houses fragments of wall paintings and carvings in limestone.

There are a number of houses in Moncontour who own a kind of stone ball. It is a ball from a catapult, the sort used between the 11th and the 14th century during the great wars which took place around the village.

catapult ball, Moncontour

Attractions near Moncontour

The surrounding region is steeped in Roman art and architecture and chateaux with the Roman sites of Sanxay, Naintre and Gens all within an hours drive. The route des Roi Anglais meanders from the coast down to the Loire Valley. The nearest castle to Moncontour is Chateau Oiron, which holds regular events during the summer time.

The area around Moncontour is central for walking, cycling, horse riding, golf, history, architecture and culture. One of the largest golf courses in the country is just 20 minutes away near Loudun and the famous Golf de Forges just 40 minutes in the other direction between Poitiers and Parthenay.

The beautiful Romanesque church of St Jouin des Marnes can be found just ten minutes drive. Visit also Saint-Loup-Lamaire which has a beautiful chateau, cobbled streets, and a beautiful river with small waterfall.

If you are looking for visits to suit the children then you can not go wrong with the Vallee des Singes (ape valley) at Romagne; and Le Geants du Ciel (birds of prey) at Chauvigny, where you will also find a castle and medieval town. Troglodyte caves at Rochemenier and Doue la Fontaine; and we must not forget Poitiers famous theme park Futuroscope which is just 45 minutes drive.

Within an hours drive you can find Saumur, Chinon and Tours along the Loire Valley and also the beautiful chateaux of Amboise, Villandry and Usse are all well worth a visit. At Amboise you can find the tomb of Leonardo da Vinci.

You can find more travel ideas in the Vienne guide and the Poitou-Charentes guide.

See also: 

Map of Moncontour, Vienne and places nearby

Visit near Moncontour, Vienne with France This Way reviews

Thouars

Thouars

Best known for its 17th century castle, in Thouars you can also see several medieval monuments

Thouars guide
Chateau de Montreuil-Bellay

Chateau de Montreuil-Bellay

The Château de Montreuil-Bellay is an impressive 15th century castle surrouned by medieval ramparts and furnished n period style

Chateau de Montreuil-Bellay guide
Parthenay

Parthenay

Parthenay is a quiet town, with historic monuments that hint at its importance iver the centuries

Parthenay guide
Fontevraud Abbey

Fontevraud Abbey

The Fontevraud Abbey has a great deal to see: it is one of the largest abbey complexes in France and most visited abbeys in France

Fontevraud Abbey guide
Chateau du Rivau

Chateau du Rivau

One of the more modest castles in the region, both the Chateau de Rivau and its associated gardens are very pleasant to explore

Chateau du Rivau guide
Chateau de Chinon

Chateau de Chinon

Château de Chinon retains more medieval elements than most Loire Valley castles

Chateau de Chinon guide

... or see ALL recommended places to visit in Vienne

Address: Moncontour, Châtellerault, Poitou-Charentes, 86330, France || GPS coordinates: latitude 46.8825, longitude -0.015833

Plan your visit to Moncontour, Vienne, Vienne

Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby

  • Eglise Abbatial de Saint Jouin (Saint-Jouin-de-Marnes): religious monument (3 km)
  • Oiron Chateau: national monument (9 km)
  • Eglise de Saint Généroux (Saint-Generoux): religious monument (9 km)
  • Eglise abbatiale de Saint Pierre (Airvault): religious monument (11 km)
  • Loudun: recommended detour (16 km)
  • Aquarium de Loudun: aquarium (16 km)
  • Thouars: town of art and history (18 km)
  • Jardin du château de La Mothe: remarkable garden (25 km)
  • Montreuil-Bellay: recommended detour (30 km)
  • Richelieu: secteur sauvegarde (30 km)
  • Chatillon-sur-Thouet: secteur sauvegarde (30 km)
  • Parthenay: town of art and history (32 km)

The French version of this page is at Moncontour, Vienne (Francais)

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