Perched atop a rocky spur overlooking the Indre River valley, Loches is one of very few French medieval towns to have kept almost all of its 12th Century ramparts. The citadel is a showcase of Loches’ most beautiful medieval monuments : the Gallo-Roman keep, constructed around the year 1000 by Fulk Nerra, is one of the oldest and largest preserved dungeons in Europe today. The Collegiate Church of Saint Ours is a splendid example of Romanesque architecture, with a sculpted polychrome portal and two pyramidal cupolas, the only ones to be found in France. Inside the church lies the tomb of Agnes Sorel, the official “favourite” mistress of King Charles the VII. The Royal Apartments, one of the first ceremonial residences built by the Kings of France in the Loire Valley, hosted a number of historically notable women such as Agnes Sorel, Joan of Arc and Anne of Brittany.
The lower town is more reflective of the subtle charms of the Renaissance. The Town Hall, the Tower of Saint Antoine and a number of stately private homes bear witness to a flourishing and prosperous 16th Century. Loches is also home to two art galleries : The Galerie Antonine, displaying the “Caravaggios of Philippe de Bethune”, and the birthplace museum of landscape painter Emmanuel Lansyer, a pupil of Courbet and Viollet-le-Duc.
Loches is renowned for its art de vivre and its “genuine” atmosphere. Surrounded by protected countryside of hills and valleys and fields stretching as far as the eye can see, the town has managed to retain a natural authenticity that is unique in the Loire Valley. Streets and architecture is preserved, but small businesses are encouraged and the twice-weekly market is as lively and robust as ever. Considered one of the most important in the region, it is a showcase for the culinary savoir-faire and flavours of the Touraine (Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine, rillons, rillettes de Tours, mushrooms, Géline de Touraine poultry).
This 13th century gate, which was altered in the 15th century, is the only entrance to the fortress. It has all the necessary systems of defence i.e. drawbridge, machicolations, arrow slits and a gun platform built in the 15th century.
Built by Foulques Nerra, 4th Count of Anjou, between 1010 and 1035, this is one of Europe’s oldest surviving keeps. The building material used, the quality of the construction and its height (36 metres) make this an outstanding building for its time. Around the main tower, numerous other buildings were erected to increase the system of defence between the 11th and 15th centuries. It was then used as a State prison and, later, as a “county” gaol until 1926.
The Royal Apartments were built in two stages, between the end of the 14th and the end of the 15th centuries. The oldest section, on the south side, has four turrets that are more decorative than military. The second section, built a century later and extending out from the north side, was designed in the Flamboyant Gothic style.
Open daily except 1 January and 25 December. 1 October > 31 March : 9.30am - 5pm. 1 April > 30 September : 9am - 7pm.
Keep + Royal Apartments : Full price € 8.50 / Discounted price € 6.50 / Free under 7.
Tel : +33 (0)2 47 59 01 32 / www.chateau-loches.fr
This church was founded in the 10th century but built in the 11th and extended in the 12th. It has two outstanding features – its 12th century carved polychrome doorway and its two pyramidshaped domes above the nave.
It contains the tomb of Agnès Sorel, King Charles VII’s official mistress. During the Middle Ages, the church stood in a canonial district where there was also a well-known school; after the Revolution, it became a parish church.
Emmanuel Lansyer (1835-1893) was a landscape artist who studied under Viollet-le-Duc then under Courbet. In 1893, he bequeathed his family home and collections to the Town Council so that they could form the basis of a museum.
It is now one of the Musées de France.
April / May / September / October From Wednesday to Sunday : 10.30am - 12.30 / 2pm - 6pm.
June / July / August Open daily : 10.30am - 12.30 / 2pm - 6pm.
Entrance : € 2 (free under 12).
This mansion was built in the 15th century then altered and extended in the 16th and 17th centuries. The façade, built in 1551, was inspired by the works of Michelangelo and is decorated with an antique frieze and columns with capitals that are typical of the Second Renaissance period.
April to October Open daily : 10.30am - 6pm.
In 1519, François I gave permission for the townspeople to buy this Town Hall. Renaissance in style, it has one of the earliest straight open newel staircases of the period. On two dormer windows are illustrations of François I’s crowned salamander and Loches’ coat-of-arms, symbols of royal and municipal power respectively. The building has served the same purpose for the past 500 years.
This is the second defensive gate in the lower town to have survived to the present day. It includes a Renaissance niche added when the Town Hall was built.
This is both a bell tower and a belfry, built between 1529 and 1575 during the Renaissance period. It was used to call people to religious ceremonies in the old Church of St. Ours (no longer in existence) and was part of the everyday life of the town, symbolising its power and independence. This is the only belfry in the Tours area.
This is the most recent of the four gates that once protected the wall round the lower town. Built in 1498, it includes a number of decorative features. It was named after the Franciscan friary nearby.
It was fitted out in 1812 in the former dining hall of the Ursulines convent, to provide the lower city with a parochial church, more accessible than the St-Ours church. The Saint-Antoine Gallery, attached to the church, contains the permanent exhibition “Les Caravage de Philippe de Béthune”, the invaluable triptych of Jean Poyet dating from the 15th century, as well as a collection of ecclesiastical objects.
Loches Tourist Office
Place de la Marne - BP112 - 37601 Loches cedex
Tel : +33 (0)2 47 91 82 82 / E-mail
Open all year.