On the first morning in Poitiers we started with our sightseeing tour of the historic sites of the city at the former Palais de Justice, which had been the palace of the Dukes of Aquitaine before that. This is a place that Eleanor, a Duchess in her own rights, saw as well. Not only saw, but where she sat, ate, slept, and walked around. So of course the Palais was on our list of sites to visit.
Nowadays you can only visit the ‘Grand Salle’ which is really on a grand scale. During Eleanor’s time it was called ‘Salle des Pas Perdus’, the ‘Hall of lost footsteps’, because due to its size footsteps were not heard in here. Eleanor was the one responsible to get a dining hall of this size and magnitude. The place is really overwhelming when you stand in it, especially once you realize that almost the whole back is one large fireplace.
We left the palace through the front and it does look way more impressive from this side.
We decided on making a list on what to visit, because Poitiers is full of treasures and we didn’t want to miss anything. Like the Church of Sainte-Radegonde, which dates from the 6th century. So already Eleanor must have been praying here. Maybe not in the exact same building, but still. The church is a silent witness of past history.
I loved the two level interior and the colorful pillars. These churches in Poitiers were all amazing and we hadn’t even been at the most important one so far.
We moved from this church to another, because next up was the Cathedral of St. Peter which was founded by Henry II. and Eleanor. It doesn’t get any better than this. At least for history nerds. As puny as the one from St. Radegonde looked from the front, as imposing is the cathedral. It’s almost impossible to get it in one frame.
Inside it goes on forever, with high pillars and blue-stained glass windows.
But best of all is the only picture we have of Eleanor, done in her time. It can be found on a stained-glass window, probably paid be her and Henry themselves. Even though I am not really happy with the image of her, because it doesn’t correspond at all with my imagination, one must assume she approved her likeness. Or maybe the painter took artistic license.
After a quick lunch we walked to the Baptistery of St. John, which has been built in 360 AD on top of a Roman building, which even dates back to 276 AD. Honestly, this sounds almost unbelievable, but the baptistery really is that old. Also it is constructed in the Merovingian style, something I didn’t even knew existed. Probably because the style is so old and there’s nothing around from that time.
The inside is full of frescoes from the 12th century and later, with pictures of saints, animals, and one even of Emperor Constantine.
Just around the corner we found the Museum of the Holy Cross (Musée Sainte Croix) which has a great Roman collection. There is certainly a lot to see, no wonder with the Romans being here for a couple of centuries. Unfortunately from Eleanor’s time there is not much left. Except a likeness of Henry’s father on an email plate, which is a really beautiful work and has exceptional colors. I don’t have a picture though, since it didn’t photograph well behind glass.
Personally I liked the frieze best. Don’t these heads just look like aliens to you too?
A long day with a lot of walking was coming to an end. Even though Poitiers is not on the must-see list for many people, it should be. The same six people we met at all historic sites, definitely thought so. All others are missing out on something special. Yours, Pollybert