Bourges, Nevers (Nièvre) & Sancerre


The name Sancerre is an appellation d'origine contrôlée for wine produced in the area of town of Sancerre in the eastern part of the Loire valley, south and east of Orléans. It sits between Bourges (Cher) and Nevers (Loire). White Sancerres are made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes. Rosé and red Sancerre wines come from Pinot Noir grapes. Indeed Sancerre was known primarily for the Pinot Noir grape until the 20th century. The Sancerre area was devastated by phylloxera in the late 19th century. The vineyards were replanted in Sauvignon Blanc. Gregory of Tours wrote of vineyards here in 582, and these local wines enjoyed a good reputation, as long ago as the twelfth century.

Sancerre is a hilltop town (A natural fortress 312 meters in height), commune and canton in the Cher département of central region in France. Its name may be derived possibly from an ancient Roman Temple ("Sacred to Caesar") and later Christianized to Saint-Cere. During the Carolingian Frank period a small village occupied the hillside, clustered around the Church dedicated to Saint Romble. Many centuries later, an Augustinian abbey stood at nearby Saint Satur in 1034AD. The Counts of Champagne (province of Berry) built a chateau on the hill (1152) and ramparts to protect the medieval village.

The fortified city repelled the English forces twice during the Hundred Years' War, but Edward, the Black Prince destroyed much of the surrounding area, including the Abbey in Saint Satur and l'église Saint-Romble. Sancerre was the seat of Sainte Jeanne d'Arc’s comrade-in-arms, Jean V (de Bueil). Sancerre was also the site of the infamous Siege of Sancerre (1572-1573) during the Wars of Religion where the Huguenot population held out for nearly eight months against the Catholic forces of the king, one of the last such siege where attackers used the trebuchet. The area suffered economically from the mass exodus of Protestant merchants, tradesmen and others during the 17th century, especially after the Sun King's revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685). The city is full of twisting streets with many buildings surviving from the Middle Ages. A 16th century bell tower (St. Jean) remains, built by the prosperous merchants of Sancerre, along with Tour des Fiefs, the lone remaining tower of the feudal chateau (1390); and the ruins of Saint-Romble, the medieval church destroyed by the English.

Bourges' Celtic name was Avaricon; the etymology of its current name is in dispute. The city has a long tradition of art and history, other sites of importance include the Palace of Jacques Cœur and a large district of timber houses plus the occasional grande palais. This city has seen Christian worship since the 3rd century, when the Roman city of Avaricum sheltered the first Christian community in Gaul. Successive crypts were placed on the site of the current cathedral structure in the 3rd, 4th and 9th centuries. Cœur's home, until he got on the wrong side of the King, is constructed over a portion of a Gallo-Roman wall that surrounds the city. His palace prefigured later mansions of the Renaissance period. The façade on the street side and that of the main building are decorated with Jacques Cœur's coat-of-arms, plus a multitude of sculptures portraying religious themes. The residence includes a barrel-vaulted gallery, painted chapel and hall that housed Turkish-style baths.

The first cathedral of Bourges was a Romanesque-style edifice, built in the 11th century by Archbishop Gozlin, the brother of Robert II of France. A century later, this structure had proved to be too small. Rebuilding in the brand-new Gothic style began (1195) -- La Cathédrale Saint Étienne de Bourges. In its day it was cutting edge. Its patron the Archbishop Henri de Sully had plans for a raised choir, an impressive height and graceful supports. His successor Guillaume de Dangeon, followed through with a comprehensive iconography, thematic glass that affirmed Catholic dogma. A second building campaign (in 1230) saw the placement of the façade of the eastern portal.   Learn about the heart of Bourges HERE.

At the end of the Roman era, today's Nevers was known as Nevirnum, once believed to be a contraction of an earlier Roman name Noviodunum Aeduorum, given to the site by Cæsar in his treatise on the wars in Gaul. Nevers, capitale de l'ancienne province du Nivernais (Département de la Nièvre) -- home city of Philibert Couillaud dit Roquebrune, l'ancêtre de la grande majorité des Larocque du Canada et des États-Unis. The page Cartes Postales Anciennes à Nevers shows some of the city sights. Not to be missed is the cathedral, Cathédrale Saint-Cyr-et-Sainte-Julitte de Nevers, a meld of two structures of markedly different styles (the basilica was a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture, then it was reformed with a gothic renewal of a classic style, with additions from three more centuries). Nevers contains the burial place of Sainte Bernadette Soubirous at Convent of the Sisters of Charity. Her remains have been placed in a gold and crystal reliquary in the Chapel of Sainte Bernadette (at the mother house). Many pilgrims continue to visit the body of Bernadette; to this day it remains intact despite being over one hundred and thirty years old.

If you travel to Nevers, also visit the solid Romanesque church of St-Étienne. Another attraction of Nevers, the high square gateway tower known as the Porte du Croux, remains a relic of feudal days. It dates from 1398, part one would think of the town’s defense. As an example of mediæval defense, the tall gateway tower protection (like the Porte Guillaume at Chartres) includes an ancient fosse (a passage with side ditches on the approach, patterned after a Roman defensive road). Succession apostolique des évêques de Nevers de 502 à 2003.

Both Nevers and Bourges were sites on the pilgrimage routes of Santiago de Compostela [The Way of St James the Apostle] in France Various routes (Caminos) led to a site in today's Spain where the Apostle James (the greater) was buried (see Camino de Santiago). The Way of St James has existed for over a thousand years, being one of the most important Christian pilgrimages during medieval times. During the war of American Independence, John Adams was ordered by Congress to go to Paris to obtain funds for the cause. His ship started leaking and he disembarked with his two sons in Finisterre in 1779, where he proceeded to follow the Way of St. James in the opposite direction, in order to get to Paris overland. He did not stop to visit Santiago, and came to regret this during the course of his journey. In his autobiography, he gives an accurate description of the customs and lodgings afforded to St. James pilgrims in the 18th century, and mentions the legend as it was then told to travelers. see -- Map of Spanish Routes

Metz -- Belfort -- Reims -- Colmar -- Mulhouse -- le Saint-Suaire -- Lörrach {sister city of Sens} -- Avignon -- Nice -- Narbonne -- Strasbourg -- Troyes -- Sens -- Auxerre, Chablis & Dijon -- Chartres -- Paris -- Mâcon
A Visitor's Guide to Carolingian France: Burgundy

Celtic/Frank History -- Germaniæ Historicæ -- Anglo Saxons -- Reformation from a French-Protestant point of view

Pau -- Bayonne -- Orléans -- Bordeaux -- Nantes -- Poitiers -- Île de Ré, La Roche-sur-Yon, LaRochelle, Rochefort, Saintes & Royan -- Tours -- Caen, Rouen & Rennes -- Châtellerault & Châteauroux

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