A stroll in Fontenay-le-Comte, Vendée

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We were beginning our explorations of Deux-Sèvres, but as usual I had some detours in mind. We left Niort and rather than heading directly northeast to Parthenay, drove northwest on departmental roads 648 and 148 to Fontenay-le-Comte in the Vendée department and on the Vendée River. After that, we meandered north through La Châtaigneraie and then east through L’Absie, Secondigny and Azay-sur-Thouet to Parthenay where we would spend the night. We found little reason to stop or to take photos on this route, but we did explore Fontenay on foot.

Once we’d gotten to the center of town and found parking, we set off in search of coffee and perhaps a bakery. Hard to find! At least we got in a good walk. Fontenay has been awarded the designation of “Ville d’Art et d’Histoire” and has been placed on the list of Most Beautiful Detours in France. It is known as a Renaissance city, as it was thriving in the 16th century and still has a number of mansions from that time. Development is restricted in the center of downtown, to preserve its character.

The recently-renovated and very modern indoor Halles in Fontenay is open Wednesday and Saturday mornings; on Saturdays, there is an overflow to outdoor vendors in Place Chevolleau and Place Thiversay.

Photo credit: Kristian Soederberg

We went into Église Notre-Dame de l’Assomption, which was built in 1423, in the heart of the ancient fortified city, on the site of an earlier Roman construction on the right bank of the Vendée. There is a Carolingian crypt underneath the church. In the 12th century, an Augustinian abbey was here. There are three entrances to the church; the photo here is the secondary entrance on rue Notre-Dame, on the west.

When we entered, a young organist was practicing, so we both made videos … and Kristian’s is the better one.

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