Sille-le-Guillaume, Le Sarthe, France


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The medieval town

Guillaume de Sillé, a vassal of the Count of Maine, built a fortress here on the fringes of Maine, and assisted in defending the territory against the Bretons and Normans. The château of Sillé-le-Guillaume is mentioned as early as 1040. This de Sillé barony was powerful right up to the Revolution. Next to the château is the church of Notre-Dame de l’Assomption, dating to the late 11th century. It has the first known seigneurial chapel as well as the collégiale from the 13th century. Now, can someone explain what a seigneurial chapel is? Whatever it may be, this church also has a very large crypt under the church, just partly underground, which is a splendid example of roman architecture. Not only does the town have these important historical structures, it also has a lake that’s a very popular recreational spot, and a town website that makes this community of slightly more than 2,000 seem like a very lively and thriving community.

Ah, the deceptions of the web.


I did enjoy climbing my way up to the church and its portico, finding an entrance, then circling the château. I’d already hiked most of the way out of town and back on the various departmental roads (D304, D310 and a bit of D305), and taken in the views. As I walked, almost no one returned my “Bonjour” – except for one woman who made an art form of saying “Bonjour” with a degree of grudgingness I could never have imagined. On the other hand, when I was up on the portico, there was a fellow in a window across the road, his third-floor residence being at my level, and we waved to each other. I called out, “C’est fermée, je suppose?” because the church seemed all locked up, but he told me it was open around the side. Yay, so it was. There was a little recorded music playing inside making for a pleasant atmosphere. A couple of women in the church – who helped me find an exit on the other side – told me a service would be starting in the next hour. But I was not staying.


I was here with fair hopes, having seen a couple of quite affordable properties. I knew real estate offices wouldn’t be open; Sundays may be a big day for house showings in the States, but here in France Sundays are very quiet. Vestiges of the Catholic tradition? The town did not appeal to me at all, so I didn’t worry about finding the actual locations of the properties for sale. The only activity was the constant flow of trucks and cars straight through the town on the D304.

To me, aside from the imposing church and castle, the best thing about the town is its lovely-sounding name, I do realize that any town will be sleepy on a drizzly Sunday, and that the character of a town can’t fairly be judged without participating in some of its events. But the shabby state of the majority of the buildings put me off. I can’t see any reason to investigate further here. I didn’t take pictures of the shabby things: there’s enough of that around. I do offer a little gallery of the few businesses, some street views and one shabby old hotel. Now when I look at the photos, the town seems not so bad, but that’s not how I felt as I walked, never greeted, along the narrow sidewalks with trucks fleeing alongside. Back to Le Mans, then. Next!

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