Meung sur Loire

By Matthew 20/10/2017 23:03:07


Picturesque town in the heart of the Loire Valley

The charming, historic and poetic town of Meung-sur-Loire, home to 6388 residents is located at the heart of the Loire Valley along the Royal River between Beauce and Sologne. The town lies 17km West from Orleans, 35km from Blois and 145km from Paris. Its picturesque small streets, alleys and squares are overlapped by branches of the river Mauve which flows down to the Loire. During the Gallo-Roman Era the town was named Magdunum which meant "city on a high place".

Originally settled in Bronze Age times, the town has grown significantly in recent years. With its 37 mills, Meung has an ambience of a prosperous market town whilst at the same time it retains its essentially tranquil character, making the town an increasingly attractive weekend retreat for Parisians such as the detective novelist Georges Simenon. Its château has associations with Jeanne d'Arc, whose martyrdom is recalled each May in Orléans. Meung also boasts an 11th Century Norman Church dedicated to Saint Liphard. The tourist attraction medieval gate called 'upstream' is very popular with tourists.

The rich heritage and diversity of this area meant on November 30th 2000 Meung-sur-Loire was classified “World Heritage” by UNESCO. This award is a great privilege for the town and means new attention and importance given to the Valley Loire to maintain the natural balance, quality of life and harmony of the landscape.

Le Chateau

Looming at the western edge of the old town centre, the Château de Meung dates back from the 12th Century. This château has two distinct characters: on the one hand an austere 12 and 13C fortress that has welcomed many distinguished guests (including Joan of Arc, François I), and on the other a more light-hearted and opulent 18C château. From 1200 until 1789 it was the residence of the Bishops of Orléans, although the resident at the time was evicted during the 100 Years War when English troops were garrisoned here.

Meung which exudes relaxation, refinement and comfort has 131 rooms of which 30 are now fully open to the public. It is the only château in the Loire Valley that's fully furnished, to have been occupied continuously for 900 years, and to have subterranean dungeons. Visitors can explore the chapel, the underground prison, torture chamber and cul-de-dungeon where prisoners (such as Nicolas of Orgemon, and the famous scoundrel poet François Villon) were jailed.

In the park of the chateau you find 15 acres of French style gardens and a music pavilion. From the terrace of the gardens you get a good view over the Loire where you can see deer, ponies, geese and other wildlife in the park.

Battle of Meung-sur-Loire

By the end of 1428 virtually all of France north of the Loire had fallen to English occupation. The French had lost control of all other river crossings. English defenses at Meung-sur-Loire consisted of three components: the walled town, the fortification at the bridge, and a large walled castle. The castle served as headquarters to the English command of John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury and Thomas Scales. The bridge of strategic significance was used as a staging post for a planned invasion of southern France.

The Battle of Meung-sur-Loire took place on 15th June 1429. It was one of Joan of Arc's battles following relief of the siege at Orléans. This campaign was the first sustained French offensive in a generation in the Hundred Years' War. It demonstrated renewed French confidence and laid the groundwork for subsequent French offenses on Rheims and Paris.

Joan of Arc and Duke John II of Alençon controlled a force that included captains Jean d'Orléans, Gilles de Rais, Jean Poton de Xaintrailles, and La Hire. Bypassing the city and the castle, they staged a frontal assault on the bridge fortifications, conquered it in one day, and installed a garrison. This hampered English movement south of the Loire.

The Loire campaign killed, captured, or disgraced a majority of the top tier of English commanders and decimated the numbers of the highly skilled English longbowmen.

Artistic Significance

Meung-sur-Loire has been of cultural significance to many painters, poets, writers, scholars, and philosophers. Amongst these are: Charles-Pierre Colardeau (French Poet), Gaston Couté (poet/song writer), Baldric of Dol (author), Jean Morin (theologian), Jehan de Meun (French poet who completed Roman de la Rose) and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (painter/ sculptor).

Alexandre Dumas who tells the first story of D'Artagnan in "The Three Musketeers" and Georges Simenon who published nearly 200 novels and numerous short works best known for the creation of the fictional detective Maigret were both inspired by this town.

Final thoughts

If you fancy a visit to Meung-sur-Loire there are numerous monuments, architectural building representing a rich heritage, fantastic gardens and sports facilities at hand. Perhaps you may fancy a visit to the old market on a Sunday morning which is a delight to the eye and a promise to the palate.

View the Meung-sur-Loire official website.