Discovery of Pons and its historic treasures

Pons
Discovery of Pons and ...
Bordering the departments of Charente and Gironde, Haute-Saintonge is one of the best preserved and most authentic places in Charente-Maritime . Halfway between Saintes and Jonzac , the small medieval town of Pons was once an important stop on the road to Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle . This medieval city is full of architectural treasures that have survived the centuries and which can be visited today to the delight of history buffs or the curious who venture there. An exciting day ahead! Here are the TOP 5 historic places not to be missed during your next visit to Pons .

The Dungeon of Pons


Visit of Pons

The tower of the keep

Arriving at Pons, the imposing silhouette of its keep proudly sits above the landscape, witnessing the strategic historical role that Pons occupied in the Middle Ages. Perched 30 meters high on a rocky promontory, this spectacular rectangular tower overlooks the city and the entire Seugne valley , a tributary of the left bank of the Charente.

Inexorably drawn to this majestic military building, we begin our day of visit at the foot of the keep located on the central square in Pons: Place de la République . It is also the ideal starting point for exploring Pons because this central square also houses the municipal parking lot of Pons , convenient for parking our car.

This medieval dungeon is the most beautiful example of a Romanesque dungeon characteristic of western France. Its construction was completed in 1187 by Lord Geoffroy III following the destruction of a first castle built by Richard the Lion Heart then king of Aquitaine. Its ashlar walls are 2.5 meters thick on three of its sides and 4.40 meters thick on the north side. A real fortress that has withstood many assaults!

Take to the heights by climbing the 136 steps of the dungeon to contemplate the breathtaking panoramic view of the city, the Seugne Valley and the entire region. The dungeon is open to visitors from the start of the Easter holidays until the end of the All Saints holidays.


The ramparts walk of the Château de Pons


Visit of Pons     Visit of Pons

The Chateau de Pons! Go to the tourist office to collect the map of the discovery walk

Starting point for the walk around the fortifications adjoining the keep, the old Château de Pons now houses the tourist office and the town hall . This very harmonious building, an old manor house, was built in the 17th century by Henri 1er d'Albret who succeeded the powerful dynasty of the lords of Pons. From the terrace and the gardens, the views over the winding valley of the Seugne are exceptional. Take the large stone staircase designed in 1665 with its 124 steps. Going down this staircase, we contemplate the green landscape that surrounds us and the gigantic fortifications of the city, the old medieval wall of the 12th century and the terrace built in 1630 on the cliff side . A moment of appreciable relaxation with beautiful panoramas of the river.

Visit of Pons

Visit of Pons       Visit of Pons

Visit of Pons A superb walk around the fortifications

Saint-Vivien Church


Located in the rue du Maréchal Leclerc below the city , the church and its splendid 12th century facade , miraculously spared by the various wars that rocked the region, bear witness to the Saintongeais Romanesque style. We stop for a few moments to admire this building without bell tower, consisting of a porch and two lower niches similar to a triumphal arch. Listed as a historic monument since 1912, this church houses “Notre-Dame de Recouvrance”, a Gallo-Roman mother goddess of pagan worship whose primitive statue was discovered in 1252 by Franciscan monks, the Cordeliers fathers, during the construction of their convent. . She is now the patron saint of Pons and Saintonge.

Visit of Pons

Visit of Pons

The sumptuous facade of the Saint-Vivien church


The pilgrims hospital


Due to its location on Via Turonensis , one of the routes to Santiago de Compostela, Pons becomes an important religious center to welcome pilgrims passing through in order to eat and rest. The city is then adorned with churches, monastic orders and even a hospital specially dedicated to sick or injured pilgrims , orphans and the poor. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site , this former medieval hospice was erected in the 12th century at the request of Geoffroy III, Lord of Pons. Remarkable heritage which functioned until the 18th century, it is one of the oldest hospital complexes in Europe. It used to treat body and soul care. Its porch is particularly emblematic and does not leave us indifferent. It is on this porch, sheltered from the rain and the sun, that the poor, the excluded, the beggars and the marginalized received their daily ration of blessed bread. Another touching vocation of this porch, orphans were deposited in the hospice at night, out of sight. At the time, abandonment was the most convenient way to get rid of a child who was socially embarrassing or whom his parents could not afford financially.

Visit of Pons

The porch of the pilgrim hospital

Do not miss to visit the medieval medicinal garden of the hospital where more than a hundred plants with many therapeutic virtues rub shoulders in four areas: the square of fevers, the square of vulnerable, the square of women and the square of moods. In the Middle Ages, the medicinal garden was fully part of daily and spiritual life!


The Castle of Enigmas

Let's leave the Middle Ages for a jump into the Renaissance with this spectacular building erected in 1536 by the family of Madame de Rabaine, the nanny of the future King François 1 st . A true architectural gem, one of a kind, this Renaissance "pearl" was originally located in Usson, 8 km from Pons. In 1886, the castle was dismantled and reassembled stone by stone by William Augereau according to very precise plans. A remarkable work which allowed at the same time to give a fresh touch to the building moved to Egreteaux , a small place called Pons. Today transformed into a leisure park for families and children, it has been renamed the Château des Enigmes and offers various fun routes, treasure hunts and Escape Games ! An adventure that mixes adrenaline and heritage discovery of this magnificent Italian Renaissance Castle listed as a Historic Monument .


The Château des Enigmes (photo credit of the château des enigmes



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Article and photos prepared by Lesley Williamson for the Charente Maritime Guide



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