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Explore Angles sur l’Anglin

Explore Angles sur l’Anglin

Designated one of the most beautiful villages in France, Angles sur l'Anglin is found in the north of the region, a short drive from Poitiers. Explore the 11th century ruins and enjoy the spectacular view from this hilltop settlement...

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The first glimpse of the village sliced through by the quicksilver blade of the River Anglin hints at something special. Then you see the bridge, waterside mill and 150- foot cliff that holds aloft the ruins of the chateau protecting the ancient buildings behind - and you realise that this is truly one of France's finest treasures.

La Ville Basse on the left bank contains the Chapelle Saint Croix, the remains of the 11th century abbey and monastery, and the ancient cemetery with its Croix Hosanniere. The short stroll over the bridge provides an opportunity to savour the breathtaking views up and down the river before starting the climb up to La Ville Haute. For the energetic, Les Buttes - steep steps cut in the rock that resemble boot imprints - lead up to the ancient fortified bastion La Huche Corne and then past the cottages and their flowers to the Romanesque church St Martin and the village centre. The alley called La Cueille - so named because once water was gathered here as it ran down the hill - and L'Arceau, an archway where caves each side stored salt, offer more insights into village life long ago.

The less testing route up the Rue du Pont passes the Atelier Jours D'Angles. This is dedicated to the village's unique fine-pulled thread embroidery that provided work for 300 women from the mid-19th century to the 1960s. You'll also see the house where Cardinal La Balue was born in 1421. This unfortunate cleric spent eleven years in an iron cage as a punishment for plotting against Louis XI, for whom he was chaplain.

Nearby, you'll find the chateau with its remarkable architectural heritage dating from the 11th century, which was also home to the Bishop of Poitiers after the Hundred Years War. A relic from that lengthy conflict is La Tranchée des Anglais, stone steps claimed to have been cut by English soldiers intent on reaching the chateau.

Over the centuries, Angles-sur-l' Anglin has been run by bishops, owned by the Lusignan family of noblemen and fought over by England and France, and Huguenots and Catholics. Palaeolithic man lived here in caves and rock shelters 14,000 years ago, leaving his mark with a 20-metre long Magdalenian frieze and cave carvings that are the most important of their type in Europe. Archaeological investigations at the Roc aux Sorciers, where local legend said witches gathered in the caves, started in 1927 and continue today. Although the public aren't admitted to the caves, a £2 million interpretation centre opened at the park overlooking the river in 2008. Here, computer and laser copy technology recreate everything at full size, taking the 21st century visitor back to the end of the ice age and into the caves and rock shelters along with his ancestors. This is an experience not to be missed.

 

Words Ron Cousins.
Originally published in Living Poitou-Charentes magazine October 2008 © All rights reserved