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Pays de la Loire

Saint Florent-le-Vieil

Romans, Carolingians, Bretons, Angevins (from Anjou)… Normans, Vendéans, the sacred mount Glonne probably saw more of the vagaries of history than any other town in the Loire Valley. Today, Saint-Florent-le-Vieil has kept all its charming and historical authenticity.

If you take a short boat ride down the Loire river (or if you take the little path that goes underneath the suspended bridge) you'll get the best view one of the cities on the Loire with the richest past.

Standing on top of Mount Glonne, the Abbey of Saint-Florent is the northernmost point in the region of Mauges.

Since Roman times, the city at the crossroads between Poitou, Anjou and Brittany has been an important bastion for Catholicism.

In the 4th century, Florent left the Roman army and devoted his life to prayer.

In order to keep watch on the relics of this saint, the Catholic church built the Abbey Saint-Florent in the 7th century.

After a number of conflicts between the Carolingians and Bretons, the arrival of the Normans in 853, on Batailleuse Island, at the base of the mountain, forced the monks to leave the abbey.

They took refuge near Saumur, in the locality known as St-Florent-le-Jeune where they founded their congregation.

Having become "le viel" (the old), Saint-Florent remained a stronghold of the Catholic church up to the end of the old regime.

But it was during the revolution that the Abbey really became noteworthy.

On March 12 1793, the youth of the region who refused conscription lighted the torch of insurrection in the great West. Thus began the Vendée wars.

On October 18th of the same year, the counter-revolutionary army, 80,000 men strong, accompanied by women and children, crossed the Loire at Saint-Florent by boat.

There was no bridge at the time. The "Viree de Galerne" (March to Galerne) continued on to Granville in Normandy.

Without the help they were expecting from England, weakened by hunger and terrible living conditions, the sad but sometimes victorious brigade reached le Mans.

They were then virtually decimated by the "Blues" in the marsh at Savenay (Loire-Atlantique, banks of the Loire).

Sites to visit:

The esplanade at the abbey provides a wonderful view of the Loire from Ancenis to Ingrandes.

Inside the building, to the left of the choir, a very moving sculpture covers the tomb of General Bonchamps "harvested at 33 years for the cause of the sacred lilies".

The sculptor, David d'angers demonstrated remarkable sensibility in this work inspired from the Romanesque.

Don't forget to take a walk down the hill to the river through the narrow streets and steep slopes of the walled city.


Check out : the game of "Boule de Sable", ro the right of the abbey

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