Montmorillon is situated 50kms south of Poitiers in the Vienne département (region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine). The little town boasts a charming old centre labelled “Ville d’Art et d’Histoire” (city of art and history).
Discover the town of Montmorillon
With a population of about 6,000 Montmorillon is one of the two sous-préfectures of the Vienne département.
The town was first mentioned in the late 11th century. It boasts some interesting monuments that we’re going to discover together!
Where to stay in Montmorillon
Here is a list of different accommodations for your stay in Montmorillon and its surroundings.
You can browse the map below to check out the exact location:
The Lower Town (Ville-Basse)
You’ll love strolling in the restored medieval district of Montmorillon.
Start the exploration at the lower town (ville basse).
This is where you’ll find the Town-Hall and the shopping precinct. Walk from the neo-Gothic St. Martial church (19th C.) to the banks of the Gartempe River via the Grand’Rue and place du Maréchal Leclerc.
There is a number of hôtels particuliers in town, mostly built in the 18th century such as the Hôtel de Moussac (16 rue Solferino).
Head to the old bridge that spans the Gartempe.
The old bridge and the Upper Town (Ville-Haute)
The Gothic bridge dates from the 14th century. From there is a picturesque view of the upper town dominated by the old Notre-Dame church. The left bank of Montmorillon is known as the Brouard district.
From the bridge, you can see the Old Palace (Vieux-Palais) and its corner turret. It was built on the river banks in the 15th century.
Walk on rue Montebello towards the church.
The Notre-Dame church was built on a rocky spur between the 11th and 14th centuries.
The crypt features remarkable frescoes depicting the crowning of St Catherine of Alexandria.
The Saint-Laurent-et-Saint-Vincent chapel
The Saint-Laurent-et-Saint-Vincent chapel was built in the 12th century. A stone slab marks the tomb of Etienne de Vignolles (1390-1443) aka La Hire. Named lord of Montmorillon by king Charles VII, he was Johan of Arc’s loyal squire. The French military commander is also remembered for being the Jack of hearts (French deck).
The Montmorillon Octogon
The Octogone is a Romanesque chapel built during the 12th century. It is twice the usual height because its basement is an ossuary, a sacred place for the burial of bones. The Octogone is listed as a historical monument by the French government.
Most of the remaining medieval chapels in France are built in the ‘cruciform’ (cross) shape. The Octogone, however, is octagonal in shape.
The original builders were inspired by the architecture of the Mosque of Omar (Jerusalem, 681) and by the Palatine Chapel (Aachen, 792), both of which were octagonal buildings as well.
The number 8 is the symbol of the Resurrection. According to St Ambroise, Jesus was resurrected the day after the Sabbath, which is the 8th day. So 8 is the symbol of the Blessed Eternity because the 7-day week represents the present followed by Eternal Rest. Death symbolises the start of Eternal Life or the Rebirth.
The City of Books!
Since June 2000, the town of Montmorillon has been one of 15 European “villages du livre”. Hence the title: of La Cité de l’Écrit et des Métiers du Livre.
The town includes around twenty book stores in a completely renovated medieval precinct. There, second hand booksellers and artisans can be found in an ‘old world’ atmosphere. Reading enthusiasts, amateur artists, collectors of rare books, people interested in architecture and families looking for something different love to visit Montmorillon!
After crossing the old 14th-century gothic bridge on the Gartempe River, you just have to push open a door and enter a store to be plunged into a world apart. Everybody can find what they are looking for: you can be a collector, a reader of science-fiction or thrillers or even simply a passerby who discovers a wonderful book at random.
There are artisans skilled in binding, calligraphy, edge gilding, illustration, engraving and painting: thanks to casual art lessons or regular workshops or just by visiting, you will discover passionate artists and artisans all along the narrow streets of the town.
Do not miss all the original masterpieces to purchase for presents you won’t find anywhere else.
All year long, various introduction to art lessons or classes for experienced artists are offered for groups, individuals, scholars and adults.
Themed exhibitions, readings, autographs and workshops are regularly available.
The Macaron of Montmorillon
The Almonds and Macaron Museum in Montmorillon was established by Rannou-Métivier.
The origins of the company date back to the 17th century. At that time, the sisters Chartier developed a secret recipe which they bequeathed to their servant, Marie Bugeaud.
Marie married Auguste Métivier who later created the brand that would become Rannou-Métivier in 1924.
To find out more about the delicious macaron and its origins, I invite you to watch this video [in French]:
What to see in the surroundings
Montmorillon makes a good base if you want to visit the south territory of the Vienne département.
The historic town of Poitiers
Discover the picturesque old town of Poitiers and fine Romanesque churches.
The Merovingian necropolis of Civaux
The little village of Civaux is home to a surprising Merovingian necropolis with nearly 1,000 sarcophagi from 500-750 AD still in place.
In this famous amusement park, you will experience futurist sounds, images and sensations based upon multimedia, cinematographic and audio-visual techniques.
How to get there
Montmorillon is accessible by car from Paris, Bordeaux and Nantes, via the A10 and A83 autoroutes (French for motorways).
The TER (regional train) takes 45 minutes from Poitiers and 1 hr 10 from Limoges.
If you travel from Australia or America you can fly to Paris Charles de Gaulle and travel by bus to Paris Montparnasse station (30min).
Then a train will take you to Poitiers in about 2 hours.
In Poitiers, you can rent a car to Montmorillon (45min) or take the train.
Find out more!
- The website of the Tourist Board of the Sud-Vienne Poitou region.
- I invite you to check out Hannah Henderson’s blog post as she explores the old town of Montmorillon!
Have you been to Montmorillon? Let us know by commenting below! 🙂