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Stage 4, Tour de France 2016: Saumur to Limoges

Saumur, river Loire & bridge

Overlooking Saumur, by Neil & Cathy Carey, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

A guide to Stage 4 of the Tour de France 2016. Stage 4 of the 2016 Tour is from Saumur to Limoges, via Montreuil-Bellay, les Trois-Moutiers, Loudun, Monts-sur-Guesnes, Châtelleraut, la Puye, Saint-Savin, Jouhet, Montmorillon, Lathus-Rémy, and le Dorat. It is the longest of the 2016 Tour, at 237.5km. Stage 4 is classified as flat, although as it nears Limoges, it gets more hilly, and there's a Category 4 climb of the Côte de la Maison Neuve 55.5km before the finish. The slightly uphill, straight finish to Limoges Town Hall should nevertheless be contested in a bunch sprint. Read about Stage 4 of the Tour de France 2016 here.

Read a Stage 4 race report.

Stage 4, Tour de France 2016: facts, figures, and map

Stage 4 of the Tour de France 2016 is 237.5km from Saumur to Limoges.

Stage classification Flat
Distance 237.5km
Sprints Le Dorat (after 170km)
Climbs Côte de la Maison Neuve (Category 4)

This is the official Tour de France Stage 4 map of the whole route. La Nouvelle République has a map of the section of Stage 4 in the Vienne département:

This is the official Tour de France stage profile for Stage 4:

Stage profile for Stage 4, Tour de France 2016

Stage 4 profile, © A.S.O. Tour de France organisers

Stage 4, Tour de France 2016: timings

These are some of the Stage 4 timings (based on the medium estimated speed of 41kmh):

Km Place Time
Départ fictif in Saumur, Ecole de la Cavalerie 1110
0 Départ réel  in Distré, outside Saumur 1130
8.5 Montreuil-Bellay 1142
26 Les Trois-Moutiers 1208
33.5 Loudun 1218
49.5 Mont-sur-Guesnes 1242
75.5 Châtellerault 1320
122.5 Saint-Savin 1429
139 Montmorillon 1453
170 Le Dorat (sprint) 1539
182 Côte de la Maison Neuve (Category 4) 1556
226.5 Le Palais-sur-Vienne 1701
237.5 Finish at Limoges 1735

See the full timings for Stage 4 on the Tour de France website, based on average speeds of 43, 41, and 39kmh.

Stage 4, Tour de France 2016: the start at Saumur

Chateau de Saumur

Chateau de Saumur, by ho visto nina volare, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Stage 4 starts in Saumur, a beautiful and historic town on the river Loire. France 3 says that the race route sets off from the Ecole de la Cavalerie, and there'll be 10km of riding at a reduced speed before the départ réel. According to France 3, Saumur has to pay €70,000 to host the Tour, but the return on investment is expected to be six times that. 

Saumur tourist office has a map, description of the route, and timings for the start of Stage 4. The riders set off from in front of the Ecoles Militaires de Saumur (which include the Ecole de la Cavalerie), on avenue du Maréchal Foch, at 1110. (This is right by the Tour de France village at place du Chardonnet). They turn left on rue Chanzy, to the Loire, then go along the waterfront on Quai Mayaud, passing le Dome theatre, before taking rue d'Anjou past the Chateau de Saumur. Next, they go along rue Lamartine, rue Marceau, and bd de la Marne, and turn left over le Thouet river on le Pont Fouchard. They take the rue du Pont Fouchard through the suburb of Bagneux towards Distré, which they reach at 1130, and the racing starts there - the départ réel

This is the tourist office's map of the Tour route in Saumur:

Tour de France 2016 route in Saumur

According to le Courrier de l'Ouest, when Stage 4 leaves Saumur, it heads for Distré, then le Coudray-Macouard, and Montreuil-Bellay.

Stage 4, Tour de France 2016: Saumur to Châtellerault

Montreuil-Bellay, le Chateau-Neuf

Montreuil-Bellay, by Daniel Jolivet, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Leaving Saumur, the race passes through the suburb of Bagneux. (Bagneux is known for a prehistoric stone tomb, le dolmen de Bagneux, which is a particularly large - 5.4m at its widest, and 17.3m long - and symmetrical dolmen). At the junction at the end of rue du Pont Fouchard, Stage 4 takes the left fork, route de Montreuil/N147, to Distré (which also has prehistoric stone monuments).

The next village on the route is le Coudray-Macouard (which has beautiful old buildings in the local style: a striking contrast between the light tufa stone walls, and the dark grey-blue slate rooves).

The N147 continues along the edge of the Forêt de Cizay to Montreuil-Bellay

Chapel & chateau, Montreuil-Bellay

Chapel & chateau of Montreuil-Bellay, on the river Thouet, Maine-et-Loire, France, by Spencer Means, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Stage 4 now heads south east on the N147. A few kilometres after Montreuil-Bellay, it leaves the département of Maine et Loire, and enters la Vienne. There are more dolmens in the locality as the road heads towards les Trois-Moutiers. 

Moulin du gué Sainte-Marie, les Trois Moutiers

Moulin du gué Sainte-Marie, les Trois-Moutiers, by Père Igor, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

(Les Trois-Moutiers is a town set amongst vineyards which produce AOC Saumur wines. There are a lot of natural caves in the soft limestone, which make ideal wine cellars. Les Trois-Moutiers gets its name from three monasteries which were built in Medieval times in the valley of the Barouze, the little river which flows through the village. One of the features of les Trois-Moutiers is a windmill, the Moulin du gué Sainte-Marie, which dates from the end of the C19th. There's a prehistoric dolmen at nearby Vaon).

Porte du Martray, Loudun

Porte du Martray, Loudun, by Père Igor, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

A little further along the N147, the race route reaches Loudun. The route is towards the centre of Loudun on rue des Fontaines Blanches, then round the inner ring road, and out of town on the rue du Bon Endroit/D14. (Originally, the Tour was going to avoid the centre of Loudun, and go round the outer ring road, according to la Nouvelle République. To the delight of the Mayor of Loudun, that plan was changed).

Stage 4 follows the D14 through the villages of Rossay, and la Roche-Rigault (which took in a lot of refugees from Alsace and the Moselle at the start of World War II). Then it reaches Monts-sur-Guesnes. (Monts-sur-Guesnes is on the edge of the Foret de Scévolles, at an altitude of 146m, which is the highest point in the Loudunais, hence the name Monts. It has a small chateau). 

Chateau de la Massardière, Thuré

Château de la Massardière, Thuré, by PèreForez, Licence CC BY-SA 4.0

Further along the route are Berthegon, Orches, Sossais, and Thuré. (There are underground quarries in Thuré, where the tufa stone has been extracted since before Roman times. The manor house just outside the village is called la Massardière.)

La Manufacture d'Armes, Châtellerault

La Manufacture d'Armes, Châtellerault, by MOSSOT, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

The D14 then reaches to Châtellerault, on the river Vienne, and with an historic Manufacture d'Armes building in the centre.

Radishes at Chatellerault market

Radishes for sale in Châtellerault market, by Adam Tinworth, Flickr, Licence CC BY-ND 2.0

Stage 4, Tour de France 2016: Châtellerault to Montmorillon

Aerial view of Châtellerault

Aerial view of Châtellerault, by Pierre Mairé, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

Stage 4 goes through the centre of Châtellerault. It crosses the river Vienne on the pont Henri IV, which dates from 1611. La Nouvelle République says that live TV coverage of the Tour usually starts at 1.45pm in France, which would mean just after the peloton has left Châtellerault, so the locals will be hoping that the riders don't go too fast on the route from Saumur.

The route out of Châtellerault is south on the D749 and east on the D131, past the town's aerodrome. It then follows the D9 south along the course of the Ozon. The first village the riders come to is Monthoiron, and here the road goes along the edge of the Bois de Maujean.

The D9 continues to La Ligne Acadienne. According to la Nouvelle République, local cyclists think the road at la Ligne Acadienne is in quite a poor state, but the Tour de France organisers judge it to be narrow, but in good enough repair.

La Ligne Acadienne

La Ligne Acadienne, by Rémi Jouan, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

(La Ligne Acadienne has an interesting history. In 1710, the English conquered the eastern provinces of Canada, where there had been French colonists for 80 years. These colonists, called Acadians, weren't thought to be sufficiently loyal or cooperative by the English, and from 1755 to 1764, 11,500 of them were deported. Some were re-settled here. Originally, there were 58 farms for 58 families, built in 1775. (Now 36 farmhouses remain). Some of these Acadians left for Louisana; by 1793, after the French Revolution, only 13 families were left, and they were made the owners of their land. There's a museum dedicated to this history, le Musée de la Ferme Acadienne, at the hamlet of Les Huit Maisons).

The D9 goes through the village of la Puye. (The name la Puye is thought to be derived from the Latin podia, meaning a high-point. The first settlement on the site was a Priory, founded by monks from the Abbey of Fontevraud in 1111. Cattle farming dominates here). 

At Paizay-le-Sec (called le sec because it has no stream or river), the race turns left on the D951 to Saint-Savin, on the river Gartempe - often referred to as Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe, which was its name before the French Revolution.

Abbaye de Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe

Abbaye de Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe (Vienne), by Daniel Jolivet, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

The race goes over the Gartempe on Saint-Savin's C11th bridge. On the other side of the river is Saint-Germain, and here the riders turn right, following the D5 south alongside the Gartempe. Just across the river, near Antigny, is the C15th Chateau de Bois-Morand. In 2011, TF1 reported that it was up for sale for €5 million.

The riders go through Jouhet on the way to Montmorillon.

Stage 4, Tour de France 2016: Montmorillon to Limoges

Bridge over the Gartempe, Montmorillon

Bridge over the river Gartempe at Montmorillon, by Martpan, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

The riders climb out of Montmorillon on the D54, reaching a high point of 154m near Corneroux and le Grand Etang. They continue to Lathus-Saint-Rémy, a village which gives its name to a large rural commune, and which has an outdoor centre with activities including kayaking. A few kilometres beyond Lathus-Saint-Rémy, the race crosses into the Haute-Vienne département.

Collégiale St Pierre, le Dorat

Collégiale St Pierre, le Dorat

The Conseil Départemental of the Haute Vienne lists the villages and towns on the route in this département, starting with le Dorat. (It also has a map of the part of Stage 4 that's within the Haute Vienne).

The day's intermediate sprint is at le Dorat

Profile of the intermediate sprint, Stage 4, Tour de France 2016, at le Dorat

Profile of the sprint at le Dorat on Stage 4, Tour de France 2016, © A.S.O. Tour de France organisers

Stage 4 takes the D25 out of le Dorat to Droux; it then crosses the river Semme. This is the start of the Côte de la Maison Neuve, the one categorised climb of the day.

River Semme near Droux

River Semme near Droux, by Toffauvet, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Côte de la Maison Neuve (Category 4)

This is a little climb from the the river Semme to a crossroads before Rancon. The altitude at the river is 215m, and at the top of the climb, it is 282m, giving a height gain of 67m. The distance is 1.2km, which means an average gradient of 5.6%

The road becomes the D7, and continues to Rancon. (Rancon is a village on the river Gartempe. The name Rancon is Gallic in origin, and comes from Roncomagus, meaning 'rock' and 'market'. The old bridge in Rancon is on a Gallo-Roman route, and the bridge piers date from the C2nd, although the rest of the bridge is from the Middle Ages). 

Stage 4 climbs out of Rancon on the D1/D7, into the Forêt de Rancon, then goes through the villages of Roussac and le Buis. (Amongst his numerous titles, Albert II of Monaco is baron du Buis). The next villages are Thouron and Sénélas. After Sénélas, the race turns left on the D28, and climbs to a high point of 404m, where there's a right turn on the D97 to Bonnac-la-Côte. (Bonnac-la-Côte is on the edge of the Massif Central. Its oldest building is the Chateau de Leychoisier, a stone's throw from the village).

Old Wattelez factory, le Palais-sur-Vienne

Old Wattelez factory, le Palais-sur-Vienne, by Babsy, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

Now the riders cross the A20 autoroute, and follow the D97 to Cassepierre and les Bardys/la Martinette. They fork right on the D207/route de Puy Neige to Bournazeau, and at le Palais-sur-Vienne (where the Wattelez rubber factory was put out of action by Resistance fighter Georges Guingouin in May 1943), they cross the river Vienne and follow the D140 to Panazol. They join the D941 avenue du Président Carnot/avenue de la Libération, which takes them through le Sablard, and they're now on the final run-in to the finish in Limoges.

Pont St-Etienne, Limoges

Limoges - Pont St-Etienne sur la Vienne, by Frédérique Voisin-Demery, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Stage 4, Tour de France 2016: the finish at Limoges

Hotel de Ville, Limoges

Hotel de Ville de Limoges, by Matt Brown, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

The finish of Stage 4 of the Tour de France 2016 is at Limoges. As set out on the Limoges town website, the riders arrive from Panazol on the D941. After the D941 crosses the autoroute, it is called avenue du Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny. The Tour de France route crosses the river Vienne on the pont Neuf, then goes straight on, on avenue Georges Dumas, slightly uphill to the finish line at the Town Hall (Mairie de Limoges).

Map showing finish of Stage 4, Tour de France 2016, in Limoges

Map showing the finish of Stage 4, Tour de France 2016 in Limoges, © OpenStreetMap contributors

What will happen on Stage 4? This longest stage of the 2016 Tour is largely flat, but becomes more lumpy as it nears Limoges. Will that be enough to get rid of the sprinters? Perhaps some of them, but Stage 4 is still likely to end in a bunch sprint in Limoges. It could be a day for Peter Sagan.

Stage 4, Tour de France 2016: favourites for the win

Steve Cummings

Steve Cummings (Dimension Data) in the 2015 Tour de France, by youkeys, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

If Stage 4 turns out to be a bunch sprint, the usual suspects will have an opportunity - Kittel, Greipel, Degenkolb, Bouhanni, and others. As mentioned above, there's a chance that the lumpy terrain near the end of the race will enable Peter Sagan to rid himself of these turbulent sprinters, and take the win as the best of those left.

Another rider to consider is Steve Cummings of Dimension Data. He tends to ride at the back of the pack most of the time, but he picks particular stages, where he thinks he may get a result, and go for them. He can win from a long breakaway, as he did on the final stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné 2016. However, the GC will be tight early in the Tour de France, and the overall contenders won't want to allow Cummings to gain too much time. It would therefore seem that a late attack - as on Stage 14 of the 2015 Tour de France - would be the best hope for the Liverpudlian. 

This video shows Cummings' win in 2015:

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Stage 5, Tour de France 2016, Limoges to le Lioran

Cable car at le Lioran

Stage 5 is the first mountain stage of the 2016 Tour de France. It sets off from Limgoes, and heads south east into the Massif Central. There are five categorised climbs in total, the most challenging of which will be the Pas de Peyrol and the Col du Perthus. The last 3.5km of the race to the ski resort of le Lioran is downhill. Read about Stage 5, Tour de France 2016.

Stage 4, Tour de France 2016: sights and attractions on the route

Stage 4, Tour de France 2016: Saumur

Saumur, river Loire & bridge

Overlooking Saumur, by Neil & Cathy Carey, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Saumur is a town of 27,413 people on the river Loire, near its confluence with the Thouet. It's twinned with Warwick (UK) and Asheville (North Carolina, USA). It's famous for its chateau, its cavalry school, its wines (including sparkling wines), and its mushrooms. The area's geology includes a soft rock called tufa, which results in many caves. Those caves are used as wine cellars, for growing mushrooms, and for building dwellings known as maisons troglodytes into the rock of river cliffs.

Maison troglodyte, Saumur

Rock dwelling near Saumur (Souzay-Champigny), by Joeri Cornille, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

The name Saumur

The name Saumur was previously Salmuri or Salmurum. It comes from a pre-Celtic word sala, meaning marshy ground, and murus, a small fort.

The history of Saumur

Saumur began with a fortified monastery, built by Carolingian King Charles the Bald, in the 800s, to house the relics of St Florent. That monastery was soon destroyed in Viking raids. From the 1026, Saumur belonged to the Counts of Anjou, but in 1203, King Philippe-Auguste integrated it into the Kingdom of France. In 1356, the Anjou was given to Louis d'Anjou, brother of King Charles V, and it belonged to the Dukes of Anjou until the last one, Good King René (King of Sicily and Duke of Anjour), surrendered it to the French King Louis XI in 1474.

Saumur was a centre of Protestantism in the late 1500s and early 1600s. It prospered under King Henri IV, who had been Protestant before his accession to the throne. The next King, Louis XIII, saw Protestants as a threat, and destroyed the walls of Saumur. With the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (which had allowed Protestants freedom of worship) by Louis XIV in 1685, the Protestant church in Saumur was destroyed, and many Protestants emigrated.

The Ecole de Cavalerie (Cavalry School) has been in Saumur since 1763. At the start of World War II, the officers and cadets of the school put up strong resistance to the German advance, and held the town and the river for three days, despite inferior numbers and poor equipment.

The sights of Saumur

Chateau de Saumur

Chateau de Saumur, by ho visto nina volare, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

The Chateau de Saumur is more fortress than residence. The current building was constructed by Louis I, Duke of Anjou, at the end of the 1300s. Good King René altered the interior in the 1400s, and fortifications were added by Governor of Saumur Philippe Duplessis-Mornay in the late 1500s.

The chateau was used as a prison for a long time, then as a museum from 1912. It was damaged by German bombardment in 1940, and repaired after the war.

By the place St Pierre is the main chuch, the Eglise St Pierre. A little south east, along the quai, is the Eglise Notre-Dame des Ardilliers, which is one of the most popular pilgrimmage places in France, thanks to a pieta (grief-stricken Virgin Mary) statue which a farm labourer discovered on the site in the 1454. He took it home twice, but both times, he it appeared again back where he had first found it. It was then that people began to worship at the place where the statue had been found, with the statue placed under a stone arch. A chapel was built, and eventually, the church which is there today.

The oldest part of the Hotel de Ville dates from the 1500s, and was originally part of the town's walls.

The military Cavalry School has been in Saumur since 1763, but tanks were added to the horses, and it is now the Ecole d'Application de l'Armée Blindée Cavalerie. Also on the site is the national horse riding school, opened in 1972, and known as the Cadre Noir.

On the edge of Saumur is a tank museum, le Musée des Blindés.

Pont de Cessart, Saumur

Pont de Cessart, Saumur, by James de Souza, Licence CC BY 2.0

Stage 4, Tour de France 2016: Montreuil-Bellay

Montreuil-Bellay, le Chateau-Neuf

Montreuil-Bellay, by Daniel Jolivet, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Montreuil-Bellay is a town on the river Thouet. It probably originated with a monastery, and is first referred to in documents in the C11th, when the parish church of St Peter was built. The local lords were the Berlai family (which later became Bellay), and they owed allegiance to the Counts of Anjou from the time of Count Fulk Nerra onwards. The Berlais lasted until 1217, then the Melun-Tancarville family took over, followed by the d'Harcourts. Montreuil-Bellay had a concentration camp for gypsies from 1941 to January 1945, installed by the Nazis, and then run by the Vichy régime.

Montreuil-Bellay is a walled town, and the intra-muros part has changed very little since the C15th. (There are newer parts of town along the roads to Saumur and Loudun). At the centre of the old town is the Chateau de Montreuil-Bellay, originally built by Fulk Nerra, and given to his vassal Berlai. Ramparts were built by the Tancarvilles, during the One Hundred Years War. The chateau was modernised during the Renaissance period (C15th). It served as a prison during the Revolution, where women with Royalist sympathies were locked up. After the Revolution, it became the property of the Grandmaison family. 

The chateau can be visited. There are also Chateau Montreuil-Bellay wines.

Porte Saint-Jean, Montreuil-Bellay

Porte Saint-Jean, Montreuil-Bellay, by Alain Colomb

Stage 4, Tour de France 2016: Saint-Savin

Abbey church of Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe

Abbey church of Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe (Vienne), by Daniel Jolivet, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Saint-Savin is often referred to as Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe, which was its name before the French Revolution. (It had to remove the religious part of its name during the Revolution, and became Pont-sur-Gartempe; afterwards, it reverted to Saint-Savin.

Saint-Savin was born in Macedonia, but martyred locally in the Poitou region. The Abbaye de Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe dedicated to him dominates the village. It was established around the year 800, in the time of Charlemagne. The oldest surviving part is the Romanesque church, from the mid C11th. The Gothic bell tower and spire are from the C14th, and the monastery buildings from the end of the C17th. 

The bridge over the Gartempe dates back to the C11th.

La Gartempe at Saint-Savin

La Gartempe à Saint-Savin, by akial, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Stage 4, Tour de France 2016: Loudun

Tour carrée, Loudun

Tour Carrée, Loudun, by Père Igor, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Loudun is a town near the river Martiel with ramparts around the old centre.

The name Loudun has a Gallic origin, and means 'the hill or fortress of a Gallic chief or god called Lug'.

From 986, under Geoffroy I, to 1206, Loudun belonged to the Counts of Anjou. It then became part of France in the reign of Philippe-Auguste, and he built a fortress here. It was given to the Dukes of Anjou in 1372, and reverted to the French King in the 1470s, under the last of the Dukes of Anjou, Good King René. 

The destruction of the fortress of Loudun began under King Henri III in 1584, and the demolition was finished under Louis XIII in 1631. (In the 1630s, a priest called Urbain Grandier opposed the dismantling of the fortifications at Loudun. He was accused of having made a pact with the devil, and possessing nuns at the local convent. At the instigation of Cardinal Richelieu, who Grandier had criticised in a pamphlet, he was arrested, tortured, and burnt at the stake. This is called 'the affair of the demons of Loudun'.)

Today, the most prominent part of the ruins is la Tour Carrée, which is the castle keep. 

The station in Loudun was bombarded by the Germans in June 1940, and by the Allies in the summer of 1944.

Porte du Martray, Loudun

Porte du Martray, Loudun, by Père Igor, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Stage 4, Tour de France 2016: Châtellerault

Aerial view of Châtellerault

Aerial view of Châtellerault, by Pierre Mairé, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

Châtellerault is a town of 31,537 people on the river Vienne, near the Vienne's confluence with the Clain and the Ozon. It had an arms factory until 1968, and an Ecole de Gendarmerie until 2009. Now, it specialises in the motor and aeronautical industries, as well as the services sector. It's twinned with Corby (UK).

The town takes its name from its founder, Airaud. In 952, he built a wooden watchtower here, called Castrum Airaldi, a name which later morphed into Châtel Airaud. The current name is those two words run together, and spelt slightly differently.

Châtellerault was governed by local viscounts, promoted to dukes in 1514 by King François Ier. 

Châtellerault station was bombarded by the Germans in June 1940. Then in June 1944, a division of the German army was trying to get to Normandy to fight the Allied troops who had landed on the beaches. A train in Châtellerault station was carrying fuel for the German division, and the SAS soldiers involved in Operation Bulbasket found out about it, and reported it to HQ. This resulted in New Zealand and Australian Mosquitos bombing the station to destroy the train.

One of the buildings which dominates the centre of Châtellerault is the old arms factory (which produced weapons from 1819 to 1968). It is called la Manufacture d'Armes, or 'La Manu', and houses several entreprises including the ice rink, a museum of cars, motorbikes, and bikes (le Musée Auto Moto Vélo), and the national circus school.

La Manufacture d'Armes, Châtellerault

La Manufacture d'Armes, Châtellerault, by MOSSOT, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Another significant building in Châtellerault is the Eglise Saint-Jacques, consecrated in 1066. It is a stop on the pilgrimmage route to Santiago de Compostella, and has a carillon with fifty bells.

Stage 4, Tour de France 2016: Montmorillon

Bridge over the Gartempe, Montmorillon

Bridge over the river Gartempe at Montmorillon, by Martpan, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

Montmorillon is a town on the river Gartempe. The name Montmorillon means the hill of a person with the [Latin] name of Maurilo.

The site has been occupied since prehistoric times - traces have been found of a human presence 15,000 years ago.

Clodomir, son of Clovis, built a sanctuary on the site of the current church in 507AD. Ranulf became the first lord of Montmorillon in 1050, and he built the church of Notre-Dame. In the C12th, Montmorillon was disputed by the Counts of the Marche, and the Count of the Poitou, and a fortress was built to guard the river crossing.

The fortress was taken by the English during the One Hundred Years War, then recaptured for France by Bertrand du Guesclin in 1372. Montmorillon was pillaged by roving bands of men in the early 1500s, and King Francois Ier authorised the further fortification of the town. However, later in the C16th, after seiges during the Wars of Religion, the chateau fell into ruins. The town's ramparts were taken down and replaced with boulevards in the C19th.

In the Medieval centre of Montmorillon is la Cité de l'écrit et des métiers du livre, where the buildings have been bought and renovated by the town, and let as bookshops. There's also a Jardin des Ecrivains, where on some summer evenings, authors come and read from their works.

L'Octogone de Montmorillon is a Romanesque funerary chapel dating from the C12th, which has been classed as an historic monument.

Stage 4, Tour de France 2016: le Dorat

Collégiale St Pierre, le Dorat

Collégiale St Pierre, le Dorat

Inhabitants of le Dorat are called Dorachons. The town was founded by Scottish missionaries in 950, and they called it Scotorum. They built the church of St Michel. 

Twenty years later, Boson Ier le Vieux, first Count of the Marche, founded the chapel St Pierre, and the chapter of le Dorat, with 20 canons. The Counts of the Marche had a fortress outside the town. That fortress was ruined during the Wars of Religion in the 1500s.

Stage 4, Tour de France 2016: Limoges

Gare de Limoges-Bénédictins

Gare de Limoges-Bénédictins, by Patrick Nouhailler, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Limoges is a town on the river Vienne known for its Medieval and Renaissance enamels (on copper), its C19th porcelain, and for oak barrels used for Cognac and Bordeaux production.

Pont St-Etienne, Limoges

Limoges - Pont St-Etienne sur la Vienne, by Frédérique Voisin-Demery, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

The city was founded by the Romans around 10BC, as Augustoritum, meaning the ford of Augustus. It had an amphitheatre, a theatre, a forum, baths, and a temple. The names Limoges is derived from the Gaulish tribe which lived here, the Lemovices.

Cathédrale St-Etienne, Limoges

Cathédrale Saint-Etienne, Limoges, by Frédérique Voisin-Demery, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Limoges was evangelised by St Martial around 250AD. The Abbey St Martial was founded in the C9th, but destroyed at the time of the French Revolution.

Kaolinite (a rock rich in fine, white clay) was discovered near Limoges in 1768, and this enabled a porcelain industry to develop. There were strikes in local shoe and porcelain factories in 1905, which led to the formation of the first Union in France, the CGT.

Limoges is twinned with Charlotte (North Carolina, USA).

Chateau de SaumurAerial view of ChâtelleraultHotel de Ville, Limoges

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