Divided into four hamlets (Le Bourg, Bourbias, Quéray and Chalusson), the town is tiered on the side of a hill overlooking the left bank of the Sèvre NiortaiseThe first lord of Saint-Gelais is Hugues de Lusignan. THE Renaissance style castle was built by the Protestant Charles V of St-Gelais below a first fortified castle in the 12th century. There coupe and basket for the Holy Last Supper carved at the ridge of the south gable testify that the Calvinist cult was celebrated there until 1643, its owner having become Catholic. The same year, the king's prosecutor of Saint-Maixent forbade covering the almost completed temple. Until it was banned in 1665, preaching was then practiced in Cherveux by the pastor Jacques Chalmot, lord of Teil. Then, from 1681, begin the terrible exactions of the Dragons of King Louis XIV came to support the recovery of the waist and forcing the heretics to conversion... Well after the edict of tolerance of 1787 and the Concordat of 1801, the municipal council voted in 1844.  the construction ofa new protestant temple (registered in 1998). Funded by the State and a public subscription, it was opened in 1849. Unique in Poitou, it is circular in shape to remind people that the members of the community are equal and have no clergy. In 2009,, to celebrate the 900 years of the town, is inaugurated le heritage path Earth and water allowing in 9 steps to discover its historical and architectural treasures. The journey through time ends at Melusine fountain, a nod to the old symbolic filiation of Lusignan-Saint-Gelais to the most famous legendary character of Poitou. In 2015, St-Gelais received its first butterfly as part of the Healthy Earth regional charter (reduction of pesticides) and obtained a flower as part of the Villes et Villages Fleuris (1nd flower in December 2).

What to see in Saint-Gelais?

01. Saint-Gelais church

Gelasius is at the end of the 4th century the successor of Hilary, evangelist of Poitou. The church, dedicated to him, was built in 1109 by Raoul de Lusignan said Le Brun, near the priory on which it depends. Its oldest part, bedside and choir, is entirely representative of theromanesque art. The more recent facade, with its elegant portal, is style Gothic flamboyant and was undoubtedly rebuilt, like the nave, at the end of the 15th century. From the square, we can see the large foothills placed in support of the pillars, and the bell tower, a massive square tower flanked on one of its sides by a turret ending in a stone cone. Located at the top of rue de la Cueille-Saint-Jacques, she welcomes pilgrims descending from Parthenay on the way to Saint-Jacques de Compostela. The whole building pales in comparison to the confrontation with the Protestants from the middle of the 16th century: collapse of the north transept and ribbed vaults undoubtedly during the religious wars, traces of fire above the vaults of the bell tower, defensive reinforcement of the choir windows. Inside, some remarkable capitals, including the “ ugly monkey », perched on its column, to the right of the entrance, and at the crossroads of the vaults, the Lusignan coat of arms surmounted by Melusine, Poitou fairy and their mythical ancestor.

To have also the chapel of the lords of Suiré and his three funeral slabs, to the right of the choir, and to its left, the Toquemay chapel, used as a sacristy. A crypt sheltering lead coffins was discovered under the choir in 1973. A slab covers the staircase. She wears underneath the coat of arms of Saint-Gelais, no doubt anxious not to draw attention to a Protestant burial. The church, looted during the Revolution, and the priory were sold in 1791 as national property. Throughout the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century, it underwent a slow degradation, and taking into account the risks incurred by the faithful, it is closed to worship in 1933, which gave rise to a controversy in the parish bulletin. The dilapidation and abandonment of the building continued long after the closure, before the rehabilitation works were not undertaken in 1962. The Gelasians of the time still remember the ivy which invaded the walls of the choir and the trees which grew in the open-air nave, as attested by a postcard from 1950. It is nevertheless classified as Monument in 1945. Braving theaccess ban, a boy climbs the bell tower at the Liberation and rings the bells to announce the end of WWII. The work leads to its partial reopening in 1965 and the restoration was definitively completed in 1998. Rare in the region, its choir is covered with slate. It should be noted that during the years of closure, the Catholic worship is practiced in Saint-Gelais in the chapel, a room in a house in the town, made available to the parish by a family of faithful. Since its reopening, following the work, the church of Saint-Gelais has welcomed numerous ceremonies and concerts, benefiting from a superb acoustics, Romanesque beauty and generous dimensions of the place.

02. The Protestant temple

In the 17th century, after the death of Henry IV, Protestant rights are challenged gradually. Charles VI of Saint-Gelais, grandson of Louis de Saint-Gelais, prohibits Protestant worship in 1643 and made destroy the temple under construction which is not at the current location. It's done marquis in 1659 for these good and loyal service. However, the exercise of So-called Reformed Religion is authorized by theEdict of Nantes from 1598 to places where it is publicly practiced. THE dragonnades began in 1681 and expanded in 1685 with the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. These persecutions are exercised by the dragons of King Louis XIV who lodge with the reformed, pillage them, ruin them and mistreat them until the unfortunates recant. This is how in Saint-Gelais, which has just under 800 inhabitants, 436 adults and children renounce their Huguenot faith. Those who want to continue practicing meet secretly in the assembled in the desert, provided with their badges, attendance tokens and sign of belonging to the Protestant community. debut of the reconstruction of temples of Poitou took place in 1828. In 1844, the council decidesbuilding of the temple current, financed by the State, the municipality and through public subscription. The Protestants of Saint-Gelais actively participated in its construction. Built according to the plans of thearchitect Charles-François Chavonet, he is open to worship in 1849. A failure to implement of the vault makes the inaudible words, so that Repair Work were undertaken as early as 1851. It is included on the supplementary list of Historic Monuments in 1998. His shape is unique in Poitou: circular to symbolically remind that members of the community are equal and have no clergy. Without side windows, it is covered with a hemispherical dome open with a window with glass frame. Light comes from above, just like that of revelation. Its only decoration is a cartouche above the door, topped with two scrolls and a Huguenot cross, in which we can read: “He who believes in the son has eternal life. » Unusual : the sickle and hammer on the exterior wall, street side Charles Magnan.

03. The Renaissance castle

Its builder is Charles V of Saint-Gelais (1507-1558), descendant of Raoul de Lusignan. The construction of the castle Renaissance style begins around 1530. Originally, an entrance tower opens onto a building facing east to its right. From this first home without fortifications, all that remains is a large room heated by a fireplace whose mantle characterizes the first French Renaissance. Twenty years later, Charles V made expand the building by adding a perpendicular wing. It is the only one to survive the Wars of Religion and which can be admired today. Its facade is on the first floor of mullioned windows, themselves topped by mullioned dormer windows. The presence of the cup and the plate at the ridge of the south-east gable means that one could receive in this castle the bread and wine of the Holy Supper and attest that there practiced the religion of the Reformed Church. It was on returning to Saint-Gelais, after one of the sieges he suffered from 1569 to 1585 in his castle of Cherveux, that Louis de Saint-Gelais, son of Charles V, discovered his castle partially destroyed by the Catholics : part of the tower and its spiral staircase, as well as the 1530 wing. In 1710, the marquisate of the castle fell to Jeanne-Marie of Saint-Gelais-Lusignan, little cousin of Charles VII without posterity. The last marquise of the castle is Marie-Félicité du Plessis-Chatillon, wife of Charles de Narbonne-Pelet. She perishes guillotined 8 Thermidor Year II (July 26, 1794) in Paris. The castle and its outbuildings are then put up for sale as national property. Not finding a buyer, they are returned to heirs, family See d'Argenson. It was then purchased on March 9, 1808 by a merchant from Niort, Jacques Gaignard. An officer in the war of 1870, his grandson Raoul, painter and sculptor, undertook to restore in 1883 the wing of the castle destroyed in the 1884th century. Hilaire (1964-8), son of Raoul, was 1905 years old when he lost his mother. He was passionate about automobiles and, with his father, was the inventor around XNUMX of steel tire mounted on springs. Also a fan of aviation, he organizes Niort, in 1910, the 3rd airshow in France. A man of movement, he sacrifices his fortune and the castle to his dreams of progress. He is forced to sell everything, demolishes his father's work and sells the stones. There destruction of the north wing allowed the opening around 1920 of a new road to Chipped, the current rue Raoul Gaignard. This private property is classified Monument in 1978 (elevation, roof, spiral staircase of the tower, chimneys and interior decor).

04. La Futaie

Delimited by two avenues of plane trees on each of its sides, the castle park extends in the extension of the building up to the Sèvre Niortaise, before the road connecting Saint-Gelais to Chipped. Originally, wooded area of tall trees, it is today a vast communal meadow of 6 hectares partly covered with a poplar grove recently planted. Arrival by Trimardières allows you to go up the river against the current and benefit from a view of the two arch bridge spanning the watercourse at its deepest point (the Grand-Fosse). A circular look evokes all the activities formerly linked to the presence of current: the Peach, with on the right the gardou, former fish pond of the lords, opposite the two water powered mills, wheat on the right side of the road, cloth on the other side, the wash known as the Saint-Gelais ford, with its slate roof, still used by washerwomen until the 1960s. On the other bank, the Sauzée meadow, scene in July 1913 of a memorable aviation meeting at the initiative of Hilaire Gaignard. Thousands of spectators flocked there. Turning our backs on the river, we take in the monuments of the town, with from right to left, the castle, the temple and the church which dominate the valley. The old barn is built on the site of the original Sainte-Marie church. THE Archaeological excavations carried out nearby in 1967, following the chance discovery of bones and burials, attest to the presence of a necropolis with very ancient origins. The square base on the square of the old barn, remains of the well known as de la Chapelle, also evokes the establishment of this first parish church, well before the founding of the priory and the construction in the 2004th century of the current church. The development in XNUMX of the natural site and the transformation of the barn into an entertainment space and culture confirm the customary destination of this site as place for walks, relaxation and festivitys: old-fashioned parish fairs, summer shows at the Foyer Gélasien or country meals around traditional tourtière.

A hay meadow and a riverine forest were reconstituted during a total renovation, inaugurated in 2021. This renovation made it possible toharmonize nature (hay meadow, riverine forest) with human activities (petanque grounds, picnic tables, fishing pontoons, launching). Weddings, family celebrations, cinema nights, fireworks… are other activities that take place there. From now on a nautical base et a tavern, in summer, await fans of canoeing, nature or relaxation.

05. The Fuye washhouse

It is located at the northern entrance to the village. The stream which serves it is fed by the source of Gonnières and the underground current of the Pelle-Chat valley. On the north side of the wash house, we can see the stack of houses in the village of La Fuye, a name recalling the ancient existence of a vast dovecote, which has now disappeared. In the lower part of the village, there was the convent, former Catholic school of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception which closed following the law of July 7, 1904 prohibiting congregations from teaching. To the east, the Luc could be the first village built around the source and a religious center, and extending to its stronghold, Brigeon (from the Celtic briga: hill, fortress). Close to villages and easy access, the wash was used until the 1960s. Housewives and servants came there rinse their laundry, the current is light and the water clear. Once or twice a year, the big laundry, the bug. The washerwomen did boil all the white linen in stone pans. They put the sheets, shirts, tea towels and the rest of the laundry there. They added aromatic herbs and wood ash, in order to whiten the laundry, all in front boil for a long time to allow the cleaning clothes. Then, the women transported all the laundry to the wash house in wheelbarrows with openwork floor and kneeled in geneillins (wooden box lined with straw) in order to protect the knees. They washed the last stubborn stains with large pieces of soap and beat the laundry with the beaten (beater) to remove the dirt, then the rinsed in clean water. The laundry was then folded, then placed in the wheelbarrows. Despite the difficulty, the conversations went well. This place allowed a real exchange between the inhabitants. Their work accomplished, they returned to the village and hung the laundry on the grass close to dry it.

Other curiosities to see…

  • The accommodation : Roche's home (16th century) rue de la Baillette; the prior's dwelling (XVIrd) rue de la Baillette; the castles of Suiré (16th and 19th centuries); the Queray house (19th century); and the Logis de la Pierrière (19th century) rue de l'Isle.
  • Fountains, wash houses and wells (canoe launching at the village washhouse, rue de Cherveux + launching possible at La Futaie, with parking)
  • The Coteau chapel (XVrd)
  • The wells along the streets
  • The Protestant cemeteries
  • The classified walls
  • La rue de la Cueille St Jacques and its old houses

Major events not to be missed in Saint-Gelais

Festive Tourtière Day – June 2, 2024

Tourtière is a traditional Poitevin dish. Friendly lunch and entertainment for the whole family!

Futaie en fête – Early June to mid-September 2024

Come to the nautical base to rent a canoe or paddle!

Open Air Cinema – August 31, 2024

Outdoor movie nights offer an immersive cinematic experience, where the magic of the stars mixes with that of the screen!

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