The capital of the Poitou-Charentes region possesses over 80 listed buildings. Poitiers is recognised today for the richness of its heritage and the quality of its new infrastructures. The modern and the old stand side by side throughout the city. From the baptistery of Saint-Jean to the new Theatre-Auditorium, the regional capital is proud of its living and harmonious heritage.
… at the heart of the history of France.
Several pages of the history of France were written in Poitiers. Explore the narrow streets of the medieval districts and the different listed monuments open to the public. Look back over 2,000 years of history and see the city’s links to it.
Present in antiquity, between the rivers Boivre and Clain, the ancient Lemonum soon became the capital of the Pictones. After being invaded several times, the city surrounded itself with fortifications. The arrival of Christianity in the 4th century led to the construction of the baptistery of Saint-Jean, one of the oldest Christian monuments in Europe. The centuries passed and the city acquired numerous churches and chapels.
The 18th and 19th century gave the city its present configuration. The laying out of the grand boulevards and the Parc de Blossac changed it forever, but the Romanesque and medieval past still remain very much present. Two examples are the remains of the arena and the walls of a Crusader monastery that you will come across on your rambles.
Masterpieces of Romanesque art…
Poitiers is probably one of the most representative cities of Romanesque art in France.
Surpassing all the others such as Sainte-Radegonde and Saint-Jean-de-Montierneuf, the church of Notre-Dame-la-Grande is truly outstanding. Its sculpted façade is a masterpiece of religious art. In the summer and at Christmas, it is lit up for the Polychromies light show. With these illuminations, the artists of the Skertzò company invite you to rediscover its original medieval façade.
And you should not miss Saint-Hilaire-le-Grand. This church has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since December 1998 as part of the "Way of St James in France". Rebuilt in the 11th century over the tomb of Saint Hilaire, the first bishop of Poitiers who died in 368, the church was consecrated in 1049. An unusually vast choir, four absidioles surrounding the chevet, and traces of wall paintings: these are some details that make it a key attraction of the tour and a meeting-place for all lovers of Romanesque art and those fascinated by history.
… where legends are born.
Countless generations of Poitiers citizens have passed on the legendary tales interwoven with the history of the city. Magic, dragons and legends of all kinds are to be found in Poitiers.
Among the most famous is the Grand’Goule, the winged dragon killed by Saint Radegonde in the 6th century. Its image was for many years one of the symbols of Poitiers. Another one associated with the church of Notre-Dame-la-Grande is the legend of the miracle of the keys during the English invasions and the tradition of praying to Sainte Bauduche to guarantee good weather.
Many other stories are told in Poitiers. The Dolmen de la Pierre Levée in the Dunes district, and the Bitard, a mythical monster in the nearby forest of Liguge, are still familiar figures for the younger generations.