Emerged from nowhere, this huge building seems so out of place in middle of this little village! And yet… Cléry was an important stop on the road for Compostela. Yes, Cléry used to attract lots of pilgrims… Oh, but wait: let’s begin with the beginning!
At the end of the 13th century, peasants found here a statue of the Virgin Mary, and thought she was miraculous. Pilgrims turned up in a body, so kings of France Philippe the Fair then Philippe of Valois raised a big church. The Hundred Years War damaged it, in 1428. Count de Dunois and king Charles VII restored it with architect Pierre Chauvin.
Meanwhile, king Louis XI devoted his life to the Virgin of Cléry, and undertook the construction. In 1467, the church became ″royal chapel″, because Louis decided to put his future grave here. Just before his death in 1483, he asked for an extension of the building. So, from the primitive church, it remains the bell-tower. The current church dates back to the beginning of the 15th century.
We can see Louis kneeling with hands clasped together, wearing the royal coat and the necklace of Saint-Michel order (he founded it). His Book of Hours and his hat are by his side, on a pillow… Louis XI is the only king of France who wasn’t bury in the basilica of St-Denis, with others sovereigns! History didn’t spare his grave: during war of Religion, it was damaged, even the ashes were scattered! So, in 1662, king Louis XIII ordered another grave to sculptor Michel Bourdin, from Orléans… the current tombstone!
The famous French poet Jean de La Fontaine came here one day of 1663, during a trip in Central France. He wrote those verses for the king: ″We see him on his grave, with 4 children at the corners: they are angels, but some people pulled their wings out. I found the king looked like a cunning old fox, on his statue...″
During the French Revolution, here we go again: The statue was hit to the head, and he was covered with manure! He was brought back in Paris, in the French Historical Buildings museum, where he stayed until 1818. They, he came back in Cléry, after a little restoration, made by sculptor Romagnesi and architect Pagot...