Little histories about Saint-Pierre cathedral in Poitiers

The façadeThe façade | ©Jordiferrer / CC-BY-SA

Little stories...

Eleanor, Henri and Company

The Gothic cathedral of Saint-Pierre of Poitiers was raised in 840 on the foundations of the old church of Saint-Hilaire.

A fire destroyed everything in 1018, and count of Poitou Guillaume the Great restored and extended it.

The current cathedral was raised in the middle of the 12th century, thanks to Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henri II her English husband: it was consecrated in 1379.

At that precise moment, the English deserted the area. French came back.

Duke Jean de Berry settled in Poitiers: he completed and embellished the cathedral, maybe with his loyal architect Dammartin.

Towers were raised in the 16th century.

A cannonball in the façade!

During wars of Religion, the cathedral of Poitiers was besieged by the Protestants, pretty numerous in the area.

Oh, but… did you see that? On the chevet, we have traces of cannonballs shot in 1569 during the siege launched by admiral de Coligny’s troops!

After that, they stocked the cannonballs and everyone forget them… until 1793, when France and England waged war: they sent 700 cannonballs to the French armies to sink the English fleet!

The thunder struck

What was worse than Protestants? The sky’s wrath! Yes, the thunder.

Imagine that there used to be a big spire, in one of the bell-tower : it was stricken by a storm in 1713…

To think that inside that tower, there were protective bells supposed to ring to keep off the storm…

Well, it didn’t work! So they razed the spire.

They even married priest!

1793. Aaah, the French Revolution with all its changes! A terrible mess for priests, with the new law of the Civil Clergy Constitution, which abolished all their privileges.

So the Catholic church took a bit of a bashing and became weaker.

Priests could not legally exercise anymore, so they became ″refractory″. And a new phenomenon appeared: priests marriages!

It happened to a man called Louis-René de Pignonneau, an ex-canon, who married a young lady in September 1793, in the cathedral of Poitiers.

All the city was here for the occasion… And on the cathedral’s doors, Pignonneau wrote this: ″Saint Pierre get married, saint Hilaire get married, Pignonneau imitated them!″

Eleanor’s crowing

After their marriage in the cathedral of Saint-André of Bordeaux and their wedding night in the castle of Taillebourg, Eleanor and king of France Louis the Young were crowned dukes of Aquitaine in the cathedral of Poitiers, on August 8th 1137.

Thanks to her, he extended his little French kingdom: Poitou, Périgord, Bordelais…

But few days later, the couple learned the death of Louis’ dad… the young Louis the Young could become king Louis VII!