Saintes Tourist Attractions
Saintes (pop. 25,628), in antiquity the capital (Mediolanum) of a Celtic tribe, the Santoni, and later chief town of the French province of Saintonge, is attractively situated on the left bank of the Charente. It was the birthplace of Dr J.I. Guillotin (1738- 1814), inventor of the guillotine.In the old town is the former cathedral of St-Pierre, built between 1117 and the 15th C., which was destroyed by the Calvinists in 1568 and soon afterwards rebuilt. Its most notable features are the richly decorated Gothic doorway and the 72 m/236ft high tower.To the southwest is the church of St-Eutrope, consecrated in 1096, with a tower of 1496. In the crypt under the church is the tomb of St Eutrope (Eutropius), first bishop of Saintes.
Abbaye Ste Marie aux Dames
The Abbaye Ste Marie aux Dames, founded in 1047, was for a time converted to other uses but was restored in 1938. The Romanesque doorways have rich sculptural decoration. The nearby church of St-Palais dates from the 12th- 13th C.The old part of the town of Saintes has many 17th and 18th C. buildings.
On the right bank of the Charente is the Arch of Germanicus, a triumphal arch erected in A.D. 19. Originally spanning the main bridge over the river, it was moved to its present site in 1842. There are also remains of an amphitheater of the A.D. first century, one of the oldest structures of its kind. It was of medium size, with seating for 20,000 spectators.
Saintes has numerous museums. The Archeological Museum, housed in an old faience works near the Arch of Germanics, has a large Gallo-Roman collection. The Musée Dupuy-Mestreu is a folk museum (local costumes, headgear and jewelry). The collections of the Musée des Beaux- Arts are divided between the Ancien Echevinage (pictures, Sèvres porcelain) and a building north of the church of St-Pierre (works of the French, Flemish and Dutch schools).
The 15th C. Château de la Rochecourbon, set in a beautiful park northwest of Saintes, was discovered by the writer Pierre Loti in a dilapidated condition, and as a result of his efforts was restored from 1920 onwards.
Chateau de la Roche-Courbon
This chateau was rebuilt in the 17th C, at which time a fine a formal garden was added to it.