Orleans Tourist Attractions
OrleansOrléans, the largest town in the middle Loire valley after Tours, chief town of the département of Loiret and the see of a bishop, with a university founded in 1309, lies in a fertile plain at the most northerly point in the course of the Loire.
Its name is inseparably bound up with that of Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orléans. Orléans is a lively trading town (agricultural products and industry) and a good base for excursions to the Châteaux in the Loire.From the third century AD the Roman town of Aurelianum (from which the name of Orléans is derived) was a place of some consequence, situated at the junction of important roads. In 451 it was besieged by Attila, but was liberated by the valiant Bishop Aignan (later canonized). In 498 it was captured by the Frankish king Clovis. During the Hundred Years' War, in 1428-1429, it was the last French stronghold, then under siege by the English, but was relieved on May 8, 1429 by a French army led by Joan of Arc. This marked a turning point in French fortunes. A festival in her memory is held annually on May 7 and 8.The town was badly damaged during the Wars of Religion and during the Second World War, but has since been rebuilt.
Place de Martroi
The central feature of Orléans old town is the spacious Place du Martroi. In the sixth century there was a cemetery here, hence the name Martroi (originally Martyretum). The equestrian statue of Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc), with reliefs of scenes from her life on the plinth, is by Foyatier (1855). The buildings on the west and south sides of the square were rebuilt after 1945. To the south lies Rue Royale, dating from 1752-1760, with a number of restored houses in the 19th C style. 17th C houses line Rue d'Escures to the northeast. At the end of this street, to the northwest of the cathedral, stands the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), an attractive brick and stone building, formerly the Hôtel Groslot, where King Francis II died in 1530; the interior is modern, however. In the garden can be seen remains of the 15th C Chapelle St-Jacques.
In Orléans, to the east of the Place du Martroi is the massive Cathedral of Ste-Croix, on the site of an earlier 10th C. church, part of the foundations of which have been preserved. The building of the cathedral began in 1278 but was several times interrupted and continued into the 16th C. It was badly damaged during the 16th C. wars of religion but was rebuilt in the 17th and 18th centuries on the model of earlier Gothic churches. The west front, flanked by twin towers, has five doorways and much Baroque decoration. The towers themselves are over 81 m/266ft high and are the work of the architect Trouard, although the original plans were drawn up by J. Gabriel. The central spire is 114 m/374ft high and was built in 1858.The sheer size of the interior (136 m/446ft long) leaves a lasting impression. The nine chapels behind the high altar date from the late 13th C., and the outer walls of the two side aisles and those of the choir are 14th C. Other notable features are the fine 17th C. organ and the beautiful early eighth C. carved woodwork in the choir. In the crypt traces of three earlier churches can be seen, dating partly from the fourth C. and partly from the 10th/11th C. Also of interest is the church treasure, which includes Byzantine fabrics and enamelwork, together with Limoges work.
Musée des Beaux Arts
This interesting art museum in Orleans has an extensive collection of works from the 15th to the 19th C. by Gauguin, Sérusier, Rouault, Soutine, Kupka, Mathieu and Dufy, among others. Temporary exhibitions are also held.
Address: Place Sainte-Croix, F-45000 Orléans, France
Joan of Arc Museum
In Orléans, a small museum devoted to Joan of Arc is to be found in a faithfully restored 15th C. house.
Address: 3 place du Général de Gaulle, F-45000 Orléans, France
Musée Historique et Archéologique
This elegant Renaissance mansion, once the Hôtel Cabu, now houses the Musée Historique et Archéologique de l'Orléanais (Gallo-Roman and medieval antiquities).To the south of the two museums is the charming old town of Orléans, with many Renaissance houses.
Address: Hôtel Cabu, Square Abbé Desnoyers, F-45000 Orléans, France
The 15th C church of St-Paul, south of the Place du Martroi in Orléans, was badly damaged during the Second World War. In the chapel of Notre-Dame-des-Miracles (rebuilt in the 17th C) is a 16th C Black Virgin.
Notre Dame de Recouvrance
This 16th C church in Orléans, Notre Dame de Recouvrance, to the south of St-Paul, has Renaissance sculpture and fine stained glass in the 11th C choir.
The church of St-Aignan in Orléans, dedicated to the warlike fifth century bishop, was built in the 15th and 16th centuries and partly destroyed during the wars of religion. All that survives is the transept and the beautiful Late Gothic choir, under which is a crypt of 1029.
Orléans (Rouen - Joan of Arc Festival)
This annual festival pays tribute to the most-beloved French saint, Joan of Arc. Festivals are held in the two towns in the month of May marking the days she liberated Orléans from the English and the day she was burned at the stake in 1431. Pageants and ceremonies in both towns keep the saint's memory alive.
Orléans La Source
In Orléans, La-Source (8km/5mi southeast, on the opposite bank of the Loire), are the attractive Botanical Gardens, with a fine assortment of native plants, together with waterfalls, animals and other attractions.
To the northeast of Orléans lies a large forest of oak and pine.
In Tigy (29km/18mi southeast) the Musée de l'Artisanat Rural Ancien displays examples of traditional handicrafts.
48km/30mi east of Orléans, in fertile agricultural country, is the little town of Bellegarde (pop. 1,500), which has a castle with a 14th C. keep and a Romanesque church containing 17th C. pictures.
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