Tourist Information, Vendee History, Accommodation, Photos, Reviews, Maps,
Fontenay le Comte
Renaissance town of Fontenay-le-Comte is often referred to as the
prettiest town in the Vendée and is surely one of the prettiest in
France being listed in the "Plus Beau detours de France".
Sitting astride the River Vendée this former port was a fording town on
the old Roman coastal road from Les Sables D’Olonne to Niort. Many of
the villages through which the road passes, though now miles from the
sea, still have streets named quay road and signposts for the port. The
reason for this is that as the Marshes gradually silted up, and the land was drained by the Benedictine monks, the sea receded and by the end of the 19th century the town was all but finished as a port.
are three distinct rings in the development of Fontenay-le-Comte,
starting with the walled medieval castle, of which only the ruins of
some of the ramparts, entrance, gate and a tower remain. Surrounding
these ruins is the Renaissance heart of the town dating from the 15th and 16th centuries,
which is now a conservation area where development is restricted.
Surrounding this is the modern outer commercial sector. This quiet and
pleasant country town boasts superb architecture and narrow winding
streets which include several wooden framed houses, imposing mansions
and townhouses, open squares and impressive fountains. A stroll around
the town is a very pleasant experience, and you can walk the ‘mille ans
d’histoire’ route, and see for yourself a thousand years of history .
During the course of this walk you will discover, along with other gems,
two Châteaux of note and a magnificent Cathedral. The Château Terre-neuve
(1515) with its magnificent stone carved fireplace and ceilings, which
houses a collection of period costumes and furniture and the Château
Fontenay which now houses the Trésor Public for the commune. The Cathedral of Notre Dame has a beautiful West entrance, stunning stained glass windows and a steeple that can be seen from miles around.
The tourist office has a useful guide which ensures that visitors are
able to see the very best of the town. Some of the main highlights are
the arcades of Place Belliard, the Fontaine des Quatre Tias, the
medieval houses along Rue des Loges, the Maison Millepertuis and the
half-timbered house a little further along the street. There is a park
area around the remains of the castle (Parc baron) at the top of the
town, containing a pretty little medieval garden.
has had a chequered history, the affix of Comte is said to have been
applied to it when the town was taken by King Louis IX from the family
of Lusignan. He gave it to his brother Alphonse, count of Poitou, under
whom it became the capital of Bas-Poitou. It has been ceded to the
English, suffered repeated capture during the Religious Wars of the 16th
century, was dismantled in 1621 and was occupied both by the
Republicans and the Royalists during the Revolt in the Vendée
(1793). It was the capital of the Vendée department from 1790 to 1806
and was only stripped of the title by Napoleon as a punishment for its
part in the French Revolutionary Wars.
Having enjoyed the historic aspect of the town you can also delight in
the more modern pleasures afforded by the numerous excellent restaurants
and cafés. (many of these are reviewed along with copies of some of their menus in our restaurant guide).
The former train station, situated in the Avenue de la Gare at the top
of the Rue de la République, has become a cultural centre and now houses
exhibitions, musical performances and many other functions. There are
excellent shops and other leisure facilities and Fontenay-le-Comte is
justly proud of being called “the cultural and sporting town of
France”. Fontenay-le-Comte purportedly provides more cultural and
sporting events, per capita, than any other town in France and held the
World Crocket Championships on the superb lawns alongside the River Vendée. It also boasts an equestrian centre and the best karting circuit in the Vendée,
and has vibrant clubs for tennis, football, rugby, squash and many
other sports. There is a website specifically dedicated to the numerous
and varied sports clubs and facilities in Fontenay-le-Comte.
Nature lovers will find Fontenay-Le-Comte an ideal base, as it is the gateway to two unique and wonderful places. One is the Marais Poitevin a drained marshland, known as the Green Venice
of the West. It is criss-crossed with canals and punctuated by pretty
little towns which straddle the rivers and canals of the area. You can
punt along these and obtain a fascinating insight into the flora and
fauna of this unique environment. The second of these places offers a
totally different experience, it is the Mervent forest
where one can walk, ride or cycle within this beautiful area of forest
and lakes In the forest over 200 kilometres of well marked footpaths
have been laid out and it offers some of the best walks to be found
anywhere in the Vendée. The local tourist office has plans of all of
these walks together with distances and their degree of difficulty.
Other trails are marked out for mountain biking and horse riding.
Fontenay-le-Comte is without doubt a jewel in the Vendée crown. With
history, architecture, culture and sports, Fontenay-le-Comte has all of
them. Perhaps the best thing however, is that it still retains a small
town feel. Fontenay-le-Comte has had a chequered history, the affix of
Comte is said to have been applied to it when the town was taken by King
Louis IX from the family of Lusignan. It was given to his brother
Alphonse, count of Poitou, under whom it became capital of Bas-Poitou.
It was ceded to the English, suffered repeated capture during the
Religious Wars of the 16th century, was dismantled in 1621 and was
occupied both by the Republicans and the Royalists during the Revolt in the Vendée (1793).
It was the capital of the Vendée department from 1790 to 1806 and was
only stripped of the title by Napoleon as a punishment for its part in
the French Revolutionary Wars.
Swimming Pools. . Oceanide. Rue du Guingalet. Tel. 02 51 00 05 21
Modern complex with Toboggan & Sauna.
Canoeing; Canoe-Kayak C.K.F. Route Orbie, Base Pilorge.
Tel.06 11 04 64 06. July August.
By the bridge, organised by local canoeing club.
Horse Riding; L'Etrier Fontenaisien 02 51 51 11 34
Horse riding lessons,outings, courses
l'Ane Vert. 02 28 13 08 98
Trekking with a donkey, trips in Mervent
forest and Marais Poitevin.
Taxis; Fontenay Taxis. 68 rue Rabelais. Tel. 02 51 69 02 94.
Taxi Gibouleau. 7,rue Guinefolle. Tel. 02 51 69 03 24.
Taxi Roturier Francois. 37 rue St. Medard. Tel.02 51 69 06 83.
Photo Gallery for Fontenay-le-Comte
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