After a good lunch in St Jean d’Angley at Le Scorlion ( see our review based on a previous visit at https://poitoucharentesinphotos.wordpress.com/restaurant-reviews/le-scorlion-st-jean-dangelys/) we decided to visit Surgeres which was only 17 miles away according to the sat nav. We had skirted round the town in the past when en route to the coast but never stopped and looked. Our first impression was that it was larger than we expected. It has a large car park just across the road from the church, which is where we parked and paid 1 euro for the privilege. In fact we found subsequently that there are lots of places nearby where you can park for nothing in case you are tempted to visit.
Surgeres is probably now most famous for being a centre for the milk industry. It is home to many familiar brands and one of my favourite cheeses. The “Group of Dairy Co-operatives” distribute many brands of butter, milk and cheese such as Bougon, Saint-Loup, Lescure, Surgères, Le Petit Vendéen and Mottin Charentais
My favourite, incidentally, is Mottin Charentais. Anyway back to our visit. We headed for the church which is called egL’Eglise de Notre Dame as so many of them are. It is of typical Romanesque style with all the usual decorations and arches on the outside. It has been restored recently and looks a bit artificial in that some of the sculptures look too fresh. It does have two representations of the horseman known as ‘le Cavalier’ which is found on many churches in this area. The one on the right hand side even has the person at the feet of the horse, being trampled underfoot. This may be a representation of Christianity dominating the forces of evil or the heathen past.??
In the excellent book by Freda White called the Ways of Aquitaine and written around 1968 she comments that ‘ It is visible at once that if the original carvings are covered with plaster in moulds, and the casts thus obtained used to replace the old sculptures, they loose the sharpness and delicacy of the originals; the sea serpent of Surgeres is more like a slug’
She also goes on to say ‘I walked round the big church. It has a fine tower made of sixteen very tall pillars, bound at the top by arches. But the cornice has split and a pine tree has rooted in the crack, which will force wider apart with every rainy season. Presently the tower will fall. This fault is common to many churches in Poitou, where the coping has been neglected.’
Fortunately the tower has not fallen and the church is in good condition. Inside it is quite stark and lacks much in the way of decoration or interest. As you can see the church is set in a wide open green space which is also occupied by other splendid buildings, There is the Marie, a Biblioteque and several other prestigious constructions, They are surrounded by the remparts and there is a little entrance with a drawbridge. The restoration work on this was still in progress when we visited but it looked near to completion and this is the last phase in all the restoration which has been on going since 2008.
We then had a quick look round the town which was quite pleasant – lots of little shops and a large covered market which was of course closed as we were visiting mid afternoon on a Thursday. The town has typical white stone architecture which looks very neat and tidy but to my mind it is also a bit sterile- perhaps this is in some way linked to the milk industry!
Below is a slide show of some of the other photos I took during our short visit.