Loches – Dark Dungeons and a Murder Mystery

DSCF3713I’d never heard of Loches before, but it’s on my route to the Loire River and has 4 parking areas for motorhomes so I feel extremely welcome. I park up in the new part of town, next to the local police station. The Agnes Sorel parking area is also very well lit and has surveillance cameras, so I feel that Trixie and I will both be very safe here. Following signs for the Medieval Cite, I manage to do a complete circuit outside of the high walls before actually locating the only entrance gate, just a few metres from where I started. It’s easy to see how the citadel was never breached.

DSCF3728Inside, I decide to first visit the Church of St Ours which houses the pure white alabaster tomb of Agnes Sorel, the mistress of the Dauphin Charles VII. Close by is the 14th century Logis Royal where the couple escaped the Royal Court and which was visited by Joan of Arc in 1429. It is hard to imagine it as a luxurious royal palace but this is probably due to the fact that it is stuffed to the gills with stone statues and sculptures which are temporarily exhibited there.

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DSCF3777At the other end of the citadel lies the Donjon where the main keep, built by the Black Falcon in the 11th century, is just a ruined shell. It is still possible to climb to the top via spiral, stone staircases and metal gangways. The views across the town are quite impressive but I’ve no desire to hang around with the crows. The Tour Ronde is more intact and served as a prison right up until 1926. The walls are covered with graffiti, some ancient and very intricate, such as the 13th century soldiers and calvary carved into the second floor chamber, while others are, sadly, more 21st century.

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In the bowels of the Martelet Tower there is more graffiti and tunnels of a tuffeau quarry where tools of the trade are displayed. Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan and patron of Da Vinci was imprisoned here between 1504 and 1508. He was treated relatively well as his chamber had furniture, heating and a toilet. He also spent his time decorating the walls and some of the designs can still be seen, despite fading over the years. I finally emerge from the depths of the dungeons into daylight once more and find myself in the middle of a medieval garden.

On the face of it, Loches has an impressive history but, if you look further than the writing on the walls, it also has a very dark past. The tomb of Agnes Sorel was moved into the Church of St Ours in 2004, from the Royal Logis where it had stood for many years. Recent scientific studies of the body inside have revealed that she was poisoned with mercury, probably murdered. This would explain her sudden death at the young age of 28. Portraits of her which hang in the Royal Logis do not portray her in a good light as in both paintings her left breast is exposed.

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