Prior to the French Revolution Saumur was the capital of the Sénéchaussée de Saumur, a bailiwick, that existed until 1793. Saumur was then the location of the Battle of Saumur during the Revolt in the Vendée. During the Battle of France, in World War II, Saumur was the site of the Battle of Saumur (1940) where the town and south bank of the Loire was defended by the teenage cadets of the cavalry school.
In 1944 it was the target of several Tallboy and Azon bombing raids by Allied planes. The first raid, on 8/9 June 1944, was against a railway tunnel near Saumur, seeing the first use of the 12,000 lb Tallboy “earthquake” bombs. The hastily organized night raid was to stop a planned German Panzer Division, travelling to engage the newly landed allied forces in Normandy. The panzers were expected to use the tunnel. No. 83 Squadron RAF illuminated the area with flares by four Avro Lancaster’s and marked the target at low level by three de Havilland Mosquitos. 25 Lancaster’s of No. 617 Squadron RAF then dropped their Tallboys with great accuracy. They hit the bridge, blocked the railway cutting and one pierced the roof of the tunnel, bringing down a huge quantity of rock and soil which blocked the tunnel, badly delaying the German reinforcements.
On 22 June of the same year, nine Consolidated B-24 Liberators of the United States Army Air Forces used Azon 1,000 lb glide bombs against the Saumur Bridge; escorted by 43 North American P-51 Mustangs. During the morning of 24 June, 74 American Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses were again dispatched to the bridge; 38 hit the primary and 36 hit Tours/La Riche Airfield without loss; escort was provided by 121 of 135 P-51s. The town of Saumur was awarded the Croix de Guerre with palm for its resistance and display of French patriotism during the war.
Dream with your eyes wide open!
Saumur has a soft tuffeau heart, a myriad of châteaux, manors, sixty listed churches, the largest monastery in Europe, but also dozens of megaliths. Nature, landscapes and a gentle climate have inspired humans here for many millenniums! An untamed river that likes to give it a whirl! It’s like a giant mirror that reflects beauty for nearly 30 km. The Loire glides past religious jewels, ports, tuffeau cliff sides and a multitude of protected bird islands. The term masterpiece is none too strong for this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Eating out in the Saumur area, a paradise for gourmets.
Vines as far as the eye can see, troglodytic cellars and vineyards all grace the Saumur hillsides along the delectable ‘wine route’. A path, trailing through the fields and under the earth, leading to the discovery of the famous Loire Valley vintages. You can’t get too much of these highly prestigious cellars!
It’s not just wine that matures in the cellars. Mushrooms are cultivated also into. In the warm intimacy of the cellars, you can have a Rabelaisian feast: succulent fouées (hot-breads), or galipettes (large mushrooms), stuffed and cooked in the oven.
Magic depths life underground.
Men first dug the Saumur rock to extract tuffeau, the delicate stone to which we owe most of the châteaux of the Loire Valley. Gradually, these cellars and quarries were transformed into houses. There are nearly 1,000 km of underground galleries in the region. Some of the troglodytic hillsides overlook the Loire; others, troglodytic dwellings of the plains. These unusual places have also inspired tourism professionals: restaurants, guest houses and B&B which offer the public originality and charm.
Land of Knights
In Saumur, the capital of equitation, the signs are everywhere. The Cadre Noir, heir to the French equestrian tradition, has been part of the Riding School since the 17th century. The Equestrian Museum, Cavalry Museum, Armoured Vehicle Museum, carriage rides, saddlers and boot makers, all reflect the strong influence of this activity. Saddle-up!