Address Église Notre-Dame la Grande Grand Poitiers FR, Pl. Charles de Gaulle, 86000 Poitiers, France

Built in the 11th century, the church of Notre-Dame la Grande is a magnificent example of Romanesque art from Poitou. Over the years, it has fascinated, inspired and bewitched.

Traces of a place of worship on this site can be found as early as the 10th century. But it is in the 11th century that the church of Notre-Dame la Grande finds its origin. Baptized then Sancta Maria Major in reference to the basilica Sainte-Marie-Majeure of Rome, it is the epicenter of the diocese of Poitou.

It is not surprising that it is at the center of many legends. The most famous of them is the one known as the Miracle of the Keys. In 1202, besieged by the English, the mayor’s clerk found the solution, he wished to give the keys of the city to the invaders. However, when he tried to steal them in the middle of the night, he could not find them. The mayor looked for them in the early morning and was panicked when he did not see them. Deciding to go and pray at the church of Notre-Dame la Grande, the man found the precious keys in the hands of an effigy of the Virgin Mary. In the meantime, the English had partially killed each other and fled. However, this legend is potentially false, as the Poitevin duchy was under English rule at the time, so such an attack was not justified.

Because of its age and its exceptional architecture, the church has inspired many other works, such as the abbey of Saint-Jean de Montierneuf in Poitiers, the church of Saint-Jacques in Châtellerault, the cathedral of Angoulême, but also and especially the sketches of the Trinity Church project in Boston. The plans drawn by Henry Hobson Richardson (1838-1886) can be consulted at the Houghton Library of Harvard University.

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