The best of times,  the worst of times...
June 22, 2000

(The gardens of the Logis de la Chabotterie, June 22, 2000)

Today the Vendée-Mobile takes us into the heart of inland Vendée and into the heart of the most glorious and turbulent days of this region's history.

A logis is a  sort of plantation that developed here in the early 1500's, soon after Columbus' voyages to the America's.  Very quickly the farm system flourished, but also found itself in the midst of the religious wars that shook France and Europe in the days of Luther and Calvin.  The peaceful logis soon became a sort of farm/fortress resembling in many ways the strong castles or fortresses of the middle ages.


Towers and walls were built that protected the nobles and their peasant servants from the enemies, Protestant or Catholic depending on the logis' own allegiances.

When the Good King Henri IV brought an end to the religious wars, these farm estates returned to their original agrarian functions and to a new level of productivity and prosperity. Wheat, vegetables, and chickens grew here and filled the pots of many, many French families.

The good times were short-lived, however, for by the end of the 18th century a new world was dawning.  The French Revolution was soon to change this part of the world forever.

The change would not come easy in Vendée, for much of the region would rise up against the new government in Paris in defense of God and the King.  When Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette lost the heads to the guillotine, this part of France was outraged.  Many here rose up in arms against the new Republic that had come to power in Paris.


Our visit to the Chabotterie is highlighted by entry into some of the most faithfully restored 18th-century rooms anywhere in the world.  These are the days just before the Revolution, and in each of these rooms the lives of the modest nobility that inhabited this domain comes to life in the authentic furniture and decor of this wonderfully modest mini-castle.

Photographs are not permitted inside, but this view from an upper window looks out upon the logis's beautiful gardens which provide both flowers and vegetables to those living on this estate.


Our guide, Agnès (right) is happy to introduce us to the delights of the logis' innermost secrets as well as to the treasures of its gardens.  Spices, herbs, flowers and vegetables of an incredible variety grow in these propitious soils.


The most famous room inside the logis is in fact the most modest -- the kitchen.  It was there that one of Vendée's most revered figures was brought upon his capture in 1796.  General Charette was in fact an officer of the marine by training, but he was recruited by the peasants of Vendée to lead them in their effort to restore the monarchy in the most terrible days of the Revolution.

He was not alone among the great leader of the Great Royal and Catholic Army of Vendée, but he was the last to survive the hordes of Republican troupes sent here to squash the counter-revolution.  He was wounded in a wood near here and taken to kitchen in this house to have his injuries dressed.  As soon as he was strong enough to move, he was taken to the nearby city of Nantes where he stood before the firing squad of the Revolution.  He gave the signal to fire himself by lowering his head, pointing to his heart, and saying "It is here that you must strike the brave."  Natelle Gray is surely the most likely of our WVU-Vendéens to remember this phrase on our quiz in class tomorrow.


The Chabotterie takes its name from the Chabot family, an branch of the nobility that dates far back into history.  One of the most notable figures of the Chabot's is surely Philippe Chabot, Admiral of France and associate of François Ier whose famous Chambord castle we will visit next week.

Today we are treated to a fine exhibit of the Renaissance in Vendée, and the works Philippe Chabot (soldier, sailor, builder), François Rabelais (writer, physician, philosopher), and Agrippa d'Aubigné (Protestant captain, poet, theologian) are among those featured here this afternoon.


The restaurant of the Chabotterie has been ranked the best in Vendée.  Today we will learn why with a meal that is worthy of the most glorified nobility of this venerable abode.


After lunch, we take a stroll through the estate and pass by a few of Vendée's most recognizable inhabitants.  These special long-haired donkey's are known here as "baudets de Vendée."  They are a hallmark of the region.


Our walk takes us behind the logis and gives us another view of the great house and its charming gardens.


A short walk through the woods brings us to the monument marking the site where General Charette was wounded and taken prisoner by Republican forces.


A few more minutes in the garden are impossible to resist.  Soon we will be back on the Vendée-Mobile for a short ride over the the twin villages of Les Lucs-sur-Boulogne, where some of the most tragic events of the Vendée wars occurred just over 200 years ago. 


Before leaving we take a look into the ahah, a sort of moat that protects the gardens from unwanted intruders.


In Les Lucs-sur-Boulogne, we visit the Memorial of Vendée, a garden and series of monuments erected in memory of the more than 600 villagers who were massacred here by Republican guards in the most tragic days of the Vendée Wars.

Here we see the peasant tools that were transformed into arms in the uprising that would be crushed so pitilessly.


The Boulogne river adds beauty and charm to a site that live in infamy in the minds of Vendéens to this day.


The church of Les Lucs is decorated with stained-glass windows that recount these tragic events.  You may be able to make out the Republican guards in the images to the right as they prepare the rebellious Vendée priest for his fateful end.

We will see more of these terrible events as our stay in Vendée draws to its end.  Next week, however, we will be in the Loire Valley, where we will see some of the wonders (and evidence of the horrors)  of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

 Stay tuned to WVU-V!

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