La Corroirie, a heritage, a history…

Welcome to castle monastery

Castle monastery of La Corroierie - Loire Valley

La Corroire has 3 essential functions. First of all being the living place of the Carthusian monks, it is also a temporal center of activity, and a feudal fiefdom.

 

In 1178, on the outskirts of the forest of Loches, on a land given by the abbey of Villeloin, Henri II Plantagenet, as atonement for the murder of Thomas Becket, founds the Chartreuse du Liget. This new monastery starts gathering more and more donations, until the official grant of the  feudal fiefdom of Foulques de Craçay, in 1223. Thus finally becoming the lower house of the monks of the Chartreuse, named “Corroirie”.

 

Indeed, as per the traditional customs of the religious order, the Fathers and Brothers of the Chartreuse lived in separate places, according to their distinct activities. The fathers thus used to live in the Chartreuse, devoting all their time to prayer, isolated in their cells. Whereas the lay brothers, who also dedicated some time to labor, lived at the Corroirie. Where they could alternate between praying at the church, and working on the land or in the cellar.

 

The practices and activities varied over the year, according to the different periods of time. During spring or summer time for example, prayer times were reduced due to the important agricultural activity.

The residence of the Cartusian brothers

La Corroirie is first of all, the home of the Carthusian brothers. They were placed, like the fathers, under the authority of the prior who supervised both the Chartreuse and the Corroirie. In practice, it’s the father prosecutor, appointed by the prior, who supervised the Corroirie. He was in a way, the prior’s right-hand man, in charge of running the domain and its inhabitants. Also being in contact with other priories and abbeys.

 

The lay brothers took the same vows as the Chartreux monks, but could not become fathers, the lack of ambition granting full serenity. Except for the “lay” works, related to the running of the domain, they spent most of their time praying in their cells, living as hermits. As free and educated people, they could handle the running of the domain. Unlike other orders, like the Benedictines, they didn’t employ young childs, often entrusted by poor and large families at the time (called “moinillons” - young monks).

 

The Corroirie also included other inhabitants :

The oblates (from the the latin oblatum, meaning “given”) who were temporarily or definitely living at the Corroirie in order to atone for their sins or to take a vow. They followed the same customs as the lay brothers, namely the religious services and main rules of life.

 

The farm workers, who were the “employees” of the Corroirie. They were remunerated for their work and did not take part in the religious life of the monastery.

 

The Corroirie owning the right of justice on its land, it also had its legal officers : a bailiff, a sergeant, a lawyer, and a tax prosecutor.

In the 15th century, the king granted a captain and his garrison to ensure the protection of the domain. Finally, some pilgrims and other travelers, also used to stay a few hours or days at the hostelry before continuing their journey to some holy place, such as Santiago de Compostela.

 

You will find at the bottom of the page the numbered map (x) of the Corroirie to locate you during the reading.

The Church (2)

The church was the place where the brothers met for their daily prayers. It has been built at the beginning of the 13th century. The vaults of the church are typical of the Plantagenet style, combining both Norman and Gothic architecture. Its structure is simple, as per the rules of the Chartreuse monks’ Order : one unique nave, with two spans, terminated by a seven-side chevet.

 

The spans are covered by bulging ribs with eight branches, also characteristic of the Plantagenet style. The arches, slightly longer, are thus supporting the vault. Inside the church, a Renaissance pool nested in the wall, allowed the celebrants to wash their hands after the communion, during the mass.

 

The representation of Christ in the choir dates back to 1935. This fresco has been realized by Robert Lense, a painter and friend of the Count of Marsay, who had been invited with his pupils from Saint Pierre des Corps. Some of his works are exposed in a museum in Aurillac. It can be imagined that at the time of the lay brothers, the bays were probably protected by transparent stained-glass windows, and the ground about 1.5m lower than now.

The Cellar (5)

The church was the place where the brothers met for their daily prayers. It has been built at the beginning of the 13th century. The vaults of the church are typical of the Plantagenet style, combining both Norman and Gothic architecture. Its structure is simple, as per the rules of the Chartreuse monks’ Order : one unique nave, with two spans, terminated by a seven-side chevet. The spans are covered by bulging ribs with eight branches, also characteristic of the Plantagenet style. The arches, slightly longer, are thus supporting the vault.

 

Inside the church, a Renaissance pool nested in the wall, allowed the celebrants to wash their hands after the communion, during the mass. The representation of Christ in the choir dates back to 1935. This fresco has been realized by Robert Lense, a painter and friend of the Count of Marsay, who had been invited with his pupils from Saint Pierre des Corps. Some of his works are exposed in a museum in Aurillac.

 

It can be imagined that at the time of the lay brothers, the bays were probably protected by transparent stained-glass windows, and the ground about 1.5m lower than now.

The centre of "temporel" activity

La Corroirie, the centre of a vast domain.

 

The word “Corroirie” comes from Latin Conredium or Conredia, defining all that is related to the monk’s care (food, clothing…). As such, it is the economical centre of the Chartreuse.

 

The agricultural domain of the Chartreuse spreads over an area of 1500 hectares in a single block (900 hectares of land, 550 of forest, 50 of ponds, 15 of vines, and 13 of fields), including some twenty tenant farms. And to that must be added some lands bought by the monastery: Bergeresse (Azay-sur-Indre), the Hubaudière (Chédigny), and Biardeau. It is in 1274 that the monks from the Chartreuse du Liget bought the lands of Bergeresse. On which they build a dwelling and a chapel, in the current of the 14th century. During the 16th century, they added a barn which is still visible today.

 

The lands were used as pasture for the livestock farming (bovines and ovines), but also for the growing of cereals. The livestock brought them the skins used to make parchemins for the copyists. And the cereals and vegetables from the garden were for their daily food. The second floor of the cellar was used as granary, but also to prepare the skins. The lay brothers were also fishing in their own ponds to sell the fish. And run timbers of oaks too, which still today remain models in the forest of Loches.

 

However, one of the main activities at the time was the farming of hemp, which they used to grow in their various hemp-fields. Henri II Plantagenet, having important needs of sails for his navy, furthered the growth of hemp in the area, useful from the stem to the grain. The lay brothers also used hemp to make their habits, or monastic clothes. When twisted, the fibers could be used as ropes, essential for manual works. The recycling of the fabrics allowed to make paper for the copyist monks of the Chartreuse, including the stem which was used too. And the grain served to feed the livestock, but also men in periods of scarcity.

 

Today, we rediscover the benefits of these grains, of which one handful covers the daily needs of proteins and lipids. Besides, its supply of omega 3 and 6 make it the best oil to prevent bad cholesterol. In medieval pharmacopeia, it is consumed in decoction for its calming properties.

The Mills (6)

We can find two successive mills. There probably already was a mill at the Corroirie before the monks lived there. And we know it has been working until the middle of the 19th century. The two actual mills were used for the monastery only and were supplied by the stream of Aubigny and the upstream pond.

 

In the first mill, you can still see on the left wall the stone neck from where the water came, carried by a 4m diameter wheel. This wheel activated a millstone to grind the grains, located in an upper floor which today no longer exists.

 

When going through the door on the left, you enter another room in which was a second wheel. The monks could activate any of the two wheels, according to their needs, by adjusting the water arrival. Some fragments of the millstones are still visible on the ground. The water of the mills was evacuated by an underground tunnel leading to the river.

 

When getting out of the mill, you will see the pond, which has been partly filled in since then.

You may also notice on the ceiling the little openings through which used to pass the wooden pipes allowing the grain to flow directly from the granary to the millstone. The quantity of grain to be grinded was poured in a wooden vat, in the granary, which ended in the pipes.

The Granary : la Corroirie, the centre of agricultural activity

Above the church, you can clearly see the two levels of the granary rearranged during the 15th century. A drawbridge allowed the farmers to enter directly into the granary. The farmers who worked the lands were subject to various taxes: the tithe or “terrage”.

 

At a time when each region had its own measures, the Corroirie had bushels. A market even took place there, where the farmers used to exchange their products. There also were many exchanges between the Corroiries, each one having its own speciality. The Grande Chartreuse Corroirie, for example, was known for its liquor made of plants.

 

Whereas the Corroirie of the Liget made casks with the oaks from their forests. The monks who did not eat any meat could also get fish from the sea, which was supplied from the Loire and the Cher rivers up to Montrichard.

The Hostelry : at the gate of the desert (3)

The sealed openings on the ground floor are typical of the 13th century, but have actually been transformed several time during the 15th and 18th centuries. This building seems to have been the hostelry of the place, where the lay brothers used to accommodate the ill monks of the Chartreuse, travellers, and pilgrims. This remote halting place of the Liget, at the gates of the desert, allowed the fathers to preserve their tranquility. Only the distinguished travellers were received as guests at the Chartreuse.

 

La Corroirie could also host persons who wished to isolate to atone for their sins, or for a vow: these were the oblates, called the “donnés” (the “given”). This was also probably the place where the bailiff of the Corroirie dispensed justice. As it had one last function : being the seat of the monastery’s feudal power.

When looking to the rooftop, you may notice on the north gable end, the stone cross, symbol of the Chartreuse monks.

The feudal fiefdom

La Corroirie also was the seigneury and the feudal fiefdom of the Chartreuse monks. When receiving the fiefdom of Craçay at the beginning of the 13th century, the Chartreuse monks also received the feudal rights related to it. Moreover, the monks could benefit from the support of the sovereigns and popes, who affirmed and granted them several rights and privileges.

 

La Corroirie thus became a place of justice, where the criminals could be sentenced, even to death. At the time, the bailiff of the Corroirie had as much power as the bailiff of Loches, the royal courthouse. The latter even sued La Corroirie several times, in order to extend his influence in the region. But the monks won all the lawsuits, thanks to the support of the King. La Corroirie thus allowed the Chartreuse monks to earn an important feudal power, with its many privileges, which they enjoyed until the Revolution.

The Turret : prison and hemp oven (7)

The prison, located North between the ramparts and the cellar, is isolated from the other buildings. It had 2 functions, being both a prison and a hemp oven. The prison was the symbol of the right of justice. There was one sole opening on the 1st floor, the prisoners staying in the lower part of the turret. Some ancient latrines are still visible, which may have been a kind of ventilation, to bring up the heat and dry the hemp.

 

During the months of October, the turret was no longer used as prison to become a hemp oven. Where the hemp was actually dried after having soaked several days in the stream for the “retting”. Once dried, it was brought to the mill to be grinded and then woven or torn in the cellar.

 

The gibbets, or gallows located near the little bridge (between the car park and the moats), were exposed as a reminder of the right of justice applied by the monks. However, they preferred to hang the wooden effigy of the convicted only, and have them work on their lands for compensation for their grievances. The only striking and shocking sentence of this jurisdiction was the immolation of two witches during the 15th century. Today, the gibbets have totally disappeared.

The Moat and Fortifications

La Corroirie, which had a defensive role, was surrounded by ramparts, moats and hedgegrows. Today, the remparts are still visible on the Northern and Eastern sides. Those of the Southern side have been destroyed.

 

Loopholes can be seen all along the buildings. The first ones, shaped as stirrups for arrows, are typical of the 13th century. The second ones, looking like exclamation points, date back to the 15th century. They were used for the muskets, with the hole to place the weapon, and the line to aim. These are loopholes for cannons, which were also used at the end of the 15th century and during the 16th century.

 

La Corroirie was invaded and wrecked for the first time by the Englishmen. In 1361, during the 100 years war, an underground tunnel was constructed as a place of refuge in case the Chartreuse was attacked.

 

In 1432, Charles VII offers a garnison and later on, Louis XI allows them to consolidate their fortifications. It is within this fiefdom that the monks sieged against the Protestants who took advantage of the lack of defense of the monks (who were praying in the church) to invade and plunder the monastery. Often with the support of some peasants in the surroundings, who wished to liberate from their royalties, and burn the monastery’s shares to become landowners. The Prior in his wisdom decided not to retaliate, refusing to send his sinning enemies to hell, and declared : “We are only poor monks in prayer”. The monks suffered continuous harassments and the domain major damages.

 

Account of an attack: (The Inhumanitez of Captain Lignou – 1589)

Thusly the night from the third to the fourth March 1589, these people “two companionships, fifty or sixty battleships, prowl in the region since a certain time where they got several castles such as the Castle of Bouchet or the Castle of Montrésor. They decide to take la Corroirie, fruitful bargain. Housed at  Montrésor, they decided o attack in the night, on horse. Just before arriving a scout leaves. At la Corroirie everything is calm. Like this mounts are left on adjoining small farms: la Fouettière, la Grangette, and le Boulay. The inhabitants awaked by old troopers are terrified. In their fright of being killed they are slavish to Huguenot requirements. They lend on the spot their ladders and beams.

 

The attackers undertake on the levy of the pond, but the noise of footsteps betrays them. From la Corroirie, on the off chance, they shoot a knock of harquebus on them. As they feel themselves under covered, the Takers of Barbetz fight precipitously in retirement: fugit enim impius nemine persequente. Reprimanded by the officers, eased by the silence they come back on the charge. At that point a devoted peasant speeds up toward the water with ladders left by the attackers whereas their absconding in order to alarm the watchmen.

 

Heraing the noise of water the doorman brother intrigued opens his window. Three arquabuse balss crash ont he wall close to him. Frightened he runs to alert the others. The prior and the monks are in the church: Dicito, frater, pauperes monachos intus esse, qui matutinas persolvunt presces: „Brothers, tell that in between pure monks there is who recites the matins.” answers the soft dom Fiacre Billard. Subsequently he made intone the veni Sancte Spiritus.

 

Outside the battle begins. The drawbridge is battered. The old troopers lie down but the powder burns ineffective. A second blast gives the drawbridge and the door a jump. The attackers speed up. A second door stops them. It is broken by hits of ax. Monks are without resistance as there is no garrison and the Prior Father forbids to ripost. As he has scruple about fighting back the enemy „ we would send to hell killing him in state of sin, as they are looters ont he monastery”.  They are masters of the place. They go to the church. The religious are at their mercy.

 

The pillage start in the morning, but the loot has not such an interest as they would have thought. Huguenots were convinced that monks were still hiding their richness. How to know? At that point du Lignou walks personally on stage. „ He takes some of the religious to make them speak about what they do not know yet, he dips them into the nearest pond until their throat, afterwards until their lips, after having put the top of their homicide knives: they open their mouth and clear away their teeth in order to let the water flow into their mouth and so little by little they drown them: hoping to teach them about what they did not know themselves, throughout the circumstance which appeared in these saint figures results the obstinate or the fear to lose what they did not have.”  (The Inhumanitz of Captain du Lignou – 1589)

 

The curious inhabitants of the parish come to see the event. Woe to the defeateds!  The asleep grudge, the jealousy, the hopes blend them to  Huguenots. They follow the researches, they even guide them. Here are the titles of the ownership, the royalties, the leases. In the courtyard a pyre crams and the parchments writhe and give off a nauseous odor of burning flesh, though the peasants rejoice.

 

The Takers of Barbez are gone. The Chartreux, suffering in their hearts, more from the peasant histility than the enormities of the gangs elope across the forest. Salerm, who orders in Loches, gathers up and accomodates them. They do not come back until everything becomes again peaceful. Their tranquility is not going to be disturbed until the Revolution (two centuries later).

The Fortified Gate (1)

The defensive function is also marked by the square tower, which was the main entrance of the monastery, with its drawbridge dating from the end of the 15th century. There are two different doors : one big semicircular door for cavaliers and wains, and a smaller one for the pedestrians. Both doors are topped by machicolations and loopholes.

 

In the upper part of the square tower was the guard room, from where they watched the entrances. In the pathway leading to the courtyard, the grooves of the portcullis are still visible. It was an additional protection to the moats and the drawbridge.

La Corroirie after French Revolution

Thanks to their good relationship with power and the great thinkers of the time, the monks were preserved from the horrors of the Revolution. And could thus escape, leaving the Chartreuse to two monks who ensured its definitive closure. La Corroirie is then sold as national property, thus becoming a simple agricultural field.

 

This new function however, allowed the preservation of the place and its buildings, and the chapel became a hangar. The whole domain was then sold again in 1899 to René de Marsay, son of the owner of the Corroirie du Liget, Arthur de Marsay. In 1919, his nephew Henry de Marsay became the new owner before donating the domain to his daughter the Countess Guy de Mareüil in 1972. The Countess carried out many renovation works, such as the vaults of the church, the entire courtyard, the surrounding walls, the hemp oven, and the mills.

 

Today, the ASRC (Association pour la Sauvegarde et le Rayonnement de la Corroirie - i.e. Association for the Preservation and Influence of La Corroirie) is handling the place and actively committed in the development of the place. Namely by giving public access to the domain, for free visiting or guided tours. But also through the organization of concerts, theatre performances, or other theme events (music, writings, conferences on Gregorian arts). And the publication of this brochure.

 

Those who wish to support the different works and projects carried out are most welcome. The main vocation of the Association being to preserve and improve this historical place.

 

In 2015, the Association was granted the official Certification for organic farming. And carried out some works such as the rendering of the facades, the redrawing of the courtyard, and the drainage of the walls basis. It is now raising money to start other works such as the restoration of the moats, the interior of the prison / hemp oven, and the first mill with its basin.

La Corroierie Sitemap

 Map of La Corroierie - Loire Valley

1 - Harrow XIIIth and Donjon XVth century  /  2 - Church XIIIth century  /  3 - Hostelry / 4 - Chapter House  /  5 - Cellar  /  6 - Mills XVIth century  /  7 - Prison/Hemp oven

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Brochure 2015
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