SAUMUR, a town of western France, capital of an arrondissement in the department of Maine-et-Loire, 28 m. S.E. of Angers on the railway to Tours. Pop. (1906) 14,747. Saumur is well situated on the left bank of the Loire, which here receives the Thouet, and on an island in the river. A large metal bridge connects the Tours-Angers railway with that of MontreuilBellay, by which Saumur communicates with Poitiers and Niort. Two stone bridges (764 and 905 ft. long) unite the town on the island with the two banks of the river. Several of the Saumur churches are interesting. St Pierre, of the 12th century, has a 17th-century facade and a Renaissance nave; and Notre-Dame of Nantilly, often visited by Louis XL, who rebuilt portions of it, has a remarkable though greatly damaged facade, a doorway and choir of the 12th century, and a nave of the nth. Both these churches contain curious tapestries, and in the latter, fixed in the wall, is the copper cross of Gilles de Tyr, keeper of the seals to St Louis. St Jean is a small building in the purest Gothic style of Anjou. St Nicolas-du-Chardonnet, in the Gothic style of the 12th century, has a fine modern spire. Notre-Dame of Ardilliers, of the 16th century, was enlarged in the following century by Richelieu and Madame de Montespan. The hotel de ville, containing a museum and library, is an elegant 16th century edifice; and the whole town is rich in examples of the domestic architecture of the isth, 16th and 17th centuries. The house known as the Maison de la Reine Cecile (isth century) was built by Ren6, duke of Anjou. The castle, built between the 11th century and the 13th, and remodelled in the 16th, is used as an arsenal and powder magazine. There is also an interesting almshouse, with its chambers in part dug out in the rock. The famous cavalry school of Saumur was founded in 1 768 and is used for the special training of young officers appointed to cavalry regiments on leaving the cadet school of St Cyr. Other public institutions are the sub-prefecture, tribunals of first instance and of commerce, a chamber of commerce, a branch of the Bank of France, colleges for both sexes and a horticultural garden, with a school of vines. Saumur prepares and carries on a large trade in the sparkling white wines grown in the neighbourhood, as well as in brandy, grain, flax and hemp; and it manufactures enamels and rosaries and carries on liqueur-distilling.
The Saumur caves along the Loire and on both sides of the valley of the Thouet must have been occupied at a very remote period. The Tour du Tronc (9th century), the old stronghold of Saumur, served as a place of refuge for the inhabitants of the surrounding district during foreign invasions (whence perhaps the name Saumur, from Salons Murus) and became the nucleus of a monastery built by monks from St Florent le Vieil. On the same site rose the castle of Saumur two hundred years later. The town fell into the hands of Foulques Nerra, duke of Anjou, in 1025, and passed in the 13th century into the possession of the kings of France. The English failed to capture it during the Hundred Years' War. After the Reformation the town became the metropolis of Protestantism in France and the seat of a theological seminary. The school of Saumur, as opposed to that of Sedan, represented the more liberal side of French Protestantism (Cameron, Amyraut, etc.). In 1623 the fortifications were dismantled ; and the revocation of the edict of Nantes reduced the population by more than one half. In June 1793, the town was occupied by the Vendeans, against whom it soon afterwards became a base of operations for the republican army. "
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)