Notre-Dame des Clés, Poitiers


The most prominent church in central Poitiers isn’t the Cathedral, it is the great Romanesque church of Notre-Dame la Grande which dominates the market place. Most of what you see dates from after a consecration by the future Pope Urban II in July 1086; around 1120 the nave was extended and the magnificent sculptured façade added. Chapels were added to the nave in the 15th and 16th c. The interior was repainted in 1851, not to everyone’s taste, but has some fine furnishings, with a striking Entombment in the Italian style in the south chapel (ND March 2012). Dominating is the highly venerated statue of Notre-Dame des Clés, standing on a pillar at the entrance to the choir. The present statue is a late 16th c. replacement of the original, destroyed by Protestants in 1562 (though it survived the French Revolution). The devotion goes back to 1202, when an English army was besieging Poitiers. A collaborator got hold of the keys to the gate, to deliver them to the English; the keys disappeared and were found in the hands of Our Lady’s statue. The city was saved.