Pont De Sainte NéomayePont De Sainte Néomaye Copy 1
©Pont De Sainte Néomaye |Samuel Zwarteveen
Sainte-NéomayeThe old royal road


To the west of Saint-Maixent-l’École, Sainte-Néomaye occupies a hillside overlooking the Sèvre Niortaise and Hermitain valleys. Located on the royal road which knew a significant activity of transport of the goods, Sainte-Néomaye was famous for the holding of its fairs with the mules as of the Xth century and in an intense way until the 18th century.

A heritage linked to breeding and trade

The Sèvre Niortaise valley was a major production site for Poitou mules, which were exported all over the world and particularly to southern Europe. Poitou mules are the product of the fertilization a female Poitou horse by Poitou donkeys. They are, par excellence, draft animals of the mountainous roads. On the old fairground, there were at least 5 inns in operation until the 19th century. We can still see beautiful bourgeois residences today, including the Vieux Logis with its square dovecote.

Further on, the Pont Neuf was used from the 12th century by merchants and pilgrims. Twenty meters long, the building has six arches, all of a different model. Its state of conservation and its atypical architecture deserve a photo break, isn’t it?

The Hermitain valley, mule bridges and dry stone walls

In several passages, mule bridges allow the crossing of the Hermitain, a tributary of the Sèvre Niortaise. These bridges are made up of flat stones placed over the watercourse which allowed the mules to transport the flour or minot.

The Church of Sainte-Neomaye

The church was built to replace a first chapel erected in the 8th century by the Bauçay family from Loudunais. The Bauçay family, from which Saint Néomaye came, owned many lands in Poitou. Founded in the 12th century and fell into ruins for 4 centuries, the church was rebuilt around the 17th century. A bell dating from the 4th quarter of the 17th century, cast by Nicolas Aubry, is on the list of furniture classified as remarkable as Historic Monuments.

The legend of Sainte-Néomaye

Sainte-Neomaye is the only town in France to bear the patronymic of the saint. Sainte Néomaye lived in the 5th century. Suffering from a malformation in her foot, she went into exile to preach on the banks of the Sèvre as a simple shepherdess to get away from her family. According to legend, Sainte-Néomaye, pursued by the assiduity of a lord of the neighborhood and praying to preserve her virtue, was endowed with a goose foot. She protected animals and cared for people.