The commune of Chênehutte-Trèves-Cunault is situated 12Kms from Saumur in the southwest of Department 49 “Maine et Loire”. The commune, along with its administrative centre, the town of Gennes, is part of the “Pays de Loire en Layon” region. This area is an integral part of the Regional Natural Park and is affiliated to the World Patrimony for Humanity organization. The population of the commune is presently 1,102 people (2009).
The commune consists of the three principal villages and several hamlets, which are nestled at the bottom of the hillsides on the left bank of the Loire River. This is a typical configuration for Angevine villages, established along the banks of the Loire River.
Traditional building materials such as white limestone called tuffeau and black slate tiles hold sway in this region.
Behind or between houses, one can find caves that have been hollowed out by the extraction of tuffeau blocks for building. These caves are evidence of the historical importance of this area. Latterly the caves proved ideal for the cultivation of mushrooms.
The commune villages were once home to stone carvers and bargees. Facades and wind vanes of which, still conserve drawings or traces of past travels and work on the barge trains called “gabares” that ran up and down the Loire River.
As well as its position on the Loire River and its picturesque wooded hillsides, Chênehutte-Trèves-Cunault owes a large part of its attraction to the presence of an exceptional heritage, which holds witness to a history that has been heavily influenced by the daily barge traffic on the Loire River.
The Chênehutte plateau was one of the first places inhabited in the Saumuroise region, and among the remains are traces of the Gauloise and Roman occupations such as roads, oppidum, and temples. One can even find archaeological vestiges dating back from the Stone Age.
The 11th and 12th centuries endowed the community with prestigious examples of their architectural styles: the Notre Dame des Tuffeaux church in Chênehutte, the St. Aubin church in Trèves, and above all the priory Notre Dame de Cunault, a chef d’oeuvre of Roman Angevine art and an important destination for pilgrimage in the Middle Ages.
The tower of Trèves is the last bastion of a 15th century fortress and an emblematic monument on the local landscape. From the summit you can discover a magnificent panorama of the Loire River and the plains, over the water on the right riverbank.
Priories, manors, and castles from different eras that are in ruins or magnificently restored, dot the countryside of the community, evoking the installation of small religious communities and of successive lordships to which are associated the famous names of men like Foulques Nerra, Robert the Mason, chancellor to Charles VII, the cardinal of Richelieu, or the Grand Condé.