| || |
The first definitive account of Lavardin in recorded history was in 1030 when Foulques lOison, Count of Vendôme, entered into war against Geoffroy Martel, Count of Anjou. In order to protect the western frontier of his domain, he built a fortress in wood at Lavardin and put it under the command of the Solomon, a local forester. However, he was defeated in battle at Huisseau and was forced to retreat to the court of the King of France. Meanwhile, Geoffry Martel seized the domain of Vendôme but left Solomon in charge of Lavardin in exchange for his pledge of loyalty.
In 1032, Salomon and his wife, Adèle, started the construction of a church within the outer walls of the fortresses near the river. The church that was completed in 1047 was called Saint Gilderic but was later renamed St. Martin when it was given to the monks of Marmoutier. Records of this transaction revealed that there was already another church in Lavardin called Saint Genest and that the monks in possession of this church sold the land for the construction of Saint Gilderic. The monks of Saint Genest used the proceeds of the sale to rebuild Saint Genest which became an important stop for pilgrims on the road to Compostela, Spain to touch the tomb of Saint James.
In 1050, King Henry convinced Geoffrey Martel to cede the comité of Vendome to Foulques lOison but Soloman remained faithful to Martel who returned to his kingdom in Anjou. Lavardin, at the frontier of the Anjou, became independent.
When Soloman died in 1064, Lavardin was called LAVARZIN. Solomans successors built the first stone keep of the chateau but it was square as was the custom in Anjou. It was also in this century that Lavardin which was protected by moats and the river became a walled city with large iron doors at the gates of the village. One of the streets of Lavardin still carries the name of la Barrière. Serfs and villagers lived behind the walls at the foot of the hill or in caves on cliff face.
Feudal Lords like the famous Haimeric Gaymard oversaw the production of their peasants who were required to press their grapes at the chateau press and bake their bread in the common oven. But the tax was not as heavy on the peasants as the wars that raged between the Lords of Montoire and Lavardin. One of these battles precipitated a miracle and the cult of the black virgin of Villavard.
In the eleventh century, Villavard was a commune of Lavardin and the Lord of Montoire coveted its rich plain. During one battle for this plain, the Lord of Lavardin was captured. As he was led off on his horse, the reins came out to the horse's mouth and he spurred it to escape. His horse bolted towards the river where he faced certain death by drowning in full armor. He prayed to the black virgin of Chartres for his salvation. The horse suddenly turned at the bank and he was saved not only from drowning but also from capture. He was so moved by this experience that he made a vow to visit the virgin's shrine in Chartres. When he returned from Chartres, he built a church near the battlefield and placed in it a copy of the black virgin. It was damaged during the revolution but it is still in the church in Villard. There is a pilgrimage every October from Lavardin to the church in Villavard to venerate the Black Virgin of Villavard and remember the miracle.