Beginning in the 12th century, French peasants dug villages into the hillsides of the soft tuffeau stone along the Loire River, between Saumur and Montsoreau. Known as troglodytes, they built homes into the face of the cliffs and created hundreds of kilometers of underground passageways.
The university of Saumur became the university of French Protestantism before the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. During the French Wars of Religion, Huguenots used the troglodyte caves to hide. In recent years many of the troglodyte houses have been rebuilt and are open to visitors while others have been restored and occupied.
In the background of the photo, Chateau Saumur sits high on a spur of the tall cliff looking down on the Loire River at the mouth of the Thouet River. Constructed as a fortified stronghold, after its destruction in 1067 the chateau was rebuilt by a member of the powerful Plantagenet family. In the first part of the 20th century, the city of Saumur acquired the chateau and began a restoration program to house the museum of the decorative arts. In line with the Saumur area's equestrian tradition and its famous “Cadre Noir,” the chateau also serves as a Museum of the Horse.
Saumur has ancient ties to the military, going back to the 18th century when the cavalry school was founded here; this school is now the school of armored cavalry (tanks). The Musee des Blindés is dedicated to the history of tank warfare and the Musee de la Cavalerie has calvary history and depictions of battle scenes and old uniforms.
Saumur is the birthplace of internationally renowned fashion designer Coco Chanel (1883-1971) and despite being a small city, it is also the birthplace of several notables from the French film industry including: