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PAYS DE LOIRE,
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PAYS de la LOIRE, Part 3

 
 
           
 

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Angers

Angers {ahn-zhay'} is the capital of the Maine-et-Loire département (49) in western France, with a population of 156,327 (2001). It is situated on the Maine River, 165 miles (265 km) southwest of Paris (see map). The most important of the city's numerous medieval buildings is the twin-spired Cathedral of St. Maurice, dating from the 12th century. Others include the Abbey of St. Aubin, two early churches, and a massive castle built in the 13th century.

The city is considered a center of learning, hosting approximately 30,000 students. Angers' educational institutions include faculties of theology, law, science, letters, and agriculture, as well as a national school of arts and trades. Industries include liqueur distillation and the manufacture of cables, ropes, electrical equipment, machinery, woolen and leather goods. The city is also known for its black-slate quarries.

In Roman times, Angers was known as Juliomagus. It suffered severely from Norse invasions in the 9th century and from English attacks in the 12th and 15th centuries. For a time it was ruled by the Plantagenet Kings of England, but retaken by King Philippe II in 1204. The Huguenots took the city in 1585, and the Vendean royalists were repulsed near there in 1793.

Edited by Ian C. Mills.
Sources: 2001 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia and Encyclopedia Americana (publ. Grolier Interactive Inc., Danbury, CT); Wikipedia - the Free Encyclopedia; and Ville d'Angers, official web site of the city.
See also: Angers Tourism Office (beware of large Flash movie file!). Detailed static street map, including various star attractions (390k file). A zoomable, interactive street map (Flash movie file) which includes an alphabetical index. French Ministry of Culture's Merimée database of notable architecture in Angers.

Le Château d'Angers

Angers castle is a 13th century fortress perched on a rocky promontory over-looking the Maine. Inside its ramparts, structures dating from the 14th, 15th and 18th centuries permit visitors to see how the castle evolved over the years. The earliest signs of human occupation of the site in fact date back 4,000 years. The counts of Anjou first built a stronghold here in the 9th century to defend themselves against the attacking Normans. Of this structure only the two side walls of the great hall, including a 12th century door, plus the apse of the chapel of Saint Laud, now remain.

Following the expulsion of the Plantagenets by Philippe Auguste, in 1230 the young Saint-Louis began building an enormous fortress of some 6.17 acres (2.5 ha) around the old counts' stronghold to defend his realm against the threat posed by the neighboring duchy of Brittany. This construction, nearly 2,000 feet (600m) in circumference, was flanked by 17 towers and had only two doors, a town door and a country door. In 1360, the dukes of Anjou started to erect new buildings inside the fortress, including the Royal Lodge, the chapel (sainte chapelle), and the inner castle.

The monumental and princely tapestry of the Apocalypse was ordered in 1373 by Louis I, duke of Anjou. The work illustrates the text of the Apocalypse in 6 parts and 74 scenes, in the historical context of the 1st century of the Roman invasion with its trail of epidemics and famines, a context in fact identical to that of the 14th century with its population suffering from 100 years of war. The tapestry is exceptional in length (348 feet/106m have been preserved), and is on view in a specially designed museum environment. A number of other tapestries dating from the 15th and 16th century are also on display in the Royal Lodge.

Address: 2, promenade du Bout du Monde, 49100 Angers.
Phone: (+33) 02.41.87.43.47. E-mail: contact@monuments.fr.
Hours: (see web site for seasonal hours)
Admission: Adults € 5.50, Special rate € 3.50.

For a brief history and photo gallery of the castle, as well as feedback from several of its visitors, click here.
See also: French Center for National Monuments (Centre des Monuments Nationaux) web site (English version).

Edited by Ian C. Mills.
Sources: Angers Tourism Office; and Châteaux of the Loire Valley, by Jean-Marie Pérouse de Montclos and Robert Polidori (photographer), publ. by Könemann (1997).
Recommended publication: Le château d'Angers, by Jean Mesqui; 56 pages; cost: €6 ; ISBN 2-85822-602-4 (French), ISBN 2-85822-603-2 (German); ISBN 2-85822-604-0 (English).

La Cathédrale Saint Maurice

Construction of the Saint Maurice Cathedral began in the mid-12th century and was completed around 1270 (the main tower is from the 16th century). The stucture is famous for its Romanesque façade; it is the first church to be built in the Angevin Plantagenet Gothic style. This design is characterized by a single nave rooted by particularly rounded, heavily decorated vaults with fine ribbing increasing in frequency proceeding from the nave to the chancel.

The cathedral also contains some very fine 12th-, 13th- and 15th-century stained glass windows. It once displayed the entire series of the Apocalypse Tapestries; however, only a few remain today. The majority are on display in the nearby château.

Address: Place Monseigneur Chapoulie, 49100 Angers.
Phone: (+33) 02.41.87.58.45.
Hours: (see Saint Maurice Cathedral, official web site for the Diocese of Angers)

See also: B&W photo gallery of Cathédrale Saint Maurice.

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