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cathedrals 4:
Angers, heart of the
Angevin Empire

front facade of Angers cathedral

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Tour de France 2023s

New translation, the Magna Carta

the cathedral of st. maurice
the tapestry of the apocalypse in the château [castle] at angers
 background facts 
floor plan
end note

The Angevin dynasty reached its height with Henry II. The dynasty had risen through ruthless expansion and strategic marriages, until it was the dominant power reaching from the British Isles to throughout the West of France. Angers was the centre of this powerful empire.

Saint Maurice’s Cathedral was built during the twelfth and thirteenth century at the centre of this rich empire, during the time that the innovations of gothic architecture were developing.

Angers is a modern town with a medieval quarter and a cathedral with some fine, early stained glass. The glass is interesting, in particular, because it is one of the earliest to have started on restoration in recent decades. Consequently, it has returned some of its most important windows to their former glory and red and blue brightness.

The cathedral of St Maurice

front facade of Angers cathedral Rose window at Angers cathedral

detail of rose window at Angers cathedral

The cathedral was built in the 12th and 13th centuries.Its stained glass, mostly original, is well-restored. There are two rose windows and 36 others, the great majority of which are story windows.

There is a magnificent rose window in twenty-four sections. The twelve upper ones illustrate the signs of the zodiac, the lower ones show twelve Angers city elders. Christianism frequently absorbed older, non-christianist symbols, rituals and holidays to accomodate more recruits. Many such details are to be found in the byways of the gothic cathedrals.

A short walk away, and well worth a visit ...

The tapestry of the Apocalypse in the château [1] [castle] at Angers

Angers chateau and moat Main courtyard of Angers chateau
Tapestry at Angers Tapestry at Angers Tapestry at Angers

In 1375, Louis I, the then Duke of Anjou and brother of Charles V, ordered the making of this enormous piece of weaving. This tapestry, made in six pieces, was 133 metres long by almost 6 metres high and was finished in 1382. Bequeathed to Angers cathedral in 1480, the tapestry was removed and then ‘lost’ during the French revolution. The tapestry was found years later, being used as horse blankets in the chateau stables. For this reason the tapestry now has some pieces missing and some damage, and is slightly smaller. (This last part of the tapestry’s history is now not mentioned in French tourist documentation - that only records, and vaunts, the very recent preservation methods and the tapestry’s display in a former dungeon.)

The tapestry is the oldest known surviving warp tapestry. (The Bayeux ‘Tapestry’ is not a tapestry; it was embroidered, not woven.) The images of the Anjou tapestry follow closely the text of the last book in the New Testament (Revelations), it shows the triumph of Christanism after various ordeals. What the visitor sees is the faded front. The back, often shown in tourist literature with the images reversed, was mostly protected by a lining during its travails and so has not faded to any great extent.

Angers cathedral, floor plan

Background facts
AngersAngers coat of arms approximate population : 152,500
average altitude/elevation : 25 m
cathedral dimensions
total length : 90.47 m
nave length : 48 m
nave width : 16.38 m
nave height : 24.68 m

end note

  1. The ‘Chinese hat’ above the letter ‘a’ in château indicates that originally this word was spelt with an ‘s’ after the ‘a’ - chasteau. As French pronounciation evolved, some sounds within words were dropped, as were some sounds at the end of words. The ‘Chinese hat’, technically called a circumflex, is also found over other vowels, for instance the ‘e’ in fenêtre. Fenêtre comes from the Latin for window: fenestrum.

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