Angers, France pin

Angers, France pin

This pin from Angers, France represents a high point on my trip to France in 2000. The Château is a castle in the city of Angers in the Loire Valley, in the département of Maine-et-Loire, in France. Founded in the 9th century by the Counts of Anjou, was expanded to its current size in the 13th century. It is located overhanging the river Maine. Now open to the public, the Château d’Angers is home of the Apocalypse Tapestry.

Originally, this castle was built as a fortress at one of the sites inhabited by the Romans because of its strategic defensive location.

In the 9th century, the Bishop of Angers gave the Counts of Anjou permission to build a castle in Angers. It became part of the Angevin empire of the Plantagenet Kings of England during the 12th century. In 1204, the region was conquered by Philip II and an enormous castle was built during the minority of his grandson, Louis IX (“Saint Louis”) in the early part of the 13th century. The construction undertaken in 1234 cost 4,422 livres, roughly one per cent of the estimated royal revenue at the time. Louis gave the castle to his brother, Charles in 1246.

In 1352, King John II le Bon, gave the castle to his second son, Louis who later became count of Anjou. Married to the daughter of the wealthy Duke of Brittany, Louis had the castle modified, and in 1373 commissioned the famous Apocalypse Tapestry from the painter Hennequin de Bruges and the Parisian tapestry-weaver Nicolas Bataille. Louis II (Louis I’s son) and Yolande d’Aragon added a chapel (1405–12) and royal apartments to the complex. The chapel is a sainte chapelle, the name given to churches which enshrined a relic of the Passion. The relic at Angers was a splinter of the fragment of the True Cross which had been acquired by Louis IX.

In the early 15th century, the hapless dauphin who, with the assistance of Joan of Arc would become King Charles VII, had to flee Paris and was given sanctuary at the Château d’ Angers.

In 1562, Catherine de’ Medici had the castle restored as a powerful fortress, but, her son, Henry III, reduced the height of the towers and had the towers and walls stripped of their embattlements; Henry III used the castle stones to build streets and develop the village of Angers. Nonetheless, under threat of attacks from the Huguenots, the king maintained the castle’s defensive capabilities by making it a military outpost and by installing artillery on the château’s upper terraces. At the end of the 18th century, as a military garrison, it showed its worth when its thick walls withstood a massive bombardment by cannons from the Vendean army. Unable to do anything else, the invaders simply gave up.

Tapestry in the chateau at Angers, France

Tapestry in the chateau at Angers, France

A military academy was established in the castle to train young officers in the strategies of war. In a twist of fate, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, best known for taking part in the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battle of Waterloo, was trained at the Military Academy of Angers.

Still a part of the French military, the chateau was severely damaged during World War II by the Nazis when an ammunition storage dump inside the castle exploded.

On 10 January 2009, the castle suffered severe damage from an accidental fire due to short-circuiting. The Royal Logis, which contains old tomes and administrative offices, was the most heavily damaged part of the chateau, resulting in 400 square meters (4,300 sq ft) of the roof being completely burnt. The Tapestries of the Apocalypse were not damaged. Total damages have been estimated at 2 million Euros.

Today, owned by the City of Angers, the massive, austere castle has been converted to a museum housing the oldest and largest collection of medieval tapestries in the world, with the 14th century “Apocalypse Tapestry” as one of its priceless treasures. As a tribute to its fortitude, the castle has never been taken by any invading force in history.

Two things of note: I was fortunate to meet a man at the chateau who has given his life to preservation, interpretation, and restoration of the chateau, especially the tapestry. In the late 1990s work in the chapel revealed a heretofore unknown set of pictures on wood, behind the back wall of the chapel. I was privileged to see them; most visitors don’t even know about them. Secondly, when one explores the totality of the tapestries, one notes that the “evildoers” of the apocalypse are always in period English attire. Wonder why that is?

Location 4-E1

Advertisements