Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Angers, the Dukes of Anjou, and good king Rene

Angers is the hometown of the Anjou Plantagenet dynasty. In 851, the Count of Anjou set up a lookout post at the confluence of the Loire and Maine rivers to deal with marauding Normans. The spot had also been occupied in Neolithic and Roman times. From the 13th to the 15 centuries a fortress was built and expanded and is known as the Angers chateau.

It has 17 massive towers, a beautiful chapel, a royal residence, gardens, a governor's house, and a massive moat. The moat was never filled with water and housed King Rene's menagerie. It has been filled with gardens since 1910.

The chateau houses the famous Apocalypse tapestry, the largest and oldest tapestry in existence. It was commissioned by the Duke of Anjou, Louis I, in 1375, took 7 years to complete and was 140 meters long and 4.5 meters tall. It tells the story of the Apocalypse based on an 11th century text of St. John. The surviving remnant is only 100 meters long!

The detail and artistry of the tapestry is amazing.

The four horsemen of the Apocalypse are represented, as well as floods, fire, and the fall of Babylon. The number seven plays a significant role and the devil is a 7 headed dragon. The tapestry was housed for 400 years in the local cathedral after King Rene died and was buried there. It is a gothic cathedral in the Angevin style.

We also visited a local museum containing the work of a local sculptor who was world renowned in the 1800's. David D'Angers sculpted 40 large pieces as commissions for towns and cities across Europe. His statues are representations of important historical figures and the museum houses the plaster originals.

He also sculpted portrait busts of important men living at the time. He did this out of respect for their accomplishments and in the process got to know some very important people. The gallery of busts includes writers, scientists, musicians and political figures. Goethe and Lafayette are shown below.

The city contains many old houses from the late 1300's and early 1400's with amazing wood carvings on the facades.

Over the years we have tried to eat at a Mexican restaurant in each country we visit. So far, in two visits each, this goal has eluded us in Italy and Greece. Last night we found a Mexican restaurant in France and enjoyed a great meal complete with jalapenos!

Angers is a fascinating city that deserves more exploration than we have time to give it. But today we ride north on a two or three day journey to Mont St. Michel to see the famous monastery there.


Daniel said...

I'm glad you guys got good mexican food there. I went to a mexican restaurant when I was in Paris, and it was pretty terrible.

Dave and Belinda said...

Hi Daniel, great to hear from you! Well.. The Mexican food we had was good, but I'd rather have a pastor burrito from Don Pepe's.

Brenda and Ray said...

We were eating Mexican food in your honor, though made in our kitchen, so no comment on the quality of cuisine, please! Some of the great medieval French epics that I spent my time on in the long distant past were from Anjou. So glad you are there to see the real thing. We miss you. R & B

Dave and Belinda said...

Hey Ray and Brenda, bon apetit! Glad to hear from you. We hope things are a little calmer for you and you are recovering from your hectic schedule.