Thursday, March 26, 2020

Historic French Chateaux #5: Château d’Angers

by J. M. Hochstetler

Château d’Angers Overhead View
In today’s fifth installment of my series on the historic châteaux of France, we’re taking a look at the imposing Château d’Angers in the city of Angers, overlooking the Maine River in the Loire Valley. The site was originally occupied by the Romans for its strategic defensive position on the hill that is the city’s highest point. In the 9th century the Bishop of Angers gave the Counts of Anjou permission to build a fortress in the city to protect Anjou against invasion by the Normans.



DXR / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)
Château d’Angers South View
Count Fulk III (970–1040), fortified the first château, which was briefly taken over by England’s Angevin Empire in the 12th century. It returned to French control when Philip II of France conquered the region in 1204. In 1234 his grandson Louis IX began construction on a new castle in white stone and black slate that expanded the fortress to its current size and cost 4,422 livres, roughly one per cent of the estimated royal revenue at that time.

The impressive outer wall is 9.8 ft. thick, with seventeen massive towers 59 ft. in diameter guarding its approximately 2,170 ft. length. The château and grounds cover an area of 220,000 sq. ft. Its city and the landward entrances are each guarded by two towers that once stood 130 ft. high but were later cut down to accommodate artillery. Louis gave it to his brother Charles in 1246.

Sémhur / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)
Sainte Chapelle
In 1352 King John II le Bon, gave the château to his second son Louis, who later became the count of Anjou. He made alterations to the structure and in 1373 commissioned the painter Hennequin de Bruges and the Parisian weaver Nicolas Bataille to create the famous Apocalypse Tapestry. He and his wife, Yolande d’Aragon, added royal apartments and a sainte chapelle, a church that enshrines a relic of the Passion, in this case a fragment of the True Cross. In the early 15th century, before becoming king with Joan of Arc’s assistance, Charles VII found sanctuary there after he was forced to flee Paris.

Manfred Heyde / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)
Castle Chatelet, Entrance to Inner Wards
In 1562 Catherine de’ Medici had the castle restored, but, her son, Henry III, stripped the battlements from its towers and walls. He also cut down the towers, leaving only the Tour du Moulin at its original height, and used the stones for improving and expanding the village of Angers and paving its streets. Faced with the threat of attack by the Huguenots, however, Henry again made it a military post and installed artillery on its upper levels. It housed the city’s Revolutionary Committee during the French Revolution, and at the end of the 18th century its formidable walls withstood a massive bombardment during the War in the Vendée.

Sémhur / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)
Interior Gardens
In the early 19th century the Military Academy of Anger took over the château. One of its most famous students was Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, who is best known for his part in the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. After the academy was moved elsewhere, the château served as a prison, then as a powder magazine and barracks. Designated a historical monument in 1875, it continued to be used as an armory through WWI and WWII. In 1944 the Allies bombed the fortress, which the Nazis were using to store ammunition. Three of the bomb fell directly inside the castle walls and caused extensive damage to the chapel’s vault, roofs, and royal Logis.

Kimon Berlin, user:Gribeco / CC BY-SA (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)
Apocalypse Tapestries
The château was rebuilt and restored after the war. The city of Angers took ownership and converted it to a museum. Today it houses the world’s oldest and largest collection of medieval tapestries, including the famous 14th-century Apocalypse Tapestries depicting scenes from the Book of Revelation that are ranked among the most important treasures of pre-Renaissance French art. Thankfully they remained untouched by a fire in 2009 that caused an estimated 2 million euros in damage to the château, which has since been completely restored.
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Northkill Amish Series
J. M. Hochstetler is the daughter of Mennonite farmers and a lifelong student of history. She is a professional editor, a publisher, and the author of award-winning historical fiction whose books have been endorsed by bestselling authors such as Lori Benton, Laura Frantz, and Jocelyn Green. Her American Patriot Series is the only comprehensive historical fiction series on the American Revolution. She is also the author of One Holy Night, the Christian Independent Publishers Association 2009 Book of the Year, and co-authored the award-winning Northkill Amish Series with Bob Hostetler. 


4 comments:

  1. Your descriptions leave me with amazement! I can't even comprehend 9 foot thick walls. This must be an awesome sight to see. Thanks for the tour!

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    1. Connie, I'm amazed at the labor and materials it would take to build such thick walls, not to mention the expense. I would just love to visit this one and take in the details up close. Thanks so much for joining us!

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  2. The best thing I love about this site, is the history your contributors weave into the posts! Love the photos and all the explanations. Thank you for the inciteful read!

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    1. Sandi, thank you so much! All of us love to research and write, and having appreciative readers makes our efforts worthwhile. I'm so glad you joined us!

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