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Angers

 

Link to Maps of the medieval Pilgrimage Roads of France

 

Link to:  The Norman, Angevin and Plantagenet Monarchs of England and the Age of the Crusades

 

Back to North & Centre France

 

 

Back in Plantagenet days Angers (whose inhabitants are called Angevins) was the capital of the powerful County of Anjou.  Counties were run by Counts, and Geoffrey, Count of Anjou (1113 - 1151 (38)) liked to wear a sprig of broom in his hat Broom is known as planta genesta in Latin, genêt in French - which was how come Geoffrey got known as Plantagenet.  Geoffrey (who was actually born in Le Mans and whose tomb is supposed to be there as well), married Henry I's daughter Matilda (widow of Emperor Henry V) in 1127. 

 

Matilda was 11 years older than Geoffrey and an (ex) Empress, and was a bit grumpy about being fobbed off onto a mere count, albeit a bit of a stud.  To give herself something more worthwhile to do, she spent a lot of time in the west of England trying to become Queen in her own right in preference to her cousin Stephen.  She did not achieve this, and eventually returned to Angers, but her eldest son succeeded where she had failed and became Henry II of England - the first of the Plantagenet Kings, husband of Eleanor of Aquitaine (who, oddly, was 11 years older than him), ruler of over half of Western Europe and father of Kings Richard and John.

 

The pleasant old town of Anjou is centred on a big hill next to the River Maine, on top of which is the Cathédrale St-Maurice (which you can drive up to and park outside). 

 

The Cathedral has a large number of beautiful and detailed narrative 1200s stained glass windows, particularly in the apse area.  On the right is one relating the life of St-Maurelle, a local contemporary of St-Martin of Tours.  Amongst others in the same group are lives of St-Martin, St-Julien and Christ.  Elsewhere in the Cathédrale the windows include the story of Ste-Catherine of Alexandria and Henry II v Thomas Becket.

 

We have detailed photos of all of these, but in the event that they don't materialize here, try this link then type "angers" in the search box.

 

After travelling back to the other side of the world, one of our indolent researchers discovered that there is a complete set of Zodiac signs displayed in circular stained glass panels at the end of the "spokes" of the upper half of the south rose window (see photo below).  Labours of the months are shown in a similar way in the north rose window.  The link above includes a photo of the whole south rose, but despite dozens of details about dozens of frames there is not one mention of labours of the months or Zodiacs - so we won't be too tough on ourselves for "seeing" neither!

 

 

Life of St-Maurelle

 

 

 

 

The more usual west front array of Prophets and Kings of Judah gives way to 1540 sculptured and dressed local lads of yore (St Maurice and his mates) on the facade of the Cathédrale St-Maurice in Angers.

 

 

 

 

Lower down four whacky evangelists surround Christ on the west door tympanum.

 

 

 

 

When we got there at lunchtime, St-Maurice's magnificent organ was being given a good workout - a pleasure all to rarely encountered in cathedral visits - so we just sat and enjoyed the music and tapestries for half an hour.  The single span nave, built in the mid 1100s, is the first example of Angevin Gothic.  The transepts, choir and apse were completed during the next hundred years.

 

 

 

 

This is part of a photograph of the South Rose window showing the 12 signs of the zodiac which you will find in the wonderful book

 

"The Rose Window" by Painton Cowen

 

Buy from Amazon USA     Buy from Amazon UK

 

The North Rose window has a matching set of monthly activity illustratiions.

 

 

 

 

 

Above:  Thomas Becket catches his tumbling head shortly after it has been cut off (in Canterbury Cathedral on 29 December 1170).  French illustrators have had plenty of practice in this macabre genre as the country is littered with images of St-Denis lugging his severed head around with blood vessels etc jagging out of his neck stump.  One of these even made it into a cloister roof boss in Norwich Cathedral.

 

Below:  Earlier (lower in the window) Henry II and the Archbishop do a disfunctional "wat yer lookin' at me for?" / "am I bovvered?" routine

 

Link to the Becket Window in Chartres Cathedral

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above:  In another window devoted to Catherine of Alexandria, Catherine is stripped and scourged

 

Below:  Earlier, Catherine escapes the wheel after the Emperor (with colander hat) has ordered her execution

 

Below below:  At the outset of the story, Catherine debates the philosophers (c307) in front of the Emperor Maxence.

She won intellectually but, as so often in life, this did not translate into a good outcome for her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back in stone, the evangelists make a more traditional and imposing appearance on the balcony atop the apse

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maison d'Adam

 

 

 

The half timbered Maison d'Adam (early 1700s) stands in an attractive little flowered square at the east end of the cathedral.  Angers is famous for its flowers. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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