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Angers Cathedral

The unique west facade of Angers Cathedral. View all images in our Angers Cathedral Photo Gallery.
East apse of Angers Cathedral.
Romanesque sculptures on the west portal.
Interior view looking east.
Interior view looking west.
The unusual, 12th-century "Plantagenet vault" of the nave.
View from the south transept.
The 15th-century north rose window.
Detail of the north rose, with signs of the zodiac.
Detail of the 15th-century south rose.
Detail of the 12th-century Dormition of the Virgin window.
Detail of tapestry depicting the Crucifixion.
12th-century crozier of an Angevin bishop in the treasury.

Angers Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Maurice d'Angers) is a Romanesque and Gothic cathedral in the city of Angers, in the Loire country of western France.

History

Angers Cathedral was built in the 12th and 13th centuries by two ambitious successive bishops, Normand de Doué and Guillaume de Beaumont.

What to See

Angers Cathedral is a balance between Romanesque and Gothic architecture. Its unusually wide Romanesque nave, with no side aisles, opens into a Transitional transept and Gothic choir. The west portal contains 12th-century sculptures and interior is illuminated with stained glass windows from the 12th through 16th centuries.

The striking west front is exceptionally narrow and tall. The lowest level dates from c.1170, the twin towers (70m and 77m high) date from the 15th century and the central tower was added in the 16th century. At the base of the central tower are sculptures of St Maurice and his companions, with a prayer for peace above.

The mid-12th-century portal was inspired by the west portal of Chartres Cathedral. Its tympanum depicts Christ in Majesty surrounded by the symbols of the Four Evangelists. The inner archivolt has sculptures of the elect and people of many races and languages; the outer two archivolts have the 24 Elders of the Apocalypse.

Four full-length statues of Christ's predecessors and prophets flank the portal on each side: the Sibyl, King David, King Solomon and Melchizadek on the left; the Queen of Sheba, Esther, Aaron and Moses on the right.

The Norman nave dates from the mid-12th century. It has no side aisles and is composed of three large sections, each covered with a large ribbed vault that anticipates the Gothic style. Unlike most ribbed vaults, whose central crossing is at roughly the same height as the transverse arches, these are raised about 3 meters higher, forming cupola-like tents over each bay of the nave. Each vault is a perfect square of 16.38m on a side. This unique style is known as the Angevin or Plantagenet vault.

The enormous wooden pulpit dates from 1855 and was designed by a priest named Choyer. Its carvings illustrate the theme of the Word of God, with Moses on the left side and St John receiving his revelation on the right.

The transept was built between 1190 and 1240, beginning with the south side. Some architectural development towards the Gothic can be seen here: the windows are pointed, lierne vaults have replaced the ribbed vaults, and the vaults are higher.

The chancel was originally very short due to the 4th-century Roman wall that ran along the east side of the church. But in 1274, Charles d'Anjou (brother of the king) gave permission for the wall to be demolished, and the chancel was extended immediately thereafter. It was built in the fully established Gothic style, with lierne vaults, blind arcades, and larger windows than the nave. The chancel is decorated with carved panelling of 1780, which conceal medieval wall paintings underneath.

The high altar is Baroque (1758), designed by Henri Gervais. Six monolithic columns support the canopy. Legend has it that Gervais was carried to it while he was dying, so he could give last instructions on its design.

The treasury, housed in a spacious room off the north aisle, contains some fine medieval croziers and other religious objects.

Perhaps the best-known feature of Angers Cathedral is its fine collection of stained-glass windows from the 12th through 16th centuries. The oldest stained glass windows are on the north side of the nave, dating from the 12th century. Subjects include: the Virgin Mary; martyrdom of St Catherine of Alexandria; Dormition of the Virgin; and the martyrdom of St Vincent.


The windows on the south side of the nave date from the 20th century, after World War II bombings destroyed the original windows in 1940-44. They illustrate the theme of the Angevin church, with windows devoted to: 1) St Maurice, patron saint of the cathedral; 2) St Maurille, Bishop of Angers; 3) King Rene and Yolande of Aragon with St Jeanne Delanoue and St Marie Euphrasie above; 4) Bishops Ulger and Raoul de Beaumont, builders of the cathedral, with Noel Pinot and St Grignon de Montfort above; 5) the Last Supper and the wise and foolish virgins; 6) the Prodigal Son.

The windows in the transept date from the 15th century. Those on the west side depict: 1) St Remigius, St Barbara, St Eustachius and St Christopher; 2) St Gatian of Tours preaching in Anjou; St Nicholas evangelizing Lorraine, St Sebastian and St Quentin. The east windows depict: 1) St Maurice, St Maurille, St Rene and St Serene; 2) Crucifixion, with figures of John de Rely and St Paul added in the 16th century.

The rose windows of the transept also date from the 15th century. Andre Robin was the master craftsman. The North Rose centers on Christ displaying his wounds, surrounded by elongated angels holding the instruments of the Passion, medallions of scenes from Genesis and Revelation, and the Labors of the Months on the outermost quatrefoils. The South Rose centers on a bearded Christ in Majesty, surrounded by the Four Evangelists, angels, the 24 Elders of the Apocalypse, and the signs of the zodiac.

The beautiful windows of the chancel date primarily from the 13th century. Starting from the northwest, they depict:

The interior walls of Angers Cathedral are decorated with beautiful tapestries, which form one of the most famous and precious collections in Europe. Most of them were woven in 1376-81 for the cathedral. The illustrations were drawn by Jean Bondol based on an illuminated manuscript and the weaving was overseen by Nicolas Bataille. Some of the tapestries (including the largest, the Angers Apocalypse) are now displayed in Angers Castle, but 11 of the medieval tapestries still hang on the cathedral walls. There is also one tapestry from the 16th century and three tapestries from the 18th century displayed among them. The cathedral possesses hundreds more tapestries than are displayed.

North Side of the Nave

South Side of the Nave

North Transept

South Transept

Quick Facts on Angers Cathedral

Site Information
Names:Angers Cathedral; Cathédrale Saint-Maurice d'Angers
City:Angers
State:Loire Valley
Country:France
Categories:Cathedrals
Faiths:Christianity; Catholic
Feat:Medieval Stained Glass; Romanesque Sculpture
Styles:Gothic; Romanesque
Dates:12th-13th C
Status:active
Visitor and Contact Information
Location:Angers, France
Coordinates:47.470458° N, 0.554788° W  (view on Google Maps)
Lodging:View hotels near this location
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

Map of Angers Cathedral

Below is a location map and aerial view of Angers Cathedral. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.

References

  1. Personal visit (July 17, 2008).
  2. The Cathedral of Angers: A voyage of discovery through the great Plantagenet Cathedral (brochure from the cathedral)
  3. Cathédrale Saint-Maurice d'Angers - Monum.fr
  4. Frommer's France 2006
  5. Angers Cathedral - France for Visitors
  6. Angers Cathedral - Structurae
  7. Marilyn Stocksad, Medieval Art, 2nd ed. (Westview Press, 2004), 347.

More Information

Article Info

Title:Angers Cathedral
Author:Holly Hayes
Last updated:07/30/2010
Permalink:www.sacred-destinations.com/france/angers-cathedral
Link code:<a href="http://www.sacred-destinations.com/france/angers-cathedral">Angers Cathedral</a>