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Read the history of this cultural site.

The Château d’Angers stands proudly in the heart of the city. An essential part of Angers’ heritage, it has a rich and eventful history.

The origins of the Château d’Angers :

Château d'AngersThe site was occupied in the Mesolithic period (6000 BC) and then in the Neolithic period, as evidenced by the presence of a cairn. In Gaulish times, there were traces of an oppidum, a small fortified settlement.

In the 9th century, when the west of France was being raided by the Vikings, King Charles the Bald sent a representative to defend the region. This person, the first Count of Anjou, undertook the construction of a count’s palace. Situated on a rocky promontory, it occupies a strategic position overlooking the Maine River. When the Earls became Kings of England in the twelfth century, under the Plantagenets, their itinerant court was held here on several occasions. The sovereigns also renovated the palace. Unfortunately, little remains of the building. The walls of the reception room, the chapel of Saint-Laud and the remains of a steam room are the only visible reminders of this period.

One of the most imposing fortresses in the kingdom of France :

Château d'AngersIn the 1230s, following the forcible incorporation ofAnjou into the kingdom of France in 1206, Queen and Regent Blanche of Castile transformed the Château d’Angers into a veritable fortress. The aim was to protect the region from attacks by Brittany, then allied with the kingdom of England. The size of the fortress is impressive. Its massive walls, 1 km long, alternate between tufa and schist bands. They are flanked by 17 arched towers and surrounded by a deep moat. Two gates open onto the outside world: one to the south-east, towards the countryside, known as the ” Porte des Champs”, and the other to the north-east, towards the town, known as the “Porte de Ville”. The Porte des Champs still houses the oldest dated portcullis in France. Thanks to these exceptional defensive systems, the Château d’Angers was one of the most imposing fortresses in the country.

In the 14th and 15th centuries, the Dukes of Anjou renovated the Château d’Angers and turned it into a true residence of pleasure. They built the chapel and the royal residence in the flamboyant Gothic style. The chapel built by Louis II is remarkable for the small loggia it still houses today, allowing the Duke and his family to attend services in complete privacy. The dwelling, built around 1440 by René d’Anjou, has three levels with large windows through which the Duke could admire his gardens. However, after his death, the castle’s defensive function was reinforced by the addition of bastions in front of the gates.

The Château d’Angers: an exceptional testimony to the splendour of the court of the Dukes of Anjou :

Château d'Angers LogisThe Château d’Angers is still home to a treasure trove of medieval art: the tapestry of the Apocalypse. Commissioned by Duke Louis I of Anjou around 1375, it is the largest tapestry known today. It depicts the last book of the New Testament, the Apocalypse of Saint John, over a length of more than 100 metres. However, the original cycle measured 140 metres. The artist used the biblical text to evoke the misfortunes of his time: the Black Death, famine and the 100 Years’ War.

These tapestries are an exceptional testimony to the artistic patronage of the Dukes of Anjou, which culminated in the reign of King René, between 1434 and 1480. During this period, Angers was one of the cultural capitals of Europe, attracting writers and painters. The sovereign, who was also a writer, enlisted the services of the famous Flemish artist Barthélémy d’Eyck. He stayed at court between 1444 and 1470 and illuminated several of his works. The Château d’Angers was also the scene of sumptuous festivals and tournaments. Its gardens were a conservatory of rare plants and species brought back by the Duke of Anjou during his travels.

Changes to the Château d’Angers in the modern era:

At the end of the 16th century, the town of Angers was twice taken by the Huguenots. King Henry III ordered the destruction of the castle so that it could no longer be used against the crown. Finally, as dismantling work progressed slowly, it was decided to keep the castle and adapt it to artillery requirements. Platforms were created to accommodate cannons. The narrow archways were also transformed into large gunboats and the peaked roofs of the towers were removed. These changes gave the château its current appearance.

The Château d’Angers was then used as a garrison and prison. Famous prisoners were incarcerated there. For example, Louis XIV‘s superintendent of finance, Nicolas Fouquet. He was locked up for three weeks in the Château d’Angers after his arrest at the Château des Ducs de Bretagne in Nantes in 1661, led by the king’s famous musketeer, D’Artagnan! During the American War of Independence, between 1779 and 1781, more than 600 English sailors were imprisoned here. The fortress also became a place of confinement for hundreds of counter-revolutionaries during the Revolution, and thousands of combatants of various nationalities during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1856, with the construction of a new prison further south, the Château d’Angers lost its prison function.

During the Second World War, Allied bombs damaged the Château d’Angers while the Germans occupied the site. After the war, major restoration work was carried out and gardens were laid out within the walls. The site opened to the public in 1947. Today, it is a must-see for Angevins and heritage lovers alike.


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