Description:The Collegial Eglise Saint Martin at Angers, Maine-et-Loire
The Eglise Saint-Martin situated in the historic centre of Angers is one of the most important and best preserved churches dating from the Carolingian period in France (800-888 A.D.).
Through the fifteen or so centuries that there has existed a religious edifice on the site, the architecture of the Eglise Saint-Martin has evolved. The present building reflects a number of different architectural styles and the choir at the Eglise Saint-Martin is one of the best examples in France of the Gothic Angevin style.
A number of excavations were carried out at the Eglise Saint-Martin during the 20th century and these revealed the foundations of the first churches on the site dating from the 5th, 6th and 7th centuries. During these excavations, many tombs, sarcophagi and coffins made from the local Anjou slate (ardoise) were also uncovered and dated to the earlier Merovingian period.
The 10th and 11th centuries
The church was rebuilt in the 10th century, with the peculiarity of having four large arches alternating the lighter coloured local tufa limestone and darker traditional brickwork to form each archway (pictured).
In the 11th century, the original Count of Anjou, Fulk Nerra along with his wife Hildegarde, established the first collegiate church at Eglise Saint-Martin. Fulk Nerra also ordered further works to be carried out, including construction of the cupola, a feature which remains visible to this day.
The Gothic Period
Around the middle of the 12th century, the choir of the Carolingian church was transformed into the Gothic style, and then expanded. A second span and an apse served to enlarge the building in the Angevin Gothic (or Plantagenet) style, which is characterised by the domed vaults which can still be seen. Further enlargement took place in the 13th century when the former medieval chapel came to be known as the Chapelle des Anges - the Chapel of the Angels, because of the remarkable scenes portrayed on its walls. This marked the end of the Gothic period of re-construction.
King René - founder and patron of the church
Throughout Anjou, the visitor will find references to Good King René, Duke of Anjou – at the Chateau of Saumur and Fontevraud Abbey, for example. In Angers, it was King René, in the second half of the 15th century, who was instrumental in further raising the prestige of the Eglise Saint-Martin by ordering a series of modifications including raising the height of the walls of the transept and a programme of adding decorative detail to the walls, much of it still in evidence today.
From the French Revolution to the present day
Following the French Revolution, the chapter of canons at Eglise Saint-Martin was suppressed and the church fell into neglect, ultimately being used as a warehouse to store books and firewood. The fabric of the building deteriorated and in the 19th century major sections of the roof collapsed.
It was not until 1986, when the educational organisation which then owned the building sold it to the Conseil Général of Maine-et-Loire department for the price one Franc that the future of the Eglise Saint-Martin became assured. Twenty years of extensive restoration works then took place to restore the church to its former glory and make it one of the unmissable attractions of any visit to Angers.
Now the Eglise Saint-Martin, as well as being classed as a historical monument, carries the label “Qualité Tourisme”, the highest recognition of the very best tourist attractions in France awarded by the French Ministry of Tourism.
Within the Eglise Saint-Martin is a permanent museum tracing its history with many of the archaeological finds and artifacts on display.
The Eglise Saint Martin holds a range of exhibitions and concerts throughout the year and more information on the current programme of events can be found on the Eglise Saint Martin website.
From 1st June to 30th Sep. from 10h to 19h daily.
From 1st Oct. to 31 May, from 13h to 18h each day except Monday.
Closed 1st January, 1st & 8th May, 1st & 11 Nov. 25 Dec.
Free for under 18s, Adults €3 (€5 during exhibitions) reduced prices for students, unemployed, disabled
23 rue Saint-Martin, Angers
Travel Tip: There are a number of historical sites in the centre of Angers within easy walking distance of the Eglise Saint-Martin including the Chateau of Angers housing the Tapestry of he Apocalypse, Angers Museum of Fine Art and the Logis Barrault, Galerie David and the Abbatiale Toussaint and the Musée Jean-Lurçat housing the collection of contemporary tapestry.
Have you visited the Eglise Saint Martin in Angers? Please leave any comments, suggestions or advice to fellow readers below.
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