Angers : Part 1

LINKS to other pages in the FRANCE PART ONE site and to the Colin Day Travelling Days series:

NORMANDY (Honfleur and Deauville)
NORMANDY (D Day Beaches and Bayeux)
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ANGERS is an industrial city housing 150,000 people in the cental area and close to 270,000 in the outlying metropolitan area. The city traces its roots to early Roman times. It occupies both banks of the Maine, which is spanned by three bridges. The district along the river is famous for its flourishing nurseries and market gardens. With its wide, straight streets, public gardens, and tree-lined boulevards, Angers is considered to be one of the most pleasant towns in France.

The early prosperity of the town came largely from to the nearby slate quarries. Other industries (noted in the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica) included the distillation of liqueurs from fruit; the orange liqueur Cointreau is only distilled in the town of Angers and the surrounding areas. Other industies comprised cable, rope, and thread-making; the manufacture of boots, shoes, umbrellas, and parasols; weaving of sail-cloth and fabrics; machine construction; wire-drawing; and the manufacture of sparkling wines and preserved fruits. Vegetables, fruit, flowers, and live-stock were also commercial products of the area.

Many of the industries described in 1911 have since disappeared. Nowadays industry consists of manufacturing lorries (Scania) and computers (Bull, Packard-Bell, NEC) as well as research in horticulture and biotechnologies.

(Acknowledgement to Wikipaedia, the free internet encyclopaedia, for much of the information reproduced above and elsewhere on this site.)

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The first relic indicating human presence on the site of Angers is a stone tool dating back to 400,000 BCE (Lower Paleolithic). The earliest known inhabitants were the Andecavi, a Gallic tribe that was overrun by the Romans. The city, while under Roman rule, was called Juliomagus. The city suffered severely from the invasions of the Normans (in 845 and succeeding years) Angers was once the capital of the historic province of Anjou.

Beginning in the ninth century, the region was controlled by a powerful family of feudal lords. It is the cradle of the House of Plantagenet who ruled England from the twelfth century and gave its name to the Angevin Kings of England. During this time the Hospital of Saint-Jean was built in Angers by King Henry II of England. The building still stands to this day, now housing an important museum.

In 1204 Angers was conquered by King Philippe II. The Huguenots took it in 1585, and the Vendean royalists were defeated nearby in 1793. Up to the time of the Revolution Angers was the seat of a celebrated university that had been founded in the fourteenth century. The town and castle were badly damaged in WWII.

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Rene, known as "Good King Rene" during his lifetime became Duke of Anjou, Count de Provence (1434-1480), Duke of Bar (1430-1480), Duke of Lorraine (1431-1453), King of Naples (1438-1442), King of Sicily (1434-1480) and nominal king of Jerusalem.

He was born on January 16, 1409, son of Louis II and Yolande d' Aragon who had settled in the castle in 1402. Orphaned at the age of nine he was raised by his uncle, Cardinal Louis de Bar, who adopted him. He married Isabelle, daughter of the duke Charles II of Lorraine on October 24, 1420. Following her death he married Jeanne of Laval. After his death in 1480 he was buried in the cathedral.

His statue in bronze (above right), the work of David of Angers in the nineteenth century, is to be found in the Place du President Kennedy close by the castle.

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Cobbled streets around the cathedral of Saint Maurice (above and right).

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The castle dates from the thirteenth century. The seventeen multicoloured towers stand thirty metres above the moat on the eastern bank of the Maine River. The royal residence and chapel lie within the walls and were restored in the 1950s. One of the oldest large tapestries in the world, 'L'Apocalypse' commisioned in 1375 by Louis I, can be seen here.

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The main gatehouse to the castle (right)

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