Thursday, April 13, 2017

Tuesday April 11 - It's all relative - Angers Castle

Just 17 kilometres (10 miles) from us is the city of Angers with its imposing black castle towering over the Maine River – a castle once owned by Clark’s Plantagenet ancestors. Building of the fortress began in 1231 by Blanche of Castille. 

Seventeen drum towers of dark grey schist (ardoise) with bands of light limestone (tufa) were once 130 feet high with pepperpot roofs. As military equipment changed, these were eventually taken down to the height of the ramparts to suit cannon warfare.

A dry moat 30 feet deep and almost 100 feet wide make the castle even more intimidating. The grassy area at the bottom of the moat is now decorated in formal gardens.

You enter via a drawbridge with portcullis. We bought tickets that included an audio guide which was really detailed and interesting.

Once inside, an enormous area provided space for all the essentials of castle living.  

Over generations, the royals who lived here improved their living quarters, adding a chapel, apartments, and a chatelet which provided a private entrance to the royal apartments and a private royal courtyard.

The chapel of St Jean le Baptiste is sizeable and includes a private oratory for the duke who could enter via a stairway from the royal apartments and be kept warm with his private fireplace.

The original stained glass windows were destroyed and replaced with modern and reclaimed old windows from nearby churches. During the US Revolutionary War, sailors from captured British privateers were held in wooden barracks constructed inside the nave of this church.

Walking along the ramparts provides views both into the castle grounds, into the flowered moats and out to the city and river. And it’s a great place for eating lunch!

The pièce de résistance for this site is the Apocalypse Tapstry, dating from 1373. This work was originally 436 feet long and 20 feet high and hung in the Angers Cathedral. An interpretation of St. John’s Revelation, it had 6 sections of equal size each with a 20 foot high main character facing 14 scenes divided into 2 rows of 7 each. This is displayed in a special gallery designed to control light, temperature and humidity. The audio guide described each panel and its related story.

Getting back to the car required walking through the old town where small alleys lead to medieval houses related mostly to abbeys. 

The cathedral of St. Maurice looms large as we make our way down the hill to the car park near the river.

Once home, it’s aperos on the lawn followed by Janis’ wonderful marinated shrimp over linguini. There might have been some wine drunk too.