|Old town Le Mans|
|Place des Jacobins, Le Mans|
We parked under the place in a large underground lot which told you how many places were available and on what level. Quite useful. On exiting the parking lot, we were surrounded on 2 sides by large buildings - a movie theatre/cultural center and a shopping center, each several stories high and very modern in architecture.
On the square in front of these building was a large market selling clothing, furniture, shoes, curtain and table linen fabrics and whatever else one might need to dress a house.
|Place des Jacobins with St. Julian cathedral in the back - market day on the place - clothes, furniture, flowers, etc|
|Dale in front of the fish stall|
|Aisles of every sort of comestible you could want to serve|
Of greatest importance for me was a bathroom - usually one finds them near large public parking areas. There was one by our structure, but its sign said "Actuellement fermé" (closed at this time). Off to the shopping plaza across the street where just off the courtyard, as you might expect, there was a very nice bathroom.
Ok, back to our quest for the day. From the Place des Jacobins, there is a great view of the choir of St. Julian with its Gothic flying buttresses and absidal chapels.
|St. Julian Cathedral - Gothic choir and absidal chapels|
|notice the bifurcating flying buttresses|
Up some steps to the level of the cathedral and old town which spread out along the flat top of a large promontory.
|Dale, Janis and Lynn half-way up to cathedral level|
We first explore the interior of the cathedral which has some construction going on outside
|South portal of St Julian, under renovation|
|there is a 3 story organ under all this scaffolding inside the south portal/south transept|
|St Julian window, 1155|
|Center of St Julian window, 1155|
|the ambulatory of the Gothic choir|
|The high altar from the back of the double ambulatory, looking towards the Romanesque nave|
|This window of the ascension is dated to 1120. It looks modern in many ways.|
|The Romanesque nave looking toward the altar - it's waaaaay down there|
One is immediately impressed with the height of the pillars. You can't help but look up as you make your way through the cathedral. How'd they do that? in the 1100s - amazing.
|ambulatory of the nave - note the rounded arches and thick pillars for support|
|another view of the north transept|
|the high altar|
Turning right, we enter the ambulatory of the choir which is as wide as the nave of some churches we've seen. Sumptuous chapels radiate off the ambulatory whose center is a highly decorated altar area. The sacristy is richly paneled in carved wood panels and still exudes a feeling of light and airiness.
|looking into the sacristy|
|carved wood panels|
Another chapel has recently restored ceiling murals depicting 47 angels playing various musical instruments, including a 14th century precursor to the piano called an échequier.
|ceiling murals in Lady Chapel|
|Angel playing the eschecquier|
Stepping outside the front of the church and down a few steps, there is a menhir built into the side wall of the cathedral. Known as the St. Julian Stone (Pierre St. Julian), this stone was moved here in 1778 from the dolmen which was destroyed. One is supposed to put his/her thumb into a particular thumb-sized hole for good luck.
|Dale is some lucky guy - he has his finger in the thumb hole of the menhir|
|Romanesque front of the cathedral. The window is the St. Julian stained glass from 1155.|
The square around the church has the episcopal buildings and is still the bishopric today.
|engraved on the episcopal buildings: "The rights of God never die"|
The old town stretches out to the south of the church. Narrow cobblestone streets (rather difficult to walk on) separate stone and half-timbered buildings.
|Carving on the house above|
|another carving from the same house|
|Maison des deux amis - 2 friends holding a coat of arms|
|Maison des deux amis (house of the 2 friends)|
|Courtyard beside one of the old houses|
|roses are just beginning to bloom around here|
The first narrow street opens out onto a square that goes the width of the promontory. Looking down on either side one sees a street several stories below that travels under this square. 15th century buildings extend to either side.
|road going under the square of the old town|
|Other side of the square|
|You would never know there's a busy road going underneath this park|
Without the sun the church is dark, gloomy and cold in its massiveness. Dark enough that knitting was impossible. But within a few minutes the others had arrived, Dave, the only one without a raincoat, was rather dampish, Of course, they had been caught by the rain at the farthest away point of the walking tour and Dave was determined to see the Gallo-Roman walls that enclosed the city even before medieval times.
|cool designs in these gallo-roman walls|
|going through a gallo-roman arch|
|not sure what these are, but they're cool arches and they're old|
After a few minutes, the rain subsided and we walked back to the car where we had a rather inelegant "tail gate" lunch in the depths of the parking garage. Oh well, not all lunches can be in indescribably beautiful places.
With rain scheduled to continue, the afternoon activity is the museum for the 24 hours of Le Mans. This museum houses not just automobile history related to the famous Le Mans race, but also the history of the automobile in France.
Home again in an hour and 15 minutes, for aperos and grilled pork tenderloin dinner. Another hidden gem of the western Loire valley discovered.