A Vast Fortress – Château D’Angers

Château d’Angers is one of the most simplistic and stunning fortresses in the Loire Valley and though it may not be the most popular, it does harbour some features that should render it as popular as the others. It is located in the city of Angers and is also home to the amazing Apocalypse Tapestry. This great and grand Château is situated atop a rocky promontory overlooking the vast Maine river. 

It is said that the site may have been occupied since the Neolithic period which makes it somewhat of an ancient site. It is well worth taking a look into and in this blog, we will do just that. Let’s take a look into the ever so simple and dazzling Château d’Angers.

the huge stone walls of Château d'Angers in France with colourful gardens in the foreground
A south view of Château d’Angers. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Château d’Angers history

The history of Château d’Angers is one of great length. It is said that the Château dates back to the Neolithic period and has been occupied since that time. Because of the fact that it has been occupied since prehistoric times and its historically important strategic location, it is listed as a French National Monument.

The early history of Château d’Angers

Château d’Angers was originally built as a strong and grand fortress at a site inhabited by the Romans. It was considered an incredibly ideal fortress because of its strategic defensive location. Back in the 9th century, the Bishop of Angers gave specific permission to the Counts of Anjou to build a castle in Angers.

It was at this time that the construction of the first and original castle begun under the watchful eye of Count Fulk III who was well-known for his construction of dozens of other castles and he specifically built Château d’Angers to protect Anjou from the Normans. In the 12th century, it then became part of the Angevin Empire of the Plantagenet Kings of England.

In the year 1204, the entirety of the region was then conquered by Philip II and then in the early 13th century, the new castle was constructed during the minority of his grandson who was known as Louis IX or Saint Louis.

Louis spent a large amount of his time rebuilding the castle in stunning whitestone and black slate with large semicircular towers. During the time of construction in 1234, the castle is said to have cost around 4,422 livres which is roughly one percent of the estimated royal revenue around that current time. In the year 1246, Louis then proceeded to give the castle to his brother Charles.

Later history

There isn’t a lot about the castle after this, nothing notable at least, until the year 1352 when King John II le Bon gifted the castle to his second son, Louis who then ,later on, became Count of Anjou. Louis was married to the daughter of a very wealthy duke and he had the castle modified in 1373 after speaking to his wife about updating Château d’Angers. Louis went as far as to commission the famous Apocalypse Tapestry from the painter Hennequin de Bruges and the Parisian tapestry-weaver Nicolas Bataille.

Between the years of 1405 and 1412, Louis’ son Louis II along with Yolange d’Aragon added a gorgeous chapel as well as exquisite royal apartments to the complex. The chapel is a sainte chapelle which is the name that is given to churches that enshrined a relic of the Passion. The specific relic that resided at Angers was a splinter of the fragment of the True Cross that was acquired by Louis IX. The hapless dauphin who later on became King Charles VII had to flee Paris in the early 15th century and was readily given sanctuary at Château d’Angers.

A stone chapel next to very well kept gardens
The chapel at Château d’Angers. Source: Flickr

Catherine de’ Medici has the castle restored to its former glory as a powerful and grand fortress in the year 1562, however, her beloved son, Henry III, reduced the large height of the towers and also had them stripped of their embattlements. Henry III also used the stones from the castle to build sturdy streets and he also used them to develop the village of Angers which was very much needed. Despite all of this, under threat of attacks from the Huguenots, the king did a fantastic job of maintaining the castle’s defence and he did this by making it a military outpost.

a stone bridge leading in to a castle
The entrance to the château. Source: Wikimedia Commons

During this time, to make the castle’s defence stronger, he also installed an artillery on Château d’Angers upper terraces. By the time that the 18th century came around, this beautiful Château showcased its worth when its strong and thick walls were able to withstand a massive bombardment by cannons from the Vendean army. When they could no longer do anything, the invaders simply gave up and left. There was a military academy established within the castle that was made specifically to train young officers in the important strategies of war.

Soon after, the academy was moved to Saumur and the castle was used for the remainder of the 19th century as a prison, powder magazine, and barracks. During the First and Second World Wars, the castle remained as an armoury and was severely damaged during World War II by the Nazis when an ammunition storage dump inside the castle exploded.

The present day

In 2009, on the 10th of January, the castle once again suffered from severe damage, this time from an accidental fire that started due to short-circuiting. The most heavily damaged part of Château d’Angers was the Royal Logis that contains old tomes and administrative offices. The fire resulted in about 400 square metres of the roof being completely burnt. Luckily, the Tapestries of the Apocalypse were not damaged, however, the total of the damage had been estimated at around 2 million Euros.

These days, all of this damage has now been repaired and compared to other castles around, it is considered to be in pristine condition. It is owned by the City of Angers and this massive castle has been converted to a stunning museum that readily houses the oldest and largest collection of medieval tapestries in the world, with the 14th-century “Apocalypse Tapestry” as one of its most priceless treasures.

aerial view of a castle with large stone walls with many turrets. Inside there is a chapel which backs on to a river
An aerial view of Château d’Angers. Source: Flickr

The castle has never been taken by a single invading force in history which only proves its fortitude even more. You can head to the official Château website here and further explore the world of Château d’Angers, a vast, grand, and ever so powerful fortress situated in the stunning Loire Valley, France.

You may enjoy reading about other French château’s such as Château de Villandry.

Château d’Angers Timeline

  • 9th century- Permission is granted for a castle to be built
  • 1204- The region is conquered by Philip II
  • Early 13th century- The new castle was constructed
  • 1246- The castle is given to Charles
  • 1352- King John II le Bon, gave the castle to his second son, Louis
  • 1405 to 1412- A chapel and royal apartments are added to the castle
  • 1562- The castle is restored to become a powerful fortress
  • Late 18th century- Château d’Angers withstood a massive bombardment by cannons
  • 19th century- The castle was used as a prison, powder magazine, and barracks
  • 2009- The castle suffers damage from a fire

Claim to Fame

One of the most famous parts of Château d’Angers is the massive tapestry museum within its walls. It is not only famous itself, but it also features the famous 140-metre-long Apocalypse series tapestries of Nicholas Bataille. While it may not be as popular as many other castles within the Loire Valley, it is very well-known for its tapestry museum.

Interesting facts about Château d’Angers

  • Château d’Angers overlooks the lovely river Maine
  • It has been listed as a historical monument since 1875
  • Its location was chosen because of its strategic defensive location
  • The castle was used as an armoury many times
  • The outer wall is 3 metres (9.8 ft) thick, and it extends for about 660 m (2,170 ft). It is also protected by seventeen massive towers

Featured in TV and Film

  • Le château d’Angers, les anges de l’Apocalypse (2012)
  • Aquarelle dans l’eau, Sarkis au château d’Angers (2013)

Books on Château d’Angers

  • Le Château d’Angers -Anglais- (Itinéraires) by Jean Mesqui (2001)

Who owns Château d’Angers?

These days, Château d’Angers is owned by the City of Angers. It has, in the meantime, been converted into a museum housing the oldest and largest collection of medieval tapestries in the world, with the 14th-century “Apocalypse Tapestry” as one of its priceless treasures.

Tourism

When visiting Château d’Angers, you should take a walk around the outside. This way, you can take a look at the outside walls and see the side of the castle that is near the river and along a cliff edge. As you walk around, you will gain some great views across the gardens as well as the City of Angers.

Nearby, you can also visit the town of Angers which is actually quite extensive. It has a great historic centre and a large centre that was developed back in the 19th century. There are many monuments to visit in town such as the Angers Collegial Saint-Martin and Angers Cathedral. Then, if you head to the north of Angers, you can visit the Château de Plessis-Bourre and to the south, you can visit the Château de Brissac.

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