mercredi 15 janvier 2014
Last week end I was in Angers in the Loire Valley, in the département of Maine-et-Loire, in France.
Angers is very famous for its medieval castle.
Originally, this castle was built as a fortress at one of the sites inhabited by the Romans because of its strategic defensive location.
In the 9th century, the Bishop of Angers gave the Counts of Anjou permission to build a castle in Angers. It became part of the Angevin empire of the Plantagenet Kings of England during the 12th century.
In 1204, the region was conquered by Philip II and an enormous castle was built during the minority of his grandson, Louis IX ("Saint Louis") in the early part of the 13th century. The construction undertaken in 1234 cost 4,422 livres, roughly one per cent of the estimated royal revenue at the time. Louis gave the castle to his brother, Charles in 1246.
In 1352, King John II le Bon, gave the castle to his second son, Louis who later became count of Anjou. Married to the daughter of the wealthy Duke of Brittany, Louis had the castle modified, and in 1373 commissioned the famous Apocalypse Tapestry from the painter Hennequin de Bruges and the Parisian tapestry-weaver Nicolas Bataille.
In 1562, Catherine de' Medici had the castle restored as a powerful fortress, but, her son, Henry III, reduced the height of the towers and had the towers and walls stripped of their embattlements; Henry III used the castle stones to build streets and develop the village of Angers. Nonetheless, under threat of attacks from the Huguenots, the king maintained the castle's defensive capabilities by making it a military outpost and by installing artillery on the château's upper terraces.
At the end of the 18th century, as a military garrison, it showed its worth when its thick walls withstood a massive bombardment by cannons from the Vendean army. Unable to do anything else, the invaders simply gave up.
A military academy was established in the castle to train young officers in the strategies of war. In a twist of fate, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, best known for taking part in the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battle of Waterloo, was trained at the Military Academy of Angers. (from: wikipedia )
The most interesting part of the castle is, to me, the Apocalypse Tapestry. It depicts the story of the Apocalypse from the Book of Revelation by Saint John the Divine in colourful images. The tapestry was made in six sections, each 78 feet wide by 20 feet high, comprising 90 different scenes.
It's very very impressive, as it's on a very large room with almost no light except on the tapestry. Just imagine that the tapestry is 468 feet wide and 20 feet high !