Origins of Angers Castle

Angers Castle is one of the finest examples of feudal architecture.

Angers castle - Ramparts and former moats
Ramparts and former moats

King Louis IX built the current fortress between 1228 and 1238 on the foundations of a 9th century fortress.

The 17 towers of the rampart were initially 40m high and crowned with pepper-pot roofs.

They were lowered during the Wars of Religion of the 16th century, in order to provide a better view to the defendants.

The walkway was built at the same time.

A windmill was built on the north tower’s terrace, hence its name of Tour du Moulin.

The ramparts today offer prime views of the city and the valley.

A medieval garden has been landscaped on their eastern section.

The moats, dug in 1485, are now filled.

They have given way to formal gardens that highlight the beauty of the medieval fortress.

All that is left of Angers Castle

Sadly, Angers Castle was severely damaged during WWII.

Angers castle - Chatelet

All that remains are the Logis Royal, Galerie du Roi René, chapel, Great Hall of ceremonies, Logis du Gouverneur and the Châtelet (gatehouse).

The castle’ enclosure was divided into two sections.

All the buildings above, including the staff quarters, kitchens and various outbuildings, were located in the upper courtyard or Cour Seigneuriale.

The garrison was stationed in the lower courtyard.

1- The Great Hall or Grande Salle was the ceremonial hall, where the king exercised his power.

The original hall, built in the 9th century was enlarged to an area of 500m2 in the 11th century.

All that is left of it are a facade, a monumental fireplace and the 12th century entrance.

Angers castle - Logis du Gouverneur
Logis du Gouverneur

2- The Chapelle St. Laud served the castle until the 14th century, when Yolande of Aragon replaced it with the current chapel.

All that is left of this first chapel are the foundations, which were discovered in 1953 during the construction of the Apocalypse Gallery.

3- All that remains of the Logis Royal built in 1410 by Louis I d’Anjou is the section adjacent to the current chapel.

4- Yolande of Aragon (the wife of Louis d’Anjou) commissioned the construction of the current chapel in the early 15th century.

This chapel is dedicated to St. John the Baptist.

Angers castle - Wall of the former Great Hall
Wall of the former Great Hall

Its single rectangular nave and three vaulted bays turn it into a perfect illustration of Gothic Angevin architecture.

It is decorated with the coat of arm of Yolande of Aragon and Louis II.

5- René d’Anjou built the Galerie du Roi René between 1435 and 1453.

Its facade consists of four gables delineated from each other by a buttress.

The interior boats a superb staircase and fireplace. The keystones of the ground floor vaulted hall bear the coat of arms of the House of Anjou and the Croix de Lorraine.

It is said that the Dukes of Anjou brought back a piece of the Cross from the Crusades and left it in the care of the monks of a nearby monastery.

King René took this double cross, then known as Cross of Anjou, when he traveled to the east of France in order to marry Isabelle de Lorraine.

Angers castle - Chatelet, Chapel and Tour du Moulin
Chatelet, Chapel and Tour du Moulin

The cross became known as Cross of Lorraine after René defeated Charles the Bold in the battle of Nancy.

6- The Logis du Gouverneur consists of two wings built in the 18th century that frame a late 15th century tower staircase.

7- René of Anjou built the fortified gatehouse, known as Châtelet, in 1456.

This asymmetrical building is reinforced with buttresses and has corner towers capped with pepper-pot roofs.

8- The Galerie de l’Apocalypse was built on the site of the kitchen, staff quarters, Chapelle St.Laud and various outbuildings.

Counts of Anjou, one of the great feudal dynasties

The great feudal dynasties were formed when the Frankish king Clovis founded the Kingdom of France.

The Great vassals were rewarded with large counties in exchange of their unconditional allegiance.

Angers castle - Logis Royal and chapel
Logis Royal and chapel

However, they soon became so powerful that their counties became individual territorial entities.

The 9th century Norman incursions pushed them to seek permission from King Charles the Bald to erect their own castles.

Aware of their new power, they also refused to swear allegiance to the King of France, unless he allowed them to transmit their titles and fiefs to their children.

Charles the Bald eventually granted them these privileges in exchange for their financial and military support against the Normans.

France had become fragmented into small independent kingdoms or principalities.

The Great vassals, however, remained in a constant state of territorial war with each other.

Angers Castle – Dynasty of the Counts of Anjou

1- Fulk the Red, Viscount and Count of Anjou, lived in Angers Castle and founded the first dynasty of Anjou in 898.

His descendants inherited the title.

2- His son, Fulk II the Good, took possession of Maine.

3- His most famous descendant, Fulk III (987-1040), nicknamed Fulk Nerra because of his dark complexion, left his mark in the history of France.

Angers castle - Galerie du roi Rene
Galerie du Roi Rene

He is indeed remembered as an ambitious, unscrupulous and highly skilled politician, as well as a seasoned, fierce and ruthless warrior with a taste for intrigue.

He conquered the territories of Blois, Touraine, Langeais, Saumur, Saintonge, Mauges, Vendôme and Gâtinais!

4- His son Geoffrey Martel, added the County of Tours and re-conquered Maine, but died without a male heir.

His nephews fought over the title and meanwhile lost some territories to the King of France.

5- Fulk IV lost Maine, Saintonge and Gâtinais.

6- Fulk V the Younger (1109-1131), however, took advantage of the rivalry between the French and the English and made judicious alliances through marriage.

He acquired Maine through his own marriage.

In 1111 he married his first daughter to the King of France, the second to the King of England.

Finally he married his son Geoffrey to Matilda of England the daughter and heiress of Henry I.

Angers castle - medieval towers
Medieval towers

7- Geoffrey V (1131-1151) was nicknamed Plantagenêt because of the sprig of broom he wore on his cap.

His descendants, the kings of England from Henry II (1154) until Richard III (1485) bore this name!

Geoffrey V reigned over Anjou, Maine and Touraine and in 1144 he claimed the rights of his wife and annexed Normandy.

8- In 1152 their son Henry Plantagenêt married Eleanor of Aquitaine, the only daughter of the powerful Duke of Aquitaine.

He became king Henry II of England in 1154.

Eleanor brought the south-west of France, the suzerainty of Auvergne (Central France) and the County of Toulouse in her dowry.

Their two estates combined were larger than the kingdom of France, which was limited to the Orléans Province and some minor fiefs and abbeys.

The couple had become a real threat to Louis VII who attempted to re-conquer the south-west.

Henry II spent most of his time between Angers Castle and Chinon Castle.

Angers castle -Formal gardens in former moats
Formal gardens in former moats

Anjou and Touraine remained in the heart of the territorial war that opposed the Plantagenêts (the English kings) and the Capets (the kings of France) until Philippe Auguste seized them.

After his death in 1223, the Duke of Brittany, with the support of the English, rebelled against the Regent Blanche of Castile and the young Louis (the future Louis IX).

The English captured Anjou.

The Regent and her son took advantage of the temporary peace and built imposing ramparts around Angers Castle.

Angers Castle – Dynasty of the Dukes of Anjou

In 1346 Louis IX re-conquered Anjou and bequeathed Angers Castle of  to his younger brother, Charles of Anjou.

In 1360 Anjou became a Duchy.

The Dukes of Anjou had increased their territories during the Crusades.

They indeed owned Provence, Sicily, Naples, Albania and even Jerusalem.

Scholars and amateurs of art, they also left their mark in the history of France.

1- Charles I built several castles along the valley.

2-Louis I commissioned the Apocalypse Tapestry, now exhibited in a special room in the Angers Castle.

Roi Rene

3- The son of Louis II and last Duke of Anjou, known as King René, was born at Angers Castle.

An artist, poet, musician and mathematician, King René was considered one of the most cultured minds of his time.

His influence on the region and his memory have crossed the centuries.

A man of communication, he was attentive to the needs of his subjects, organizing festivities and games and reviving the art of chivalry.

Interested in horticulture, he introduced the famous Rose of Provins and the carnation; Anjou has since specialized in growing roses.

King René was married to Isabelle de Lorraine for 33 years.

After her death, he remarried the young Jeanne de Laval and had another happy marriage.

At the end of his life, he accepted philosophically the annexation of Anjou by Louis XI and retired to his County of Toulouse, where he died at the age of 72.

Department of Maine-et-Loire
Coordinates Angers Castle: Lat 47.470000 – Long -0.560000

Photos Wikimedia Commons:  Logis du GouverneurLogis Royal, Chapel and ChâteletGreat hall –  Galerie du Roi René Roi René d’Anjou

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