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Path: Photos > Photos > Cathedral Cities > Le Mans
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Le Mans



Le Mans looks back on a very rich history. As Vindunum, it prospered under the rule of the Roman Empire and was protected by a defensive city wall still visible today. The medieval city towered by the cathedral Saint Julien developed within the walls and went on playing an important role in French-Anglo history as the cradle of the royal house of Plantagenet: it started when Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou and Maine married the Empress Matilda in Le Mans in 1128. Grand-daughter of William the Conqueror, she was the heiress of the kingdom of England and of the dukedom of Normandy. Their son Henry, future King of England Henry II, was baptised in the cathedral in 1133 and married Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1152, who brought the entire south-west of France in her dowry. The county of Maine and its capital Le Mans became thus involved in the many conflicts between the kingdoms of England and France, eventually passing under French rule in the 13th century.

Today, apart from the 24 hours car race, the cathedral and the medieval city are the main draw for visitors to Le Mans. The “modern” city outside the walls is pleasant with a few churches and some grand administrative buildings typical of the 18th and 19th centuries. Unfortunately all museums were closed when we visited, Monday being the weekly closing day for most museums in France.

Place des Jacobins: reflection of the cathedral in the glass front of the Palais de Justice.
The real thing seen from Place du Jet d'Eau. The flying buttresses are decorated with airy railings, gargoyles and statues to lighten their appearance. Contrary to the usual custom, the royal portal has been built on the southern side of the cathedral in the axis of the Grande Rue instead of the western side. Below are eight jamb figures representing characters of the Ancient Testament. On each side of the door bas-reliefs of Saint Peter and Saint Paul invite to step inside. Above, the tympanum is a representation of the Apocalypse with Christ in Majesty surrounded by an ox, an eagle, a winged lion and an angel, the symbols of the four evangelists Luke, John, Mark and Matthew. Below him are the twelve apostles. The western facade in pure Romanesque style is in stark contrast to the southern one. It is still the same as when it was built in 1100 which makes it unique in France. Gargoyle on the western side of the cathedral. There are still 20 Romanesque capitals from the 11th century inside the nave. This one has retained its colours. The stained glass window of the Ascension dates from the end of the 11th or early beginning of the 12th century and is said to be the oldest stained glass window still in situ in a church. The rose window on the northern side of the transept. It was created during the Hundred Years War. The cathedral organ located on the southern side of the transept (16th century). The painted ceiling of the side chapel of the musical angels. Plays of light inside the cathedral. View of the gothic choir and its upper part decorated with vibrant windows. The choir with the main altar and a Christ on the Cross designed by the <a target="_blank"  href="https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goudji">artist Goudji</a> hovering over it. Glass window depicting the life of Saint Julien. Cité Plantagenêt: the Turret House also called Saint Paul's House, built circa 1530. Cité Plantagenêt: the Hotel du Grabatoire (currently the bishop's house) built 1545. Wooden statue adorning one of the many timber framed houses of the Cité Plantagenêt. Cité Plantagenêt: the Ave Maria House (16th century). Cité Plantagenêt: Musée de la Reine Bérengère. Berengaria of Navarre was the wife of Richard the Lionheart (son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine). They married in 1191 in Cyprus as Richard was leaving for the Holy Land. After becoming a widow in 1204 Queen Berengaria obtained the administration of Le Mans and the surrounding territory. She lived during 25 years in the city and rests in the nearby abbey of Épau which she founded. Cité Plantagenêt: the House of the Two Friends, one living in number 20, the other in number 18. Note the wooden sculpture of the two friends between the two doors. Close-up of the wooden sculpture of the two friends. Cité Plantagenêt: the Red Pillar House on the left (16th century). It is now home to a branch of the tourism office. The capital of the corner pillar of the Lion Pillar House. Cité Plantagenêt: medieval timber framed house meets Renaissance house. The ancient Roman city wall and the Tour Madeleine (3rd century). The houses behind have been built by the architect who rebuilt Saint Malo after WWII. Another portion of the Roman wall with the Tour de Tucé (3rd century). The Roman city wall and the Tour du Vivier (3rd century).

Go back to Chartres or go on to Rouen or go up to Cathedral Cities

$updated from: Cathedral Cities.htxt Mon 03 May 2021 16:08:34 trvl2 (By Vero and Thomas Lauer)$