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Le Mans - Cité Plantagenêt

(Capital of Maine)

 

Links to:   Cathédral St-Julien   History of the Cathédrale St-Julien   Lady Chapel, Cathédrale St-Julien   Cistercian Royal Abbey of l'Épau

 

Link to Maps of the Pilgrimage Roads of France

 

Link to:  The Norman, Angevin and Plantagenet Monarchs of England and the Age of the Crusades

 

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As Miss P (that's the generic name for the Dom's leased Peugeot station wagons) and Team Paradox drove into the centre of Le Mans in mid September 2007, we agreed that it showed all the signs of having risen in a very ordinary way out of the ashes of bad WW II damage.  Surprise then to find that the guide book says that the city escaped World War damage, and so the "new" town centre is all their own work.  Mind you, guide books are not always right are they ........

 

Le Mans calls itself the "Cité Plantagenêt".  Plantagenêt founder Geoffrey, Count of Anjou and husband of Henry I's daughter Matilda (that was a family christian name shared with her mum and grandmum - the wife of William the Conqueror), was born in the family palace that today is the Hotel de Ville. 

 

Geoffrey's tomb is said to be in the cathedral, though there is no signage there to identify it and the priest we asked did not know where it was.  The Limoges enamelled image of a broomless (sans genêt ?) Geoffrey on the left was linked to his tomb, but is now in the Le Mans Municipal Museum.   We discovered nothing else Plantagenêt in our day of wandering the largely people-less old town. 

 

Of course Le Mans should really call itself the "Cité de la Voiture", and one imagines that this connection attracts far more visitors than the new or old town or the Plantagenêt monica ever will.

 

Old Le Mans is on a high and uninteresting retaining-walled (the biggest retaining wall in the blah blah) long sloping hill beside the Sarthe river, with the interesting Romanesque (west half) / Gothic (east half) Cathédral St-Julien at the top, sitting in the middle of a huge area devoid of cafés, restaurants, shops and humanity. 

 

The old town was mostly deserted and falling down until recently when a lot of work was put into renovations (but not into the replacement of rough cobble surfaces which are a pain to walk on), as a result of which there are several attractive half timbered buildings, but little atmosphere and still very few people - especially as you climb further up the hill to the large empty spaces around the Cathédrale St-Julien.

 

 

 

Le Mans - Cité de la Voiture - Auto-Nostalgic Shop Window

 

 

 

 

This is the very soaring gothic east end of the cathedral built between 1220 and 1254.  The chapel on the far right of the photo, at the extreme east end of the cathedral, is the Lady or Chevet Chapel, a feature of several French Gothic "East Ends".  The descriptors "chevet" and "apse" are both used in relation to "east ends" in French churches.  The chapel contains some beautiful stained glass, and on its ceiling are the special reasons for visiting the Cathedral -  frescos painted in the mid-1300s portraying 47 delicately beautiful "Musician Angels" - which have avoided the attention of most guide book writers. 

 

More Photos from the Cathédrale St-Julien     History of the Cathédrale St-Julien

 

 

 

 

Photos of the Lady Chapel of the Cathédrale St-Julien

 

 

 

 

More Photos of the Old Town to come

 

 

 

 

 

 

The only thing worth seeing in the now suburban Le Mans Cistercian Royal Abbey of l'Épau, which in 2007 was surrounded by a nightmarish maze of roads closed and diverted for the construction of a new tramway, is this well restored gisant of the sad Spanish Princess Berengaria, who had the gross misfortune to be married to the nasty King Richard I of England.

 

More Photos from the Cistercian Royal Abbey of l'Épau

 

 

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Plump Moules (sans frites) - the best France had to offer us in 2007 - working lunch at Restaurant Le Plongeoir ("the diving board").

 

 

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