The Angevin Gothic Cathédrale Saint-Maurice d’Angers (Dennis Aubrey)


This article is part of a series on the Romanesque wealth of the city of Angers. Located on the Loire River, this city was the seat of Angevin power during the Middle Ages. That power and prestige are visible in many of the monuments that remain here. We will document three of them – a two-part series on the remains of the Abbaye Saint Aubin, the Cathédrale Saint Maurice d’Angers, and the Palais du Tau. There is nobody who better understands this power and prestige today than our guide from the office of the Conseil Général of the Maine-et-Loire, an intelligent and passionate advocate for the medieval arts of Angers and its surrounding areas. This man took a great deal of time to introduce us to the wealth of sumptuous Romanesque art in the region.

Cathédrale Saint-Maurice, Angers (Maine-et-Loire)  Photo by PJ McKey

Cathédrale Saint-Maurice, Angers (Maine-et-Loire) Photo by PJ McKey

Built in the 12th century, the Cathédrale Saint-Maurice d’Angers is the one of the earliest churches to show the characteristics of the unique regional form, Angevin Gothic. The style can be briefly described as primarily a hall church with extremely high rib vaults supported by thick walls and piers instead of external flying buttresses. Because of its use of rib vaults, many consider it to be the start of the transition from Romanesque to Gothic.

Nave, Cathédrale Saint-Maurice, Angers (Maine-et-Loire)  Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Nave, Cathédrale Saint-Maurice, Angers (Maine-et-Loire) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

I tend to think of Angevin Gothic as a hybrid of Romanesque and certain characteristics that were used in the Gothic. The Gothic style that we know required the development of quadripartite vaulting and flying buttresses to create its revolutionary architectural changes. Angevin is essentially Romanesque wall construction with a specific ribbed vault. What makes the vault so specifically Angevin is the height of the vault compared to the transverse arches (in French the arcs doubleaux and arcs formerets).

In the Cathédrale Saint-Maurice, the keystone of the arch is 10 feet higher than the transverse arches. This gives the vaults their soaring look compared to most conventional Gothic vaults, in which the height of the keystone is close to the height of the transverse arches. These vaults also cover a square space instead of Gothic’s rectangular space.

Angevin Gothic arch, courtesy of Patrimoine de France

Angevin Gothic arch, courtesy of Patrimoine de France

The revolutionary vaulting at Saint Maurice was able to span an enormously wide Romanesque nave. The fact that there are no side aisles (and therefore no arcades) in the cathedral gives the space an open, airy feeling. This is magnified by the large transepts and choir, seen here behind the altar. This choir is covered with an eight-ribbed vault while the small rounded apse has a ribbed oven vault. Throughout the church, we can see the how the ribbed vaults allowed for the presence of large stained glass windows.

Choir, Cathédrale Saint-Maurice, Angers (Maine-et-Loire)  Photo by PJ McKey

Choir, Cathédrale Saint-Maurice, Angers (Maine-et-Loire) Photo by PJ McKey

The 18th century Rococo high altar dominates the crossing. The base and six columns are made from red marble while the canopy is gilded oak. The altar was built in the spirit of the Counter-Reformation and draws the eye immediately.

Altar, Cathédrale Saint-Maurice, Angers (Maine-et-Loire)  Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Altar, Cathédrale Saint-Maurice, Angers (Maine-et-Loire) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

The town of Angers carries many reminders of its powerful past. The massively powerful Chateau d’Angers with its ten-foot thick walls dominates the Loire. But perhaps the most impressive reminder of the importance of the Angevins to the history of France and England is the Cathédrale Saint-Maurice. Not content merely to build a new cathedral, these hereditary rulers of Anjou had to invent a style of their own to express their power.

Location: 47.470556° -0.555°

This article is part of a series on the Romanesque wealth of the city of Angers. Located on the Loire River, this city was the seat of Angevin power during the Middle Ages. That power and prestige are visible in many of the monuments that remain here. We document three of them – the cloister and porte du réfectoire of the Abbaye Saint Aubin, the Cathédrale Saint Maurice d’Angers, and the Palais du Tau. There is nobody who better understands this power and prestige today than our guide from the office of the Conseil Général of the Maine-et-Loire, an intelligent and passionate advocate for the medieval arts of Angers and its surrounding areas. This man took a great deal of time to introduce us to the wealth of sumptuous Romanesque art in the region.

3 responses to “The Angevin Gothic Cathédrale Saint-Maurice d’Angers (Dennis Aubrey)

  1. Beautiful and impressive. I was fascinated by the very front row of furniture. I assume these little piece are intended to be kneelers. What an interesting way to keep people in the front row from having their feet tripped over by other parishioners . I’m smiling!

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