While in Angers, there were several places that I was keen to visit so, on Sunday morning, bleary-eyed from the Loop-tastic night before, I took myself off to an ancient church called Collégiale Saint–Martin.
This is one of the many interesting historical buildings to be found in Angers. The earliest evidence for this church dates to the Merovingian period (which immediately followed the Roman period), in the 5th and 6th centuries CE, and the building was altered, rebuilt and extended a number of times between the 7th and the 15th centuries.
The site has been beautifully restored and is now used as an arts and exhibition space. The current exhibition, fortuitously opening the day after I arrived in Angers, is called “De Vibrations en Résonances – Instruments d’hier et lutherie d’aujourd’hui”. This is an exhibition of musical instruments, mainly stringed ones, but also some others, dating from the 17th century to the present day. These have been drawn from private collections so are not normally accessible to the public.
I love the violins made from tin cans and clogs
And the dragon bassoon
And the beautifully intricate fretwork on this guitar
The church is also an absolute treasure trove of archaeology. A number of extensive and well-documented excavations have taken place at the site and a good amount of the in-situ archaeology is preserved and displayed, complete with information panels in French and English.
It was possible to visit the crypt to see some of the extant archaeology.
I’m attaching this detailed plan of the archaeology of the site, which shows known phases of construction in relation to the structure as it is today.
Amongst the jumble of stonework, it’s possible to pick out the wall lines of earlier churches, the remains of pits for casting bells and various floor surfaces. The area of the church was also used extensively as a burial site and there are scores of limestone sarcophagi and slate coffins, dating from the Merovingian period (5th – 8th centuries, some in-situ.
I had a bit of a scout about down in the crypt because I understood that a small section of the Roman road which ran north-south through the town (Juliomagus) was still extant. Sure enough…
Ok, it may not look like much but this photo contains about 900 years worth of in-situ archaeology (1st century CE Roman road; the foundation of a 6th century church immediately on top of the road, centre and right; the foundation of a Carolingian (10th century) church immediately on top of the road, left) 😀
I have to declare this one of the most interesting and best presented sites that I visited in Angers. And that is against pretty stiff competition because there are lots of very good sites in Angers. Looks like I saved the best to last.