Angers is a city in western France, about 300 km (190 mi) southwest of Paris, and the chef-lieu of the Maine-et-Loire department. Angers was before the French Revolution the capital of the province of Anjou, and inhabitants of both the city and the province are called Angevins.
Successive Germanic invasions in 275 and 276 forced the inhabitants to move on the highest point of their city and to build a wall around a small area of around 9 hectares.
From the 850s, Angers suffers from its situation on the border with Brittany and Normandy. In September 851, Charles the Bald and Erispoe, a Breton chief, meet in the town to sign the Treaty of Angers, which secures the Breton independence and fixes the borders of Brittany. However, the situation remains dangerous for Angers, and Charles the Bald creates in 853 a wide buffer zone around Brittany comprising parts of Anjou, Touraine, Maine and Sées, which is ruled by Robert the Strong, a great-grandfather of Hugh Capet.
During the 12th century, after internal divisions in Brittany, the county of Nantes is annexed by Anjou. Henry II Plantagenêt keeps it for more than 30 years. At the same time, he also rules the vast Angevin Empire, which stretched from the Pyrenees to Ireland. The castle of Angers is then the seat of the Court and the dynasty. The Empire disappeared in 1204-1205 when the King of France, Philip II, seized Normandy and Anjou.
In 1474, Louis XI of France, who wants to seize Anjou, comes to Angers with his army, asking for the keys of the city. René, then 65 years old, does not want to lead a war against his nephew and surrender his domains without any fight. Thus, Anjou ceased to be an appanage and felt definitely into the Royal domain. After his death, René is buried in 1480 in Saint-Maurice cathedral.
At the premature death of Louis XIII, his son Louis XIV is only an infant and France is troubled by several famines and epidemics and by politic instability. In 1649, the people of Angers launch a revolt against rising taxes, a movement that started the Fronde in Anjou.
In 1652, Henri Chabot, Duke of Rohan and governor of Anjou, decides to back Louis of Condé, chief of the Fronde. Angers becomes again a rebellious city and Louis XIV sends his army to seize it. The Duke of Rohan immediately surrenders and thus avoids the sack of the city.
The War of Vendée, a Royalist rebellion and counterrevolution led in Vendée, a department located at the southwest of Maine-et-Loire, reached the Loire in March 1793. The Royalist army soon crosses the river and goes as far as Granville, in Normandy, in November. Pushed back, the Vendéens go back south and, to cross the Loire again, have to attack Angers.
The city is defended by 4,000 Republican soldiers, whereas the Royalists are at least 20,000, but weakened by successive fights and deceases. The Siege of Angers occurs the 3rd and 4 December 1793. The Royalists' bad tactic, as well as the strength of Angers city wall and castle, cause their loss. They consequently go back north for a while, around Le Mans, before eventually crossing the Loire in Ancenis the 16th of December.
In 1794, a fierce repression is conduced in the whole region against the Royalists. In Angers, 290 prisoners are shot and 1020 others die of illness in jail. The city also welcomed many refugees, mostly Republicans living in Royalist rural areas. Between the 19th and the 31st of May 1793, between 650 and 1000 Republican families seek asylium in Angers.
After liberating Avranches and Rennes, General Patton and his 5th infantry division arrive in Anjou the 5th of August. To seize Angers, they decide to enter the city by its eastern side to surprise the Nazis. The 9th of August, they cross the Maine and start the fight. Helped by the local French Forces of the Interior, they progressively move forward the city centre. The fight is nevertheless difficult and Angers is liberated the day after, at around 5 p.m.
After the end of the war, the city experiences a quick development and demographic growth. In 1971, a decision is made to reestablish a public university, and the Université catholique d'Angers is split between the Université catholique de l'Ouest, private, and the Université d'Angers, public. Angers has had since then two different universities.
- Angers Cathedral was constructed on the orders of bishops Normand de Doué and Guillaume de Beaumont after the original building burnt down in 1032. The transept's stained glass window of Saint Julian is considered a masterpiece of French 13th century glasswork. The cathedral is the seat of the diocese of Angers and a national monument of France. The original Romanesque church was rebuilt with Gothic details in the mid 12th century. The single-aisle plan was vaulted with pointed arches resting on a re-clad interior elevation. The nave consists of three simple bays, with single bays on either side of a crossing forming transepts, followed by a single-bay choir, backed by an apse. During the Middle Ages both Angers Cathedral and Amiens Cathedral laid claim to the possession of the head of John the Baptist. Angers Cathedral was built in the 12th and 13th centuries by two ambitious successive bishops, Normand de Doué and Guillaume de Beaumont.
- Tour Saint-Aubin. Completed in 1170, it was the bell-tower of an abbey closed during the French Revolution and destroyed in 1810. Elaborately sculptured 11th and 12th century arcades also survive in the courtyard of the Prefecture.
- The Maison d'Adam (Adam's House), located behind the cathedral, is an excellent example of the half-timbered houses which were built during the Middle Ages. Many similar houses, although smaller, are also visible along the streets around the castle.
- The Musée des Beaux-Arts d'Angers, located in the Renaissance Logis Barrault, displays a collection of paintings and sculptures dating from the 14th century to today. It is particularly renowned for its 18th century paintings, including works by Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Van Loo, Antoine Watteau, Jean-Honoré Fragonard and Jean Siméon Chardin. The museum also contains a graphic design studio, a gallery devoted to the history of Angers and a temporary exhibition gallery.
- The Château d'Angers. Founded in the 9th century by the Counts of Anjou, was expanded to its current size in the 13th century. It is located on a rocky ridge overhanging the river Maine. Originally, this castle was built as a fortress at one of the sites inhabited by the Romans because of its strategic defensive location. In the 9th century, the Bishop of Angers gave the Counts of Anjou permission to build a castle in Angers. It became part of the Angevin empire of the Plantagenet Kings of England during the 12th century. In 1204, the region was conquered by Philip II and an enormous castle was built during the minority of his grandson, Louis IX ("Saint Louis") in the early part of the 13th century. The construction undertaken in 1234 cost 4,422 livres, roughly one per cent of the estimated royal revenue at the time. Louis gave the castle to his brother, Charles in 1246. Today, owned by the City of Angers, the massive, austere castle has been converted to a museum housing the oldest and largest collection of medieval tapestries in the world, with the 14th century "Apocalypse Tapestry" as one of its priceless treasures. As a tribute to its fortitude, the castle has never been taken by any invading force in history.