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Angoulême

 

 

Angoulême is a town in southwestern France, prefecture of the Charente department, in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region. Its inhabitants are called Angoumoisins.

Established on a spur dominating a bend of the Charente and its confluences with the Touvre and Anguienne, the city is nicknamed the balcony of the South-West. The municipality has less than 50,000 inhabitants (41,970 in 2013), but it is the center of an agglomeration bringing together nearly 110,000 inhabitants (107,652 in 2012, 60th among the largest agglomerations in France) within an urban conurbation that stretches over fifteen kilometers from east to west. Angoulême is also part of an urban community called Grand Angoulême with more than 140,000 inhabitants in 2017.

Former capital of Angoumois under the Ancien Régime, Angoulême has long been a coveted stronghold, due to its position as a crossroads of important communication routes, and has suffered many sieges. From its tumultuous past, the city, perched on its rocky outcrop and recognized as a city of art and history, has inherited a remarkable historical, religious and urban heritage which attracts many visitors and tourists passing through.

Today, Angoulême occupies the center of an agglomeration that remains among the most industrialized between Loire and Garonne (paper industry established in the sixteenth century, foundry and electromechanics developed in a more recent period). It is also a commercial and administrative city, with a university center, and a remarkably vibrant cultural life. This is dominated by the famous International Comic Strip Festival, which largely contributes to the city's international reputation, as well as by the Francophone Film Festival.

 

Destinations

Catholic worship
Saint-Pierre Cathedral, Place Saint-Pierre;

Saint-Pierre d'Angoulême Cathedral is a Romanesque-style cathedral located in Angoulême, in the Charente department. It is the subject of a classification as historical monuments by the list of 1840.

Its location, near the city walls and an ancient city gate, would correspond to that of a primitive sanctuary, prior to Christendom, probably a temple dedicated to Jupiter. A first cathedral was built during the 4th century, dedicated to Saint Saturnin. The building disappeared when Angoulême was taken by Clovis in 508, when the latter drove out the Visigoths, after the victory of Vouillé in 507. Clovis then King Charibert ordered the reconstruction of the cathedral in honor of Saint Pierre.

This second cathedral was consecrated in 566 by Bishop Saint Germain of Paris and Bishop Saint Euphrône of Tours and is mentioned in the Histoire des Francs of Grégoire de Tours. It was set on fire, probably by the Normans.

The third was the work of Grimoard de Mussidan, Bishop of Angoulême (991-1018). He was also abbot of Brantôme en Périgord, and used the revenues of the abbey to finance the construction of the cathedral. It was started around 991 and consecrated in 1015. It only lasted a century, its dimensions being too small. Only the north wall remains in the second and third bays of the nave, under the windows.

The Angoumois, at the beginning of the 12th century, was one of the richest counties of the Duchy of Aquitaine, due to the fertility of its soil and active trade. The city of Engolesme (Angoulême) could therefore acquire a vast cathedral. Its achievement is due to the impetus of Girard II, Bishop of Angoulême (1101-1136) 4. Successively professor, bishop and legate of four popes, friend of the Dukes of Aquitaine, adviser to the Counts of Angoulême, he also proved to be a leading artist. He directed the work of his cathedral under the supervision of Canon Itier Archambaud, who died in 1125. These began around 1110 and the church was consecrated in 1128.

The work began with the nave, then continued, around 1118, with the lower and middle parts of the western facade. This date coincides with that of the death of Canon Raymond Guérard, who supervised the work of the Saint-Sernin basilica in Toulouse. This death may have enabled Girard to bring certain Toulouse sculptors to Angoulême, who probably executed the reliefs on the lower part of the facade. This date also corresponds to the resumption of Zaragoza in the reconquest of Spain against the Saracens, certain acts of war of which are illustrated on the frieze under the tympanum south of the central door.

In 1125 the facade rises from a 5th floor. A lantern at the crossing of the transept and the covering of the domes of the nave by a single frame. This leads to the elevation of the facade to hide the upper parts of the nave. In 1128, a dedication took place in the cathedral, indicating that a large part of the work on the bedside and perhaps the nave had been carried out. In 1136, Bishop Girard died, leaving the upper part of the facade unfinished.

Towards the end of the 13th century the apse and the transept were enriched with six chapels / apsidioles. Because the cathedral was a burial place of the Counts of Angoulême Jean d'Orléans (1400 † 1467), the “Good Count Jean d'Angoulême” rests at the angle between the steps of the choir and those of the south transept.

Between 1562 and 1568 the cathedral suffered from the Wars of Religion. It was gunned down in 1568 by the Protestant army led by Admiral de Coligny and the southern bell tower destroyed.

During the period (1625-1634) the cathedral was restored and two watchtowers were added at the top of the eastern facade. We see them in the photograph taken in 1851 during the Heliographic Mission (photo Gustave Le Gray and Auguste Mestral). You can also see the pinnacles, the central capital, the porch with the rest of the sculptures on each side and its double colonnade.

In 1784 a stone tribune was built to place an organ.

The cathedral was transformed into a temple of Reason during the Revolution.

Major restorations carried out from 1852 to 1879, by the architect Paul Abadie, under the aegis of Antoine-Charles Cousseau, bishop of Angoulême, significantly modified the interior and exterior of the building.

Architecture

The cathedral was built in a small elongated device and a medium cut stone device with Turonian limestone from the plateau on which the medieval town is built.

The building consists of a single nave with three square spans, 20 m wide, topped with cupolas on pendants. The nave is followed by a transept, with very short arms. On each arm of the transept opens a semi-circular apse. Each arm is extended by a span under a rectangular bell tower, on which was built a bell tower.

A deep choir, finished in a semicircle, around which are articulated four radiating apsidioles.

Inside the nave, the first bay is a 19th century reconstruction.

The crossing of the transept is covered by an octagonal dome. Originally there was a floor animated by blind arcades under the drum of the dome. In the seventeenth century, windows were pierced in the center of each series of arcades. In the 19th century, Abadie had this floor destroyed in order to rebuild it by raising it and creating two bays on each side of the octagon, then rebuilding the dome. This considerably increases the lighting of this part of the cathedral.

The arms of the transept are lit to the east by an oculus (remade by Abadie) and covered in a cradle.

The south-eastern arm is extended by a rectangular room, fitted out in the 17th century, inside the base of the destroyed bell tower. To the north, the base of the bell tower is original. On this base rests an octagonal transitional floor, animated by double roller arches and directly covered with a dome.

A side portal has been added against the second bay of the nave, to the north and to the south.

From the apse with radiating chapels, only the apse and the south apsidiole are original.

Western facade
The facade is divided into four superimposed registers, populated with veneered arches, organized around a raised central arcade wider than the others. The facade is crowned by a triangular gable flanked by two pinnacles, all three added during the restoration by Abadie. From September 2019, it is subject to general restoration work. Two iconographic themes are developed: Ascension and Judgment Day.

On the highest floor, Christ in Glory appears in a mandorla, surrounded by the four figures of the apocalypse symbolizing the four gospels, the tetramorph. The third floor is divided into two bays. In the upper bay, above the arch of the central window, are two tall angels and four smaller angels. They address the apostles to show them the heavenly vision. All their eyes, and those of the elect, scattered under great arches, turn to the Savior in an attitude of trust. To the north and south of the central tympanum are two arches, each containing two statues. In the lower bay, to the south, three apostles and to the north, two apostles and a woman. At each end of the bay are two reprobates, who writhed in pain and fell prey to Satan.

On the second floor, six apostles, three on each side, are located in arches. On the ground floor, the tympanum of the large portal represents Christ blessing with one hand and presenting the Gospels with the other. On each side, two arcades each contain three apostles.

Above, runs along a band populated with hunting and war scenes. These sculptures were made around 1118-1119, a date that corresponds to the recapture of Zaragoza in the reconquest of Spain from the Saracens. Undoubtedly under the impetus of Bishop Girard, this victory is illustrated by two scenes from the Chanson de Roland which also recount Roland's victory in Zaragoza.

The left side of the frieze illustrates Bishop Turpin's equestrian combat, with his chain mail and miter, against the giant Abisme, which he pierces with his lance.

In the center: a gonfanon, then on the right, Roland, nephew of Charlemagne, pursues Marsile, king of Zaragoza, slices his sword off the arm of the adversary whose horse has already turned bridle. Then, on the next scene, Marsilie falls in front of the open gate of Zaragoza.

The reliefs of horsemen
The two reliefs date from the 19th century restoration. They are absent in the photographs of 1851 and 1856. It seems that there were other reliefs of horsemen at this place, but they disappeared during a modification of the facade in 1808.

 

To the south, a representation of the charity of Saint Martin, who, being a legionary, shares his mantle with a beggar, offering him the lining;
To the north, a relief depicting Saint George killing the dragon and saving the daughter of the king of Silenus, as recounted in The Golden Legend.
The style of the reliefs of the Roman tympanums is new in Angoumois and comes from Languedoc. They are the work of sculptors who worked on the Porte des Comtes in the Saint-Sernin basilica in Toulouse, recognizable by the use of comma folds. He inspired the sculptures of the Saint-Pierre church in Châteauneuf-sur-Charente, the Saint-Léger church in Cognac, among others.

The plants with fatty leaves of the capitals, also new, are inspired by the Poitou tradition of sculpture, for example at the Saint-Hilaire church in Melle or at the Notre-Dame church in Surgères.

Restoration work on the western facade
The Cathedral of Saint-Pierre in Angoulême is owned by the State - Ministry of Culture. The Regional Direction of Cultural Affairs of New Aquitaine (DRAC) is responsible for maintenance and restoration work on this monument. The western facade is the subject of restoration work in 2019 and 2020, under the supervision of Denis Dodeman - Chief Architect of Historic Monuments. The Regional Conservation of Historical Monuments - Poitiers site (CRMH) and the Departmental Unit of Architecture and Heritage of Charente (UDAP 16) ensure the scientific and technical control (CST) of this restoration. The financing of this project is 100% assured by the State - Ministry of Culture.

This operation is launched in a single intervention phase and comprises 8 lots for a total amount of: € 1,030,000 including tax. The realization of the panels and the site tarpaulins was designed by Olivier Thomas, author and cartoonist, to allow mediation around the site on the palisades.

A conference cycle is planned throughout the progress of the project by the Country of Art and History of Grand'Angoulême and the CRMH - Poitiers site.

To go into more detail in the restoration of the facade
The restoration takes into account the western facade but also the side faces, the rear of the western massif, the roof and associated roof, the interior spaces of the organ gallery. A scaffolding 40 m high by more than 19 m wide and 8 m deep was put in place. Protective tarpaulins will be placed and illustrated. A protection tunnel will allow an entry through the western portal to be preserved while ensuring the safety of the site and the public. The roofing will be revised to be identical (hollow tile) with replacement of the batten and repair of the waterproofing structures as new. The gutters and downspouts are also revised. The current anti-bird screens will be removed because they are in very poor condition, and replaced by water-repellent anti-bird copper screens for the five oculi.

The bell stone roofing will be cleaned, treated and repointed. The screens in place in the bays of the pinnacles will be checked. Biocidal treatment of mosses and lichens which have developed on the protruding parts: capitals, entablatures, friezes of blind arches, shafts of back-to-back columns as well as on hollow parts. Vegetation eradication will also be carried out. The cleaning of the facings on the old parts and the sculpted parts, will be done by neutral exfoliant of the latex type or clay compress.

The cleaning of the upper parts will be done by micro-exfoliation at low pressure dry or by cryogenics. Siding areas contaminated with sodium chloride will be desalted and soluble anions will have to be extracted. Tests will be carried out by applying compresses and poultices. Depending on the results, this intervention process will be systematized on the exterior and interior facings. Checks after each intervention will be carried out. A disintegration of the epidermis has been observed on the original parts particularly exposed to bad weather. The preliminary study reveals the characterization of more than twelve different mortars of different ages and different constitution. Leveling mortars were put in place during restorations in the 1970s.

 

These additional moldings, made to allow a better reading of the facade, are now yellowed and dissolve under the action of rain and environmental pollution. The removal of exogenous metallic elements will be carried out, as well as the treatment by stone consolidating research with ethyl silicate on the old facings. Removal of stones from plain facings or fractured or peeling moldings and identical replacement on recent facings and in research on old facings. The basement stones altered since they are directly subjected to capillary rise will be replaced by new stones identical to those already restored twice in the 19th century. The sculptures will be cleaned, and will receive a pre-consolidating treatment as well as a specific consolidation.

For the most altered, they will be deposited and stored in the departmental archaeological deposit. New stones from Sireuil will be cut and sculpted, representing the apostles and the characters identically. The Saint George sword blade will be replaced. The axial stained glass will be removed and restored as well as the north stained glass. The roof of the western massif will be cleaned, the vegetation eradicated, and will receive a biocide treatment. The cement joints will be purged and redone with lime. The handrail will be re-sealed.

The bell tower and the bells
The northern bell tower, 59 m high, consists of six floors. The bell tower, except for the first floor, is a complete 19th century reconstruction.
The first floor is lit on each side by a semicircular bay with smooth piers;
The second floor is decorated with four blind arcades which conceal the level of the dome;
On the third, two twin and bilobed berries animate each side;
The fourth floor, set back from the others, is pierced by three double arched bays;
The fifth is pierced with three semicircular bays, receiving a veneer of three bilobed bays;
The sixth is flanked by a short column in each corner; four bays animate each of its faces.

Before the restoration, a cut-off spire, covered with slate, crowned the bell tower. The arrow is clearly visible in the photograph above, taken in 1851, before the restoration of Abadie.

This tower houses a ringing of 5 bells provided by the foundry GUILLAUME, foundry father and son in Angers, in 1863.

Sunday October 23, 1863, Monsignor Antoine-Charles Cousseau, Bishop of Angoulême, baptized these 5 bells:
Pierre and Paul (drone): The 2 - 4,120 kilos
Marie: Re 3 - 1,600 kilos
Caroline: Mi 3 - 1,150 kilos
Marguerite: Fa # 3 - 810 kilos
Henriette: Sol 3 - 622 kilos

The Door of Mercy
Like many other religious sites around the world, Saint-Pierre d'Angoulême Cathedral has a Mercy Gate, a door which, alongside the holy doors open every 25 years or according to the exceptions set by the Pope of Rome during the course of the Holy Years or Jubilees, was established at Saint-Pierre d'Angoulême Cathedral following the desire of Pope Francis to see the current Jubilee of Mercy spread all over the world. In short, this door, like all the other doors of Mercy, assists the Holy Doors in their roles in the present Jubilee of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis which runs from December 8, 2015 to November 20, 2016.

The Treasure by Jean-Michel Othoniel
The project to enhance the treasury of Angoulême cathedral was initiated in 2008. Then in 2010, the State entrusted the scenography to the sculptor Jean-Michel Othoniel, as part of an artistic public commission, supported by sponsorship from Engie.

The Treasury occupies the Gothic Saint-Thibaud chapel, located along the eastern wall of the south transept of the cathedral, as well as two rooms on the first floor of this chapel.

The route therefore takes place in "3 stations", where the artist has completely transformed the space, where you can discover, in particular, nearly 150 restored objects of sacred art.

The first room on the ground floor is dedicated to the Lapidary, recovered by Abadie during the first restoration of the cathedral in the 19th century.
The second room upstairs is dedicated to the Commitment and is dedicated to the figure of the priest and the rituals that accompany him in his faith (with furniture adorned with black Murano blown glass beads, inspired by prayer beads).

 

The third room upstairs (known as Le Merveilleux) is an explosion of gold and color with a number of stained glass windows with a blue background, produced by the Loire workshops (Chartres). The walls are adorned with a gold and blue patterned tapestry (handmade by the Offard workshop in Tours). Symbolically, the lines of the floor, walls and stained glass converge in the center of the cross of the large stained glass window. Finally, in front of the latter is affixed a reliquary, created by the artist, intended to house a relic of Saint Pierre Aumaître, a Charente priest who died in 1866 as a martyr in Korea and canonized in 1984.
This inauguration is, however, part of a larger project (initiated in 2007 by the Regional Directorate of Cultural Affairs / Regional Conservation of Historic Monuments), aimed at restoring the neo-Romanesque state of the cathedral, which was significantly altered in the 19th century.

The restoration of Angoulême Cathedral and the staging of its treasury, thus testify to the consistency that the State deploys in the promotion of its heritage throughout the national territory.

As part of this project, a film was produced18 and a book published.

The treasure can be visited. However, the number of visitors is limited to 25 people and they can only be done by appointment at the Pays d'Angoulême Tourist Office.

 

Saint-André Church, rue Taillefer;
Notre-Dame d'Obézine Church, rue de Montmoreau;
Saint-Ausone Church;
Saint-Jacques de l'Houmeau church, rue André Lamaud;
Saint-Martial Church, Place Saint-Martial;
Sainte-Bernadette Church, rue Marguerite d'Angoulême;
Saint-Pierre Aumaître church, rue Pierre-Aumaître;
Saint-Cybard Church, Place Mulac;
Church of the Sacred Heart, rue Archambault.
Saint-Paul Church, boulevard Jean Moulin;

Protestant worship
Temple of Angoulême, rue de Bélat;
Protestant parish center Pasteur, rue de Périgueux;
Evangelical Church, rue Fontchaudière;
Free Evangelical Church, rue de la Corderie;
Seventh-day Adventist Church, Impasse Parmentier.

Mormon worship
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a place of worship on rue du Père-Marquette

Muslim worship
Mosque. 55, rue de la Charité.

 

 

History

Angoulême stands on the site of the ancient Inculisma in Aquitaine. Since 379, this colony was the seat of the bishop, and was later renamed Ecolisma or Encolisma. Clovis took it away from the Visigoths in 507 and founded a cathedral in it. Already at that time it was a fairly significant city, and in the following centuries Angoulême played an important role in military history. In the 9th century, the city was plundered by the Normans.

The area in which Angoulême lies was formerly called Angumua and in the old days, from the 9th century, it was a county. The male knee of the Counts of Angumua was cut short in 1218 with the death of Emar Tilfer; the county, through the female heiress, Isabella (second wife of John Lackland), passed to the house of Lusignan.

In 1302, when Hugh XIII Lusignan died without heirs in the male tribe, Philip the Fair annexed this county to his possessions, and since then it has been an inheritance with a county title for members of the royal house (except for the period 1360-1373, when the city belonged to the British) ... Since 1394 Angoulême is the inheritance of the Dukes of Orleans, the younger branch of the dynasty. So, the youngest son of Louis of Orleans, Jean, was a Count of Angoulême, and his grandson ascended the throne under the name of Francis I. The latter in 1515 renamed this county a duchy and gave it to his mother, Louise of Savoy. By this time, the "duchy", firmly held by the king, remained so only nominally.

The title of Duke of Angoulême was held by the third son of Francis I, Charles (died in 1545), who, as Charles V's son-in-law, had to conclude peace between France and Spain. Charles IX also held the title of Duke of Angoulême before his accession to the throne. Here in 1619 the Treaty of Angouleme was concluded between Queen Maria de Medici and her son, King of France Louis XIII the Just, which ended the civil war in France.

The last Duke of Angoulême was Louis-Antoine (1775-1844), who ruled under the name of Louis XIX for several minutes in 1830.

In Angoulême, the poet Mellen de Saint-Jelay was born, the famous architect J.-B. Wallen-Delamot is a corresponding member of the Paris Academy of Architecture, who worked in Russia from 1759 to 1775, was a professor at the Academy of Arts. In Angoulême, the oldest surviving color photograph was taken by the French photographer Louis Duc du Aurone, dating back to 1872.

Since the 14th century, paper factories have flourished in the city, and later printing houses, thanks to the year-round availability of clean water at an almost constant temperature, coming from underground rivers. According to ESBE, by the end of the 19th century there were “21 large paper mills in Angoulême, distilleries, wax refineries, tanneries and armories. Trade, the focus of which is the suburb of Gumo, is carried out mainly in paper, bread, wine, vodka, hemp, flax, truffles, chestnuts, soap, salt, corks, barrel boards, iron and copper goods. Not far from the city is the Terouat gunpowder factory with 17 workshops, and in the beautiful Tuvre valley, 6 km from Angoulême, a large cannon foundry founded in 1750, which can supply up to 680 guns annually ”.

In 1903, during the Paris-Madrid auto race, Marcel Renault, one of the founders of Renault, died near Angoulême. In the 20th century, the city was famous for its auto racing; the circular route along the boulevards of Angouleme, which were broken up on the site of the former ramparts - one of the three surviving and operating in France (after Monaco and Pau).

In 1940, after the surrender of France, Angoulême found himself west of the border between the Vichy and occupied territories. In 1944, during the Normandy operation, the Angoulême railway station (Bordeaux-Poitiers line) was heavily bombed.