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24.1.06

10th-Century Church in Angers Rediscovered

Archeology on Ionarts:

Tomb of St. Peter on the Vatican Hill (October 2, 2003)

Site of Early Christian Basilica Discovered in Arles (November 17, 2003)

Update on the Arles Excavation (November 20, 2003)

If You Dig, You Will Find It [early basilica excavation in Marseilles] (January 21, 2004)

Gallo-Roman Mosaics Discovered in Besançon (April 19, 2004)

Amphitheater Discovered in Aix-en-Provence (May 27, 2004)

Roman Venus Discovered in Cologne (October 7, 2004)

Excavating the Roman Suburbs (October 15, 2004)

Roman Necropolis Discovered in Modena (December 4, 2004)

Charles IX's Wall under the Orangerie (February 3, 2005)
Whenever I travel in Europe, I go out of my way to see Carolingian and Romanesque buildings, because they are just not all that common. Here's a new one to add to my list, what is being called "one of the best preserved Carolingian churches in France," which will be opened to the public this summer after an extended period of work. An article by Anne-Marie Romero (Vingt siècles d'histoire à Saint-Martin d'Angers, January 19) in Le Figaro has the information (my translation):
A big bravo to the Département du Maine-et-Loire for its unfailing audacity and tenacity. Twenty years ago, it bought a ruined church, Saint-Martin, in the heart of the old town of Angers, stifled between a private school and 19th-century homes that masked its entryway, an inaccessible church, unknown even to the residents of Angers, on which no one probably would have bet a franc. After 20 years of excavation and restoration led with enthusiasm and passion by the departmental archeologist, Daniel Prigent, and the Chief Architect of Historical Monuments, Gabor Mester de Paradj, today it is a moving, restored edifice with extreme delicacy, allowing one to view the four early Christian churches buried in the basement, just shown to the press before its official inauguration on June 23. Eight million euros worth of work, of which 3.5 million were underwritten by the state, and a strong political will came together to meet an outrageous challenge.
The choir and transept of the uppermost church are in an early Gothic style (12th century), while the nave and belltower are from the 10th century. Built on ancient foundations, the first small church on the site is from the 5th century, the first Christian era of Angers, called Juliomagus by the Romans. That building was expanded in the 6th and 7th centuries. The final plan of the 10th-century building is unusual because the nave (22 meters) is shorter than the choir (28 meters). Saint-Martin d'Angers will no longer function as a church, but it will house a collection of statues (14th to 20th century) given to the town of Angers by a bishop, as well as the pieces found in the excavations. There are also plans to host a series of concerts in the church as well. It all sounds very exciting. I have not found any pictures yet, but we'll watch for more news when the monument opens to the public this June.

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