Pays de la Loire

Loire-Atlantique Maine-et Loire Mayenne Sarthe Vendée
Maine et Loire
Angers Château de Brézé Cizay-la-Madeleine
Abbaye Asni
Cunault Denezé-sous-le-Lude
Abbaye de la Boissière
Fontevraud l'Abbaye Lasse
Saint-Florent-le-Vieil Trèves Vihiers Vaulandry      
Fontevraud l'Abbaye
The Abbey
There is no parking at the Abbey apart for those staying at the hotel but there is free parking offered by the Abbey just across the road as well as  nearby in the town, where there are also free facilities for camper vans. There is an entrance fee to the Abbey; seasons tickets are also available for a little more and are very good value. There are no charges for photography and tripods and flash may be used. When in Fontevraud l'Abbaye also visit the medieval parish church and the Lantern of the Dead (interior not yet open).
Visit the Abbey's website here
This  is a magnificent place to visit: the largest monastic complex in western Europe which originally housed five monasteries. There are actually three chuches on the site but that shown here is that of le Grand Moutier.  (old French for monastery)
The church houses the painted tuffeau effigies of the English Kings, Henry II, his son, Richard the Lionheart, Henry's Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine and the wooden effigy of King John's Queen, Isabella of Angoulême. Why were they buried here? They were not only kings of England but rulers of an extensive area of what is now France: Dukes of Normandy, of Aquitaine, Counts of Anjou, Touraine and Maine and overlords of Brittany, often called the 'Angevin Empire', although this was not a contemporary term. Neither was it an empire and the expression would not have been recognised by those concerned. The kings died in France and the queens died in retirement in the Abbey.

The church has been extensively excavated but no trace of coffins or remains have been found. However the effigies, which have moved around over the years, are now thought to rest where the burials took place, at the eastermost part of the nave. Henry and Eleanor's daughter, Joanne, who died in childbirth, is also buried in the Abbey but no monument has been found. Her son, Raymond VII of Toulouse was also buried in the Abbey and an effigy thought to be his was excavated several years ago; however this is not yet on display in the Abbey. A wall painting, nearly complete, said to be that of Raymond, remains on a pillar of the crossing. Several other sculptures have also been excavated but whether these represent funerary monuments is not known. On display in the visitors' centre is the effigial head only (the rest of the monument having been lost) of the founder of the Abbey, Robert d'Arbrissel, but this is not contemporary.
The complex is no longer a working abbey nor the prison into which it was converted by Napoleon: it is run by the French state as a cultural centre and may be visited..
 The photographs flanking the title show 1. The west end and entrance to the Abbey Church, 2. The east end of the Abbey Church, 3. The interior of the church looking east where the effigies can be just seen in the centre, and 4. The main cloister.
Far left: Hand coloured etching by Charles Stothard of the effigy of Henry II before its restoration.
Left: Similar of Eleanor of Aquitaine
Right: Similar of Richard the Lion Heart
Far Right: Similar of Isabelle of Angoulême
Above: The effigies as they are arranged today.
Henry II 1189 Eleanor of Aquitaine 1204
Richard the Lion Heart 1199 Isabelle of Angoulême 1246

Early Drawings of the Effigies from the Gaignières Collection (c.1700)
This pre-revolutionary collection of drawings of the Fontevraud effigies, executed before 1700 - and about 100 years before the Stothard etchings - shows them in a relatively undamaged stage; particularly Eleanor is holding her book which had broken away with most of  both her hands by the time Stothard visited Fontevraud.

In neither of these collections is Henry or Richard shown holding a scepter. If you visit the monuments today you will find that Henry is doing just that while Richard is not. It is quite possible that Henry did hold a scepter from the position of his hands and the fact that royal effigies usually did so. Richard does not hold a scepter today although one was added for a while and can be seen in early photographs of his effigy. The position of his hands makes it unlikely that he is holding a scepter in the manner of his father. The royal effigies in Saint-Denis are represented as holding a scepter with one hand only - as is Richard's effigy at Rouen - and often resting it on the shoulder with the other hand holding a garment; perhaps this was the case here.

Some Notes on the Monuments

Because the effigies of Henry and Richard are of similar appearance - note the relatively low relief and the folds of the garments - it is thought that they were both constructed around same time, probably on the orders of Eleanor; this would date them to the first years of the 13th century. That of Eleanor was constructed later - note the higher relief and the more realistic carving of the drapery folds - most likely later in the same century. That of Isabelle presents a problem: it is smaller and made of wallnut. Isabelle died at Fontevraud in 1246 and was originally buried in the nuns' cemetery. Her son King Henry III visited Fontevraud (Gascony was still in English hands) in     and ordered that his mother's remains  be transferred to the church and a monument made. Perhaps the wooden effigy was carved at this time so that Henry could see it, there being no stone carver nor sufficiently large stone block on site at that time. Perhaps this was a prototype and it was intended that a tuffeau effigy would be constructed later. This, however, is speculation as I have found no relevant references.

It is generally agreed that the tuffeau female effigy is that of Eleanor and the the two male effigies are those of Henry and Richard. But which is Henry and which is Richard? They are traditionally ascribed as above but foremost Plantagenet expert Professor John Gillingham  expresses uncertainty. The authorities at the Abbey tell me that they have evidence for the identification but they have never presented it to me.

The late art historian Professor George Zarnecki stated that the wooden effigy cannot be that of Isabelle as she died more than forty years after the others and that the effigy was constructed at the same time as that of Eleanor. I believe that he bases the latter assertion on the fact that the design is similar to that of Eleanor's and that an effigy of a different style would have been constructed forty years later. This seems to me to be faulty reasoning as there is nothing to stop a later effigy being constructed in an earlier style, which is only forty years earlier anyway. Furthermore he does not indicate whom the effigy might possibly represent. The fact that the effigy is made of wood also contradicts his statement, which I think can be totally rejected.

Effigy of Raymond VII to follow

Other Monuments

Above: Pierre de Poitiers, Bishop of Poitiers. Destroyed

Gaignières Collection

Right: Wall painting representing Raymond VII, Count of Toulouse . I will add a drawing of the effigy, thought to be his, in due course. Raymond VII was the son of Raymond VI of Toulouse and Joanne, daughter of Henry and Eleanor.

 Above left: Early 17th century monument to Robert d'Arbrissel (c 1117)  Probably drawn later that century. (Gaignières Collection) Centre Top:  Head from the destroyed effigy, the only fragment remaining of the effigy;now on display in the 'treasury' - the original warming room, which leads from the east aspect of the main cloister. Center Bottom: His coffin is shown just below the floor of the abbey church between two pillars on thesouth aspect of the choir. Right: The superstructure of the monument today. The tomb chest and the torso of the effigy are lost.

Robert d'Arbrissel Exhibition at Fontevraud
12th and 13th November 2016

Robert d'Arbrissle did not die at Fontevraud but at another of his foundations, the Priory of Our Lady of Orsan at Maisonnais, Berry in 1116. The nuns and monks of Fontevraud who has arrived at Orsan a few days before Robert's death, carried  his body back to their abbey and deposited them in the cloister for safe keeping. However a deputation arrived from Berry and carried the body by force back to Orsan and ordered a sarcophagus, totally ignoring Robert's last wishes to be buried in the mud of Fontevraud. The Abbess of Fontevraud, Petronille de Chamillé, resisted, calling on the Pope, God and threatening a hunger strike of the community. Finally, after many negotiations, it was decided that his heart was to remain at Orsan while his unembalmed body was to be returned to Fontevraud.

Abbess Petronille de Chemillé, following the founder's wishes, did not particularly favour the veneration of Robert and by burying him in the choir of the abbey church, it was not possible for the public to visit his tomb. (see above) She did, however, submit papers to the then pope, Calixtus II, during his visit to Fontevraud in the summer of 1119, in an attempt to effect his canonization although this was in vain.

In 1621 Abbess Louise de Bourbon, one of the few abbesses who wished to maintain the cult of Robert, organized the construction of a memorial to his memory (see above). This necessitated opening of the original tomb  and the bones found therein were enclosed in a lead casket and placed in the new tomb to which the public still did not have access. (right) She also submitted papers to the then pope, Clement IX, in a further attempt at Robert's canonization but this came to nothing following the death of both the Pope and the Abbess shortly afterwars.

A further attempt at canonization occurred in 1853, the Fontevraud sisters submitting a petition to the Holy See. This again failed because of Robert's alleged vices. Nevertheless the title 'Blessed' is granted to him in the calendar of the church of Poitier.

In contrast the Prioress of Orsan encouraged public veneration of Robert, his heart being enclosed in a 'stone pyramid'. At some point the heart was transferred to a silver reliquary. (Left top) which now contains a small bottle holding the remains of the heart. (Left bottom).

The last of the nuns left Fontevraud in 1792 but the observance of the Order of Fontevraud persisted in the daughter houses of Chemillé, Brioude and Boulaur.
In the early part of the 19th century excavations at Fontevraud led to the discovery of the lead casket referred to above, and this, presumably with the silver reliquary, were entrusted to the  nuns of Chemillé in 1847.

In 1956 the Order of Fontevraud was attached to the Benedictine Order  and in 1961 the Chemillé nuns joined the Benedictine Priory of Barre, in Martigné-Briand, Maine-et-Loire, taking the relics with them.

These box and reliquary were brought temporarily at Fontevraud for the above exhibition

The inscription on the lid of the lead box (above bottom right) are in French which may be translated thus: 'In this coffer are the bones and ashes of the worthy body of the venerable Father Robert d'Arbrissel, a teacher and founder of the Order of Fontevrault, which were found in his tomb when it was raised and erected in this place beside the great altar by command and care of the worthy Abbess and Head of the said Order Lady Loyse de Bourbon on 5th October 1622.'

Note that Robert d'Arbristle is referred to as 'Father'. Although there were attempts to canonize him this failed and he had never received the title of Saint or Blessed at that time. Note also the older or alternate spelling of Fontevraud.

Cathédrale Sainte-Maurice
Guillame Angebault (1790-1869)
 Bishop of Angers (1842-1869)
Radulphus de Bello Monte Claude de Rueil
Charles Montault Des Isles (1755-1839)
Bishop 1802-1839
Bishop Noel Pinot      
Left: Representation of the destroyed monument of 'Good King René' Note the heraldry painted on the wall behind the monument, which may still be see:
Above: Wall painting, now mainly obscured by wooden panelling, in front of which was the above tomb.
Right: A slab from 1850 commemorating members of the royal house of Anjou who wer buried in the Cathedral:
Louis I (1384), Marie of Brittany (1404), Louis II (1417), Yolande of Aragon (1442), René the Good (1480), Isabelle of Lorraine (1452), Marguerite of Anjou (1482) & Jeanne de Laval (1492). Isabelle and Jeanne were the wives of King René and Marguerite his daughter - the latter is known in Britain as Queen Margaret of Anjou, wife of King Henry VI of England.

Front of the mortuary chest of Ulgar, bishop of Angers 1125 - 1148. Oak, brass gilded and varnished
Le Musée des Beaux-Arts

Although this late 16th century kneeling effigy was formerly in the Cathedral, it is now housed in the museum

Photograph by Dr John Physick
  St John's Hospital  
This building was a medieval hospital which is now a museum housing the magnificent tapestries of  Jean Lurçat in the former large hospital ward. There are also remains of a cloister, which contains the minor monuments shown below, as well as a chapel; the latter is not open to the public but I understand - although I have not yet confirmed this - that it contains possibly three effigies. The museum is worth a visit for the fine architecture as well as the amazing tapestries; as usual in France there is a modest entrance fee and photography is allowed. You can park across the road from the museum in a large free car park on the banks of the Loire

Above: Elizabeth de Soland (1813) Tuffeau. Attrib. Pierre-Louis David (father of sculptor David d'Angers. From old cemetry du Clon, Angers.
Center: August-Jean-Marie Trouillet de Bléré (1822) First Liuetenant of  Louis XVI. Marble. From Chapel of the Bouteillerie at Brain-sur-l'Authion, Maine-et-Loire
Cross 1603 From Old church of St James, Angers

Château de Brézé

This is one of the 'Loire Châteaux', the style now being that of the Renaissance. However below the ground is a vast series of tunnels and rooms from the twelfth century.
There is an entrance charge to the chateau; however there is a reduction to here and other monuments if you have an annual pass to Fontevraud Abbey, which cost little more than a single visit. Opening times vary. Check on the website below:
This is a fragmentary military effigy which looks late 15th - early 16th century, which I discovered in a store room in the subterranean part of the château. There is no indication of its origin let alone whom it may represent.
Chênehutte - Trèves - Cunault
A commune on the south bank of La Loire, west of Saumur
Cunault Priory
Church open. Park opposite the church - free car park. A magnificent church and well worth a visit.
The monument is of a 14th century prior. But what is the animal at his feet?
Trèves - St Aubin
Church open - park outside
Effigy of Robert le Maçon (1443), Baron of Trèves and Chancellor of France in the time of Charles VII. He built the 'donjon',which can be seen next to the church.
Abbaye Asnières
Former Benedictine Abbey of around 50 monks, founded by Barnard de Tiron, a colleague of Robert Arbristle, the founder of Fontevraud. The abbey, now partly ruined, is about 10 miles from Fontevraud and about a mile outside the village of Cizay-la-Madeleine.  This village should be shown on satnavs although the abbey will probable not be. It is shown in the larger scale IGN maps. Head for Cizay-la-Madeleine and there the abbey is signposted.
47°10.50' N  0°12' W;  Code 49 70 0
Open July to August 11.00AM - 6.00PM, except Tuesdays and/or Mondays. But check this on website. May also be open from mid May until 30th June except Monday and Tuesday. Entrance fee €6.50; children (8-18) 4€. Parking outside.
Website:  E-mail:

Abbot, early 13th C. This is very similar to the Fontevraud effigies. Traces of original polychrome

Another abbot but later. Very poor condition. There may well have been a draped bier carved as above and as the Fontevraud monuments but this is now difficult to determine. We now have in addion  an animal (lion?) to support the feet and two angels at the head supporting a pillow. There is also a seated monk (?) near the feet of the effigy reading a book. Neither in situ.

Far left: Incised slab of abbot
Left: Incised slab with pair of abbots. Canopies above the heads are just discernable.
These are now clamped to the walls but all burials were in the choir
Above: Modern  floor slab dated 1744. Renee Cuiard
Stone coffins in situ. Note the tiled pavement in the centre photograph.

Abbaye de la Boissière
The abbey is north of the village but do not enter the village but rather remain on the D767 which leads from Noyant (south) to Le Lude (north); the abbey is then signposted on your right - if you are travelling north - shortly after passing Denezé-sous-le-Lude.  The abbey is on private property and only the chancel now remains, the rest of the buildings having being either demolished or converted into a private house. The abbey is open to visitors from 1st August to 15th September. There are no signs outside so it is not obvious on arrival where the actual entrance  is to be found, so it may be better to telephone beforehand to ask for advice. Excellent English is spoken. Contact details may be found  here. There is no charge for these individual visits. Parties of 20 to 80 persons may visit at anytime; but prebooking is required; there is a charge here of €5 per person. Park on the roadside outside. Ref: 47°33.2' N/0° 07.8'E

These very fine effigies were discovered buried in the monks' cmemtery in the early 20th century, where they are said to have been hidden during the French Revolution. Some of the original polychrome can still  be detected. They are said to be of Guilleaume Chamaillard d'Anthenaise (1391) and his wife Mairie de Beaumont,  both benefactors to the abbey. The military effigy was originally situated in a niche in the south wall of the Chapel of the True Cross. ( see below); the lady was presumably oringinally, as now,  in the abbey church.

The Chapel of the True Cross

West of the abbey is the Chapel of the True Cross; this is so called because Jean d'Alluye brought back a piece of the true cross from Crete during the Crusade of 1239 (or Barons' Crusade) and sold it to the abbey, where it was initially kept. The chapel was built in 1246 specifically to house this relic, so that it could be venerated by pilgrims.
Left: Exposed stone coffin with shafts of four long bones and fragments. These bones have been date to around the year 800.

Above: Tomb recess, also visible in the interior photograph above. This originally contined the military effigy which is now in the church, above.

Abbaye de Saint-Florent
Enter the village and then head for 'Maire Abbaye' listed on the brown sign posts. Park in free car park nearby. Church is open, entry is free and there is no restriction on photography.
Charles-Melchior Argus, Marquis of Bonchamps d.o.w. following Battle of Cholet (1792) By David of Angers (Pierre-Jean David) (1825) His last act was to pardon 5,000 republican prisoners whom his troops had vowed to kill in revenge for his death; the sculptors father was one of them. Bonchamps was admired by royalists and republicans alike.

Vaulandry - St Peter's Church
Church open. Park in very pleasant car park outside.
Ref: 47° 36.0' N/0° 02.8' W
Messire  François-Henry de Menon (16__) and Dame Madeleine de la Tour (1627).

Lasse - Church of St Peter
Church locked. Park in small, free car park across the road and a very short walk away
Ref: 47° 32.2' N/0° 00.7' E

The church was locked but this may have been because of major repair works being carried out. I will revisit later.
There is reported an engraved tombstone (insiced slab?) of Isabeau de la Plesse, dame of Bouchet (1327) and her husband.

Guérande Haute-Goulaine La Meilleraye-de-Bretagne Nantes
The department of Loire-Atlantic was formerly part of the Duchy of Brittany but was included in the Pays-de-la-Loire region when these administrative regions were created in the 1950's. Nantes - formely the capital of Brittany - is now the departmental capital as well as the capital of Pays-de-la-Loire. There is a large multi-storey car park a short walk from the churches and other pay car parks around the city. On this occasions we took the excellent train service to Gare-de-Nord.

Cathedral Church of St Peter & St Paul
Place St Pierre
The cathedral is free to enter and photography is allowed.; there is neither shop (just a desk selling guide books) nor refectory. There are a few guides: free guided tours are available and entry to the crypt is also free to visit. The two large tombs complement each other by being in either of the short transepts. The bishops' tombs and effigies are in St Clair's Chapel on the south side of the nave immediately next to the south transept. Ref: 47° 13.07' N/ 1° 32.94' W

François II, Duke of Brittany (1488) and Marguerite de Foix (1486). The tomb of white (from Genoa) and black marble (from Liège), now in the south transept, was constructed 1502-1507 to the design the painter Jean Perréal  by sculptor Michel Colombe, assisted by his nephew Guillaume Regnault.
François first married Marguerite of Brittany who died in 1469; he then married Marguerite of Foix, who became the mother of Anne of Brittany. His first wife had chosen the Carmelite chapel in Nantes for her burial place but his second wife was buried in the cathedral. To complicate matters François wished to be buried next to his first wife. However when Anne of Brittany arranged to have a tomb constructed to honour her parents, she decided it would be place in the Carmelite chapel and not in the cathedral and that it would contain the remains of her father and both of his wives, although the female effigy would be that of her mother. After Anne's death, her heart was placed in a gold casket and placed in the tomb, although her body was buried in St Denis, Paris.
During the Revolution the Carmelite chapel was demolished but fortunately the tomb was dismantled  by the architect Mathurin Crucy to be saved and hidden.  In 1817 it was reset where we see it today. All the remains were lost but the gold heart casket is on display in the Dobrée museum in Nantes. It has been reported that the body of Duke Arthur lll of Brittany (d. 1458) had been placed in the tomb in 1817; in fact the remains of a Carthusian were removed from their cemetery and placed there. I have not been able to discover the source of this curiosity.

Note that two single angels support the pillows of François and  Marguerite while a third angel supports both pillows; the former's feet rest on lion which holds the arms of François on a shield while the latter's feet rest on a greyhound which holds the arms of Brittany marshaled with Foix on a lozenge. On the long sides of the tomb chest there are niches containing statues of the Apostles, while on the short side niches contain their patron saint: St Francis of Assisi and St Margaret at the feet and  at their heads St Louis and St Charlemagne (or Sampson, King of Brittany). Below these figures are mourners are kneeling.

At the angles of the tomb chest stand the Cardinal Virtues; from left to right above are Temperance, holding a clock and a bridle bit, Strength, wresting a dragon from a tower, Justice, holding a sword, scales and a law book, and Prudence, who has two faces and holds dividers, a hand mirror and a serpent. These are shown centre above with various details to their side and below.

 Prudence is said to be a portrait of Anne of Brittany herself. (right)

Some Notes on François II, Duke of Brittany
Duke François II spent his reign attempting to maintain the Duchy of Brittany independent from the French crown. In 1488 he and his allies were defeated by the French and François was compelled to submit himself as a vassal of the French crown and his ability to marry his children to a suitor of his choosing was restricted. He died a few months after this humiliation as a result of a fall from his horse, leaving only one legitimate child, Anne of Brittany, aged 12. She was crowned Duchess of Brittany in her own right and in attempt to maintain the independence of her duchy was married, aged 13, by proxy to Maximillian (Habsburg) of Austria in Rennes cathedral. The French regarded this as an extreme provocation: not only did it violate the arrangement forced on her father mentioned above but it would also lead to France being surrounded by Hapsburgh lands. In 1491 Charles VIII invaded Brittany and forced Anne to marry him at Langeais.

Left: Bishop Guillaume Guéguen  (1506) by Michel Colombe. He was vice-chancellor of Brittany. The tomb was commissioned by Duchess Anne (1510) Neither the effigy (shown again above top) nor the actual slab belong. The tomb was damaged at the Revolution and is now empty.
Above: Top is the bishop from the left; bottom another now on a modern plinth. One of these bishops' effigies is said to be Henri le Barbu (1419)

Incised slab in the Sacred Heart Chapel (Nave north) 15th century Messire Goaud 18th Drawing of the Brittany tomb
Despite the style and impossible perspective, an accurate rendering

Cenotaph of General Christophe de Lamoricière, who was actually buried in the St. Philbert de Grandlieu cemetery (Loire-Atlantique). The cenotaph is the work of  Boitte but the recumbent effigy and angle statues are by Paul Dubois

Strength, a warrior Faith, a young girl praying Wisdom, an old man, a scribe Charity, a woman with two children, breast feeding one
These statues symbolize the General's virtues. Note the two children: the one being breast fed is an African, the sleeping child a European. A reference to the General's campaign in Africa.

Some Notes on General Christophe de Lamoricière (b. Nantes 1806; d. 1865)
Coming from a military family Christophe de Lamoricière joined the army as a young man. He was one of the conquerors of Algeria and accepted the surrender of Emir Abdelkader, the spiritual and religious leader of the Algerians. He was much respected by the Arabs for his skill, bravery and polite attitude. Retiring from the army he was elected deputy for Sarthe and was for a time minister of war. He submitted a plan for the free rather than military colonization of Algeria. He was exiled for his opposition to Napoleon III but allowed to return after six years. He accepted command of the papal armies defending the papal states against the encroaching armies of the emerging liberal Italian nation. He was defeated by the forces of Victor Emmanuel II (first king of a united Italy since the 7th century) against overwhelming odds at Castelfidarda in 1860

Basilica of Saint Nicolas
5 Rue Affre
A short walk from the cathedral. Church is open. No charge for entry or photography
Ref: 47° 12.88' N/1° 33.47' W

Bishop Félix Fournier (1887)
Before his election as Bishop of Nantes he was priest  at St Nicholas. He was responsible for the building of the present church, as well as restoration of the cathedral, and was once elected deputy to the Constituent Assembly. He was killed during a pilgrimage to Rome in 1887.

Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity
The church was made a cathedral in 1855, although it dates from the 11th century. As with many French cathedrals it is open, free to enter, photography is allowed, there is neither shop nor refectory and staff are rarely seen. Head for the Old Town where you can park near the cathedral for no charge; curiously in the New Town, parking is charged for.
Ref: 48°04'N/ 0°46'E

Above & Right: Two bishops. 1. Bishop William Ouvroin (1347) He was bishop of the medieval diocese of Rennes. He was born and died in Laval. Effigy of Carrara marble.
2. Bishop Louis-Victor-Emile Bougaud (1888) Appointed bishop of Laval in 1886. Bronze effigy; his stone is shown on the far right. Fourth bishop of Laval
Bishop Wicart - First bishop of Laval who was appointed 1855. This is a cenotaph; for his stone see below
Bishop Casimir-Alexis-Joseph Wicart (1876)
First Bishop of Laval
Bishop Jules-Denis-Marie-Dieudonné Le Hardy du Marais (1887)
Second Bishop of Laval
Bishop Victor Maréchal (1887) Third bishop of Laval Bishop Eugène-Jacques Grellier (1939) Seventh bishop of Laval.
His stone is shown right
Bishops Eugène-Jacques Grellier (1939) Seventh Bishop. Charles-Marie-Jacques Guilhem (1975) Eleventh Bishop. Paul-Louis Carrière (2008) Twelfth bishop
The stones for Bishop Wicart and for the three bishops are wall mounted, although it looks rather like they would have once covered a vault  

Chapel Notre-Dame de Pritz
Just outside the town. There's no actual parking at the chapel but you can park in a roadside parking area a very short walk away towards Laval on the opposite side of the road - drive round the round-about just after the chapel and head for Laval. The chapel is locked and privately own; please contact the Tourist Office in Laval for permission to visit 
Ref: 48°05'N/0°47'W

Above: André Mérienne, lord and beneractor of this place, and his wife. 13th century. Note the angels are not in their usual place holding a pillow but rather at waist height; they appear to be holding incense burners. Also note the incription on André's slab: around the feet and continuing along the slab in the more usual fashion.
Below: Cross slab, not too accurate, in low relief
Right: Incised slab.
Please note: the above are the only monuments I have discovered in Mayenne. If you know of any other of note please let me know.

Château l'Hermitage Le Mans Malicorne-sur-Sarthe Yvré-l'Évéque
l'Epau Abbey

The church from where the cloister would have stood

L'Epau Abbey
The chapter house. The effigy of Berengaria may just be made out: right of the doorway, first window opening, the tiny gray structure.
East of Le Mans, this was the foundation and burial place of Berengaria, Queen of Richard the Lionheart. Her effigy has now been returned to the chapter house and is placed over the vault where her body had remained since its burial. Please note that the effigy is not, as still given in some guide books, in Le Mans Cathedral where it was situated for safe keeping for many years. . 
The Abbey has now been restored and acts as a cultural centre - rather like Fontevraud but much smaller. There is a modest entry fee and car parking at the Abbey is free. NB: The Abbey closes for lunch.
How To Find It from the Channel Ports: Do not enter Le Mans but by pass the city north on the A11-E50; leave this road east of Le Mans on the A28, travelling south.. Leave the A28 on the N23 - the first (and only?) exit and pass through the toll gate. Ahead is a roundabout but L'Epau is not marked on the entry sign post. Take the last exit - N23R - to Changé (L'Epau is now marked telling you to "follow Le Mans"); leave Changé on the D152 to Le Mans; L'Epau is the on the right. Good luck! Do not put Changé into SatNav as there are more than one!
  Charles Stothard's etching of the effigy and details (left) and drawing of the effigy and tomb chest (above) Note: this tomb chest is not the original but a later replacement and the bones found inside by Stothard are not those of Berengaria, whose skeleton remained in the vault where she was originally buried and over which the effigy, on a modern base, has now been replaced.

The full story may be found here.
Berengaria of Navarre (     -     )
Above: the effigy; right: profile details. Now with restored nose
Far Left: Detail of the book Berengaria is holding; Above Left: jewelled clasp of the Queen's gown; Above Centre: Her purse - note the coins carved at its bottom; Above right: Animals at her feet
Far Right: Fragments of the original tomb chest.
  Le Mans  
 Cathédral St Julien
Monuments in the Chapelle des Fonts

Left and above (detail):
Guillaume de Bellay Constructed 1546; attributed to Pierre Bontemps
Right upper: Charles IV of Anjou, Count of Maine. Brother of 'Good King René. Marble by Francesco Laurana.
Right lower:
Cardinal George Grente (1872-1959)  Archbishop of Le Mans. Erected in 1965
Above Left:
Above Centre:
Jean de Beaumant
Above Right:
Theobald of Luxemburg
Wall mounted incised slab of a table tomb with effigy; the inscription to the left is impossible to read.
Église de la Coutre  

Above: The supposed burial place of St Bertrand (550-616) , Bishop of Le Mans is marked by this plaster effigy. He founded the former monastery of which this was the abbey church.

Right: Incised slab to a lady. Now against wall
Musée de Tessé

The coloured etching - by Charles A Stothard - is of the enamel plaque which formerly covered the tomb in Le Mans Cathedral of Geoffery Plantagenet (1151), Count of Anjou,  and father of Henry II of England. The plaque is now in the above museum of that city.
There are several effigies in the Musée de Tessé, which I hope to visit in the future:
1. A Viscount of Maine (?Raoul II de Beaumont-au-Maine1013)
2. A Viscount of Maine (?Raoul III 1040)
3. A Viscount of Maine (?Richard II 1249)
4. A Lady of Maine (?Mahaut d'Ambroise 1256)
Prieuré de Château-l'Hermitage
(Église Abbatiale Notre Dame)
Very quiet village. Church is in rue Geoffroy Plantagenet and open. Park outside church but there are only two car spaces available. A visitors' car park is available at the entrance to the village. Ref: 47° 48.2' N/0° 11.0'E
Marie de Bueil (15th century) Wife of Baudin de Crémon and sister of Jean de Bueil, Admiral of France under Louis XI. Inscription on slab. Below the effigy two angels carry a shield with the arms  of Crémon marshalling Bueil; the polychrome here is original.

Église Saint-Sylvestre
Large village, centre of a local porcelaine industry. Park free by the river: the church is a short walk away. Church is open but the door inside the porch is locked; however a small door to the right is open and this leads to a short corridor to the nave. An excellent booklet about the restoration of this tomb may be obtained free at the tourist office at the opposite end of the village. Ref: 47° 49.0' N/0° 05.2' W

The monument is housed in a small chapel entered by two arched doorways which are closed by grills; one of these may be see in the photograph on the bottom right on the far left hand side. The monument is thus difficult to photograph as well as I should like.

A Tale of Discovery and Restoration
(based on Tombeau du sire de Chaources)

The monument dates from the second half of the XV century and represents a member of the Chaource family, lords of Malicorne, although it is not known precisely who this might be, there being no inscription extant or recorded. It is now situated in the centre of the 'de Chaource' chapel, dedicated to St Anne; the name change dates from 1843 when the monument was first sited there, although not in the present position, after being moved around the church as well as being damaged and repaired on several occasions . The tomb chest has a series of arches containing weepers on three sides, although on one side these arches are empty. The effigy is of a figure wearing armour of the period, wearing a sword, andwith a gablet above his head.

This history of its movements can be traced, at least in outline, from the archives but the state of the monument at different periods is more uncertain. A drawing in the collection of Gaignières of 1690 shows it was first located on the left of the choir. Half a century later, owing to its poor condition, it was removed to the vault of the lords of Malicorne, located in the chapel of Beaumanor which adjoins the south flank of the choir.

Rediscovered in 1828, it was brought back into the church and placed in the nave in front of the altar of St James. Fifteen years later, following complaints from the parishioners that it took up too much space, it was decided to embed it under an arch in the west wall of St Anne's Chapel. A later photographs shows that only one face of the tomb chest remains visible - the left long side. There were six arcades on this face containing weepers. A large arch at this time was also cut to join the chapel with the nave.

A restoration project was launched in 1989 by the Historic Monuments Service. In 1992 several stone fragments were discovered built into two altars and indentified as having belong to the tomb. The head and foot  faces of the tomb chest were discovered containing very mutilated weepers, one face being broken in two pieces. Half of the orginal slab which originally supported the effigy was also discoved although this had been sawn in two at some point.

In spite of the lack of the right hand longitudinal face of the tomb chest these discoveries confirm what the survey prepared for Gaignières suggests: that the monument was meant to be free standing and not against a wall. It was decided to site the tomb in the centre of the chapel with the head facing the east.

If we compare the effigy before its restoration with the drawing of 1690, we see that he has lost his dagger from his right hand side, the lion below the feet and the shield which was carried on the left shoulder; this latter held an heraldic device. Also lost are the mouldings on either side of the effigy and the tassels on the cushions. Several elements, such as the nose and sword blade, were found to have been rebuilt with plaster and whitewashed.

The restorers did not recreate the missing parts, such as the dagger and shield, being anxious to preserve the authenticity. The effigy was just cleaned and the XIX century plaster restorations  cleaned and coloured to match the white limestone of the effigy. The slab had been reconstructed in the XIX of reinforced concrete; this was now replaced by tuffeau and the fragment which had been discovered, as mentioned above, was incorporated into it.

The side panels of the tomb chest were set into position; the one in two pieces at the foot and the other at the head of the monuments. The weepers, which were in poor condition, were sympathetically restored in this instance. The right hand longitudinal panel had never been discovered nor is there any representation of it. However its existence was certain. The chief architect of this project decided to take a silicone rubber impression of the extant panel so that an exact copy could be made. However no weepers were added to this side - the least visible - so the niches remained empty.

The List states there is a gisant in Château de Lute in the commune of Le Lude, although there is no information of its type.. However, I have contacted the owners who tell me there is only an angel sculpture in the château and that this a copy of a medieval sculpture by the French artist Jean Barbet; and that the original has been in the Frick collection in New York since the beginning of the 20th century. Until further information is received we must assume that the List is incorrect in this instance.

Abbaye Notre-Dame de Grainetière Abbaye des Fontenelles Mortagne-sur-Sèvre Sallertaine Vouvant
Abbaye Notre-Dame de Grainetière
This was a ruined abbey which has been partially restored and is now a working abbey of Benedictine monks. You may visit during the daytime (9.00 am - 7.00 pm) and entry is free. There is a large car park (no charge) attached to the abbey.
Near Les Herbiers. Take the D23 from there approximately south towards St-Paul-en-Pareds; the abbey is then signposted on the right. St-Paul-en-Parends is futher south on the left so if you reach it you've gone too far! The abbey is well signposted all the way
Ref: 46°39'54"N,01°29'06"W

Limestone effigy of a Lord of Parthenay, 14th century. Not in situ: now on display in the cloisters. Note the straight legs and the unusual position of the hands. His head appears to be resting on his helmet. Note the small figure on the figures right hand side and the monks carved around the base slab.

Abbaye des Fontenelles
(near La Roche-sur-Yon)
Ref: 46°39'54"N,01°29'06"W
This is a difficult place to find. We discovered a sign post to Abbaye des Fontenelles on a roundabout on the D760 to the west of La Roche-sur-Yon; this sign post directed us to continue westward on the same road. We then found another sign post directing us to turn to the right on a minor road which took us over the D160  (the road which replaced the D760 in recent times and which leads to the northen ring road of Roche-sur-Yon). There were a couple more sign posts to the abbey along this road and then nothing. The abbey entrance has no sign to say what it is but just a sign saying pedestrains only. We parked in a fairly large unmade lay-by with a faded parking sign opposite the abbey entrance .
The abbey is partly in ruin but the church looks like it has been reroofed in recent times and undergone some restoration, although there is no glass in the windows. The other buildings are in a ruinous state with scaffolding still in place and warning signs about falling masonry. Much is overgrown. Unfortunately the church is locked. There is a mid 13th century effigy  of Béatrice de Machecoul, wife of the founder of the abbey in the south transept but we were not able to visit it.
The impression is that restoration began some years ago and visitors were encouraged but this was abandoned. You can still visit the exterior.

Church of St Peter
Church open. You may park outside in the street. Tuesdays - market day - probably best avoided. Ref: 46°59'33" N, 0°57'16"W

Left and above top: Guy de Chemillé (`3th C)
Right and above bottom: 
Mabille de Chemillé (13th C)
Below left:
Panel from tomb chest
Below right:
Fragment of an effigy

These badly damaged monuments are of tuffeau and in St Leger's chapel in the church. There is a little evidence of the original polychrome.

Medieval tombstones with incised symbols. There are a number of incised slabs in the floor of the church

Church of St Martin
Church open. Park in the free car park next to the modern church.The 12th century St Martin's is then just across the road. Ref: 46°51'33"N,1°57'41"W

12th or 13th century effigy of a possibly child. Low relief and very rustic carving. The feet rest on what appers to be a cushion. The head and neck are remarkably out of proportion

Notes on Monuments in the Vendée

I understand there are a number of effigies which were formerly in abbeys and churches in the Vendée but are now in the Musée de Piloti in Niort, which is in the Deux-Sèvres department of Poitou-Charente (now renamed). I have not yet checked this. These are:

Abbaye de Maillezais. Abbot 11th C
  Knight 12th C
Prieuré de la Vau-Dieu Knight



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