From the Revolution to the Reopening to the Public
After the French Revolution, Saint Martin’s Collegiate Church was sold in 1796 and turned into a store for firewood before being taken over for use as a tobacco warehouse. The church deteriorated rapidly: the nave roof collapsed in 1828, followed by the upper storey of the crossing tower in 1829. The XVIIIth century porch was also destroyed shortly after this, along with the west front as new buildings were erected.
Prosper Mérimée, Inspector of Historical Monuments, first saw Saint-Martin in the course of a visit to Angers in 1835. Recognising the architectural importance of the monument, he tried in vain to persuade the municipality, as well as the bishop, to take the church in hand. In 1847 he tried again to attract the attention of the local authorities, but still in vain. In 1902-1903, Canon Pinier – who was also Director of the Institute Saint-Maurille (a school located next to the church) – purchased the eastern end of the church. This part of the church later became in 1947 a chapel used by this school: a doorway was cut through the middle of the apse, and an altar was mounted in the crossing, reversing the usual orientation. The nave was left as an open courtyard, bounded by modern buildings.
In 1986 the Department of Maine-et-Loire acquired Saint-Martin, and undertook an ambitious scheme to re-evaluate and restore the building. These works lasted for twenty years, until Spring 2006. The purchase of properties abutting the nave (and their demolition) made it possible to reinstate, in plan and volume, the whole of the medieval church.
Nowadays Saint Martin’s church stands as a navigation mark for architecture in Angers, containing within itself a virtual micro-history of medieval ecclesiastical building..