Saint-Martin's Church and the Gothic Style
A New Style
The Collegiate Church’s choir was extended during the second half of the XIIth century in the new Gothic style which was flourishing then in Anjou. This architectural style is best expressed in its approach to vaulting, with a preference for strongly domed-up vaults. The extension of the choir was realized in two campaigns. In the first, the Carolingian choir was simply vaulted. The second part of the choir and the apse were built a little later. By the end of this second campaign the choir – i.e. the part of the church used by the canons – became as long as the nave. One can see column statues just below the ribs of the vaults. These are copies and the original statues can be seen at the University of Yale Art Gallery since 1926. The sculpted capitals are foliate though some of them also display animals or even monsters.
The Chapel of the Angels
The creation of this chapel in the early XIIIth century marked the final stage in the Gothic reconstruction. Several altars were used by the canons for private masses. This chapel, slightly less ancient than the choir, still displays several sculpted consoles and capitals – some indeed dating back to the Gothic era while others are imitations from the XXth century. This chapel used to be richly decorated with wall paintings, some dating from the XIIIth century and others from the XVth century. Nowadays one can barely see the Virgin and the Infant Jesus where there used to be a representation of the Flight into Egypt. Another Biblical scene poorly preserved was displaying the Massacre of the Innocents.
By the End of the Middle Ages
Saint-Martin’s Collegiate Church benefited from King René d’Anjou’s generosity. Indeed, the transept walls were heightened and a new wooden roof was constructed in the transept as well as in the nave c.1470. The nave’s roof collapsed in 1828, however the painted wooden planking of the ceiling of the transept arms still remains. It displays many heraldic devices, among them the arms of Aragon (Yolande of Aragon was King René’s mother) and those of Anjou. The walls of the church were covered with whitewash and painted with fictive masonry outlined in red at the same period. Very little of this décor remains, though part of it is still visible in some parts of the church. Towards the same period, a sacrarium was built in the choir, in the late gothic style known as Flamboyant Gothic. It was meant to house sacred objects such as holy vases and reliquaries. This sacrarium was commissioned by Hermann de Vienne who was King René’s doctor and also dean of Saint-Martin’s chapter. He was buried in the Angels’ Chapel in 1491.
Gros plan sur...King René d'Anjou
“Good King René” (1409-1480) was duke of Anjou but also duke of Bar and Lorraine, count of Provence and king of Sicily. However he did not actually ruled over all of his domains and, according to Shakespeare was a crownless and miserable king, without subjects, nor fortune. René is better known for his enlightened patronage, and many monuments in Anjou were either created or remodeled as a result of his intervention; the châteaux of Baugé and Ponts-de-Cé, the manor houses at La Ménitré or Launay, near Saumur.