The Carolingian and Romanesque Eras
The Carolingian Rebuilding
The church was again rebuilt in the course of the Xth century. The dimensions of the nave of this era are very close to the present-time one. To the east, the walls of the choir and transepts follow the plan of the predecessor church, even to the little apses of each transept arm. The apse of the south transept arm will remain until the XIXth century.
This great church with its tremendous crossing arches made up of alternating courses of brick and tuffeau (local limestone) aroused much enthusiasm among the early antiquarians. Among them, Prosper Mérimée – better known as a writer – was particularly interested by Saint-Martin’s church when he was Inspector of Historical Monuments in France. The only sculpted elements we know from the Carolingian era are sections of a cornice and a painted capital later reused in a Romanesque rebuilding and recovered during the recent restoration.
The Carolingian reconstruction also marked a turning point in funerary practice. Burials, frequent in the earlier churches, become rare, a situation that endures for the rest of the Middle-Ages.
Fulk Nerra and the Origins of the Chapter
Fulk Nerra, count of Anjou, and his wife were responsible for a major renewal of Saint-Martin, as we are told in a charter from the early XIth century: “Fulk, count of Anjou, and Hildegarde, his wife, recognizing that the church of Saint-Martin at Angers has been long dilapidated, such that it is difficult to find two priests serving God there, endeavour to reconstruct it in a manner that will introduce thirteen canons to serve God on this site.”
The reported discovery of the tomb of St. Loup (bishop of Angers during the VIIth century) in 1012 should probably be associated with the beginnings of works on this building campaign. The Fulk Nerra campaign was also responsible for the raising of the nave aisle walls, elements of which were reinstated during the recent restoration. Lighting is provided by sizeable windows in the aisles as well as the clerestory level. The western wall of the church, which had been highly damaged, was rebuilt in 2005 to suggest its medieval aspect.
The Fulk Nerra campaign saw the building of a dome over the crossing, supported by a complex arrangement of supports designed to reduce the span. Quarter-columns were erected in the piers angles between the crossing piers and surmounted by capitals carved with interlace or chequerboard designs. The dome itself now carries a later layer of paint imitating an early Gothic dome, dating from the second half of the XIIIth century.