Saint-Martin’s Collegiate Church displays an outstanding and permanent collection of statues – some made of terracotta, others carved out of wood or stone. This collection represents the type of statuary which embellished churches and chapels of the Anjou area between the XIVth and early XXth centuries.
Monseigneur Pasquier's Collection
Forty of these sculptures – which are all listed as Historical Monuments – have been loaned by the Association of the Amis de l'École des Hautes Études Saint-Aubin to the Department of Maine-et-Loire. Most of them are made of terracotta and were created in the workshops of Anjou and Maine during the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries. They reflect the art of the Catholic Counter-Reformation; strongly affirming the devotion to the saints and to the Virgin Mary.
One of the most valuable elements of this collection is a little statue (barely 13 inches) from the second half of the XVIth century representing the Virgin about to breast-feed the Infant Jesus. Though its polychromy disappeared, this statue still keeps its preciosity through the great delicacy of the details of the costume and hands, and also the slight exaggeration of the posture.
Another masterpiece of this collection is the Virgin of Nozé, originally sculpted for a chapel of the Convent of the Visitation in Angers by Pierre Biardeau, a great terracotta sculptor who settled in Angers in the mid 1630’s. During the French Revolution this Virgin was turned into a Reason goddess. Then, as the statue was threatened to be destroyed, the butcher of the community of the Visitation saved it by taking it to his own property in the village of Nozé. In the church, this statue is flanked by two other statues attributed to the same artist – St. Paul and St. Julie – all of them with their origin al polychromy and adopting a theatrical body language.
The statue of St. Sebastian – a martyr during the IVth century who became a very popular saint during the Middle-Ages – is the highest of the collection (over 6 feet and 2 inches). As in many traditional representations, this statue depicts St. Sebastian’s martyrdom, tied to a tree and his body pierced by arrows. Probably dating from the end of the XVIIIth, this statue displays a great sense of composition and of body representation.
The statue of the Virgin at the Calvary, made of painted wood and dating back to the XIVth century statue is the oldest of the collection. It is a masterpiece of details with the round neckline of the dress, the sleeves fastened with so many little buttons and the veil curling unto itself.
Before being displayed in the Collegiate Church as it opened to the public in 2006, all the statues have been restored to recover their original aspect and – for some of them as the statue of St. Anne teaching to the Virgin Mary their original polychomy.
Sculptures from Saint-Martin's Collegiate Church
Two sculptures made of stone originally belonged to Saint Martin’s Church. One made of polychromed stone and dating from 1360-1370 represents the Virgin and Child. It probably used to adorn an altar dedicated to the Virgin or the Chapel of the Angels and has been rediscovered in the southern arm of the transept during archaeological excavations in 1931. Other archaeological excavations uncovered the statue of St. Marguerite represented standing triumphantly above the Devil who – in the shape of a dragon – had swallowed her and still keeps in his mouth a piece of the saint’s cloak.
The very nice wooden credence with two angels made by Léon Morice, a deaf artist from Angers, has been listed as a historical monument on January 19, 2010.