Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Cathedral of Saint Maurice, Angers, Maine-et-Loire (in the former province of Anjou), France

     The city of Angers used to be the capital of the province of Anjou ruled by counts.  In 1127, Count Geoffrey married the widowed daughter of Henry I of England, Matilda or Maud.  Their eldest son, Henry became Henry II of England, the first of the Plantagenet kings.   As such it was the home town of the Plantagenet family though Geoffrey was born and buried at nearby Le Mans.

     The story of the building of the cathedral at Angers is one that is familiar by now.  A Romanesque cathedral was built to replace a much smaller church.  The new Romanesque church burnt to the ground in 1032.  The same bishop, Hubert de Vendome, who oversaw the consecration of the Romanesque church started the rebuilding some time after the fire.  This Romanesque church was consecrated in 1096.  The retrofitting and rebuilding of the church in the Gothic style was begun under Bishop Ulger (1123-1149) and continued under his successor Bishop Normand de Doue (1149-1153). The west front of the Cathedral retains the darker stone of the older Romanesque church at the lowest level.  The church took centuries to build and the tower and west facade were not finished until the Renaissance.

West front of the Cathedral of Saint Maurice, Angers, France.  The present cathedral was built over centuries.  The darker stone at the lowest level is from the 12th century Romanesque church.

The lower half of the walls of the nave are retained from the Romanesque church as can be seen in the photograph below.  The walls were reinforced to accommodate the weight of the vaulting covering the nave,  The cathedral has no aisles.  So the windows that light the church are at the clerestory level.
Looking east down the nave.  The lower half of the wall was retained from the older Romanesque church and retrofitted.

West entrance to the cathedral with large tympanum of Jesus Christ seated in majesty and the four living creatures that surround the throne of God in the Revelation of John. It was St. Jerome writing about 398 in his preface to the Commentary on Matthew when he established the symbols as we know them today: Matthew-human or angel, Mark-lion, Luke-ox, and John-eagle. This entrance was built about 1170-1180.
The remains of the Gothic porch as be seen in the stone work but it was demolished in 1807.

     The rounded east end of the choir, the chevet, required that the old town wall be demolished to make room for the addition.  This addition was built in the period of 1225-1240 during the time Guillaume de Beaumont was bishop (1202-1240).  The windows in the chevet are doubled lancet windows with an oculus at the top.  The Cathedral of Saint Maurice had the advantage of many other cathedrals in that it was much less dependent of money from pilgrims to make additions and repairs. Boulanger is her analysis of the windows at Saint Maurice notes a unity of iconography among the windows that is not found in many other cathedrals dependent on the money from pilgrims and gifts from wealthy donors.  Donors did pay for window repairs, and this is documented by the inclusion of the arms of the donor family in the window.  David King noted in a article for Vidimus, "The St John the Baptist window in the choir, for example, given in the thirteenth century by Richard de Tosny, the cathedral treasurer, was restored in the early fourteenth century by the Chaumont family, whose arms were inserted in the border"
The east end of St. Maurice with the double windows and oculus at the top.

Bay 103 on the north side of the choir has a Jesse Tree window on the right and the martyrdom of St. Lawrence on the left.
     The Jesse Tree window in Bay 103 at Angers is a few years earlier that the Jesse Tree window of Saint-Chapelle in Paris. The window at the Cathedral of Saint Maurice has more in common with lower clerestory window at Cathedral of St. Julian at Le Mans or the Cathedral of St. Stephen in Auxerre, than with Sainte-Chapelle. The Jesse window is one of eleven windows in the chevet that were glazed during the period 1230-1235 that still exist.  A couple of the lost windows are known from fragments.  So the chevet retains a remarkably complete set of 13th century windows made with a  cohesive scheme, the lives of saintz and Virgin Mary.  The windows did undergo restoration at a intervals and some of the windows have been moved.  Replacements for lost windows has continued into the 20th century to repair damage done during the bombardment of World War II.  Unfortunately the Jesse Tree window at Angers needs cleaning since the detail has been lost and many of the colors have been muted by grime and perhaps glass corrosion.

The whole Jesse Tree window in Bay 103.
Photo credit for Jesse Tree windows (unless noted): Painton Cowen

Jesus Christ seated with seven doves.  Right hand is held in blessing. In his left hand is a blue book There are two flanking unidentified prophets. 
Photo credit: Dr. Stuart Whatling

 Crowned Virgin Mary with a scepter in her right hand.  She is flanked by two prophets and a knelling figure who is presumably the donor of the window.  The prophet on the right is wearing a blue cap. 

Unidentified King of Judah.  He is flanked by two unidentified prophets.  Note that the head of the right prophet is a obvious later repair.

Unindentified King of Judah holding a scepter in the left hand, flanked with two prophets.  Note that the prophet on the right is wearing a pointed Jew's cap in green.
< http://www.therosewindow.com/pilot/Angers/images/w103l-AB-5-IMG_6991.JPG>

King playing a vielle on his left shoulder.  He is flanked by two prophets. Note that the prophet on the king's right is the same design as the prophet on king's right immediately above.

 First King of Judah above King David.  In the usual iconography, this is King Solomon. The king is holding a scepter in his right hand.  He is flanked by a prophet on his left hand that is wearing a pointed green Jew's cap, as is the prophet to Virgin Mary's left.

King David playing a celtic style harp. The prophet on the right is the same as the prophet above on the right of Virgin Mary.  He is wearing a blue cap.  The prophet on the left is wearing a pointed Jew's cap in red.
<http://www.therosewindow.com/pilot/Angers/images/w103l-AB-2-IMG_6994.JPG .>

Reposing Jesse as seen through a protective grille.  There is a large white trunk arising from the body of Jesse.  He is flanked by two prophets that appear to be much later replacements.
Photo credit: Dr. Stuart Whatling

   Hopefully the reader has noticed the standardization of the colors for the background on the Jesse Tree windows.  It is either red or blue or a mixture with red or blue glass within the mandorlas that surround the figures and blue or red outside the mandorlas.

      There is the beginning of a standardized iconography that allows the identification of at least two of the kings that come after Jesse, namely Kings David and Solomon.  King David is playing a harp, a symbols associated with the David as the composer of the Psalms.  Also there are frequent references to harps or lyres in the story of David including his playing the harp for King Saul (1 Samuel 16.23) and  the frequent references to music made to honor God including harps (and lyres). 

     It is curious then that the king above David, Solomon, is only holding a scepter and not playing an instrument as is the third king above Jesse. Solomon is associated with the composition of the Song of Solomon or Song of Songs.  The stained glass windows of Saint Maurice suffered through periods of neglect followed by restoration and repair, and again long centuries of neglect or destruction as a result of iconoclasm or war.  It is possible to speculate that during one of these restorations the panel of Solomon and a generic king of Judah with scepter were reversed.  This argument is not sustained because the same pattern of king with scepter for King Solomon and generic king playing an instrument appears in another stained glass window from the same period.  The very large Jesse Tree window at the Cathedral of Our Lady at Amiens, Picardy, France, was made about 1260, with restoration in the 19th and 20th centuries.  In this window, King David is playing the bowed lyra, a Byzantine instrument.  The king above him and therefore Solomon is a sceptered king and the third generic king is playing a vielle in his lap.  So perhaps the iconography of Solomon also playing a instrument was not yet firm.

     Another curious feature of the Jesse Tree window at Angers is the kneeling donor dressed in purple petitioning the Blessed Virgin Mary. This seems to be the first Jesse Tree window that has survived in which the donor is shown beseeching the Virgin Mary. This portrayal of Mary as the Mediatrix between humans and Jesus was being developed as part of the cult of Mary.  A Jesse Tree window at the  choir of Cathedral of Saint Julien in Le Mans also has a kneeling donor.  This kneeling donor is placed in the choir Jesse window next to the reclining Jesse in the Le Mans cathedral.  Thus it seems as though the donor's petition isaddressed to all the figures above, not just the Virgin Mary.

    This Jesse Tree window has two blue capped prophets and three prophets wearing the pilleus cornutus,or Jew's hat ordered at the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215.  Similarly hatted prophets are found in the Jesse Tree window of the relatively near Cathedral of Saint Julian at LeMans.


Karine Boulanger, Les Vitraux de la cathédrale d’Angers,((2010) Paris, Comité des travaux historiques et scientifiques (CTHS), coll. « Corpus Vitrearum-France », vol. III,

David King. Angers Cathedral Vidimus Vol. 48. February 2011.  < http://vidimus.org/issues/issue-48/feature>

Angers, Cathédrale Saint-Maurice.  Mapping Gothic Europe <http://mappinggothic.org/building/1212>

Monuments historique: Inventaire général du patrimoine culturel <http://www.culture.gouv.fr/public/mistral/merimee_fr?ACTION=CHERCHER&FIELD_1=REF&VALUE_1=PA00108866>

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