A BRIEF HISTORY OF ANJOU
Like many European cities, Angers prides itself on being up-to-date and full of opportunities for contemporary life, but its self-identity is firmly rooted in what has come before. Everywhere in modern Anjou we find traces of the past, whether it be in something so simple as a place name, in centuries-old architecture, or in the complexities of politics when loyalties date back for centuries. Angers is a proud part of modern France, but its story only parallels the history of the nation, and is not equal to it. In the Renaissance, kings of France were frequent visitors to their lovely chateaux along the Loire, but in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, Angevin rulers were kings in their own right, in Naples and Hungary, and did not always ally their fortunes with Paris. With their strong religious sentiments, inhabitants of this region sometimes found themselves at odds with other parts of France. We can still see the stubborn independence of Protestant Huguenots in Saumur and the West, or the fervent Catholicism of those who remained loyal to the king during the French Revolution and even today entertain royalist visions.
Today, Angers sits at the center of the French department Maine-et-Loire (see map). But in times past, these were not the boundaries of the region. The province of Anjou encompassed areas that are now parts of neighboring administrative areas (see map). Sometimes, Angers sees itself as part of the economic and touristic region known as the Pays de Loire (see map). More significantly, rulers of Anjou often held other properties, creating alliances with far-flung areas. One important instance is René of Anjou, who was also Duke of Provence, King of Naples and Jerusalem. In the early middle ages, Plantagenet dukes of Anjou were also rulers of England. Kings of England Henry II and Richard Lion-heart are actually buried in Anjou, in the monastery of Fontevraud. Although many of these connections are not emphasized, the knowledge that Angevins played important roles on the European stage in ages past is a major source of pride for the citizens today.
Although there are many resources for the students of Angevin history, there is very little in English, and nothing that will serve as a basic summary for our ACCEL program Angers Past and Present. These materials, in some cases only notes and indications of additional resources, are intended to help your frame your experience of living in Angers itself.
This site is still in progress
The history is broken down into basic periods, as follows: