Le Mans is a city in France, located on the Sarthe River.
Traditionally the capital of the province of Maine, it is now the préfecture (capital)
of the Sarthe département, and is furthermore the seat of the Roman Catholic diocese
of Le Mans.
Its inhabitants are called Manceaux and Mancelles.
It has been host to the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans sports car race since 1923.
read full wikipedia reference about Le Mans, France
LE MANS is 80km northwest of Tours in the département of Sarthe,
some way from the Loire valley but included here as a good, relatively
untouristy base between Normandy and the Loire valley, with swift
transport connections down to Angers and Tours. The city is taken
over by car fanatics in the middle of June for the famous 24-hour
race, but for the
rest of the year it's still lively enough, with some interesting
museums and one of the most beautiful old quarters of any city
in France. It was here, in 1129, that Geoffrey
Plantagenet, Count of Maine and Anjou, married Matilda, daughter
of Henry I of England, and where their son, the future
Henry II, was born.
The complicated web of
the old town lies on a hill above the River Sarthe to the north
of the central place de la République. Its medieval streets,
a hotch-potch of intricate Renaissance stonework, medieval half-timbering,
sculpted pillars and beams and grand classical facades, are still
encircled by the original third- and fourth-century Gallo-Roman
walls , supposedly the best-preserved in Europe and running for
several hundred metres. Steep, walled steps lead up from the
river, and longer flights descend on the southern side of the
enclosure, using old Gallo-Roman entrances. If you're intrigued,
you can see pictures, maps and plans of Vieux Mans, plus examples
of the city's ancient arts and crafts, most notably the collection
of Malicorne ceramics, in the Musée de la Reine Bérengère
(daily 9am-noon & 2-6pm), one of the Renaissance houses on
rue de la Reine-Bérengère.
Rearing up the hill from
the east is the immense Gothic apse of the Cathédrale
St-Julien , with a Romanesque nave and radiating chapels, on
place du Grente (also called du Château), at the crowning
point of the old town. According to Rodin, the now badly worn
sculpted figures of the south porch were rivalled only in Chartres
and Athens. Some of the stained-glass windows here were added
in the thirteenth century, some time after the first Plantagenet
was buried in the church in 1151, but the brightest colours in
the otherwise austere interior come from the tapestries.
In the 1850s a road was
tunnelled under the quarter - a slum at the time - helping to
preserve its self-contained unity. The road tunnel comes out
on the south side, by an impressive monument to Wilbur Wright
- who tested an early flying machine in Le Mans - and into place
des Jacobins, the vantage point for St-Julien's double-tiered
flying buttresses and apse. From here, you can walk east through
the park to the Musée de Tessé (daily 9am-noon
& 2-6pm), a mixed bunch of pictures and statues including
Georges de la Tour's light at its most extraordinary in the Extase
de St-François , along with copies of brilliant medieval
populist murals in Sarthe churches. It also contains an enamel
portrait of Geoffrey Plantagenet, which was originally part of
his tomb in the cathedral.
The modern centre of Le
Mans is place de la République , bordered by a mixture
of Belle Époque buildings and more modern office blocks,
and the Baroque bulk of the church of the Visitation , built
in 1730, with a balustrade inside designed by one of the sisters
of the order.
Just south of here is Notre-Dame
de la Couture , a church with Plantagenet vaulting and a fine
Last Judgement scene over the doorway on an otherwise rather
ugly facade. The name has nothing to do with dressmaking but
is a corruption of the word culture from the days when the church
was surrounded by cultivated fields. Inside there are various
treasures, including a shroud of the early seventh-century bishop
of Le Mans who founded the monastery to which this church belonged.
OTHER POPULAR DESTINATIONS IN FRANCE