Museums, Art and Heritage
The Loire region has a rich cultural heritage, art galleries, museums, and traditional crafts.
Here is just a small selection of what is on offer locally.
Art and Sculpture
Musée Jules Desbois
In Parçay Les Pins, a short walk away, is the stylish Musée Jules Desbois, which traces the career of this accomplished sculptor. Just opposite the museum is the house where he was born and was the first museum dedicated to his works.
Born in 1851 Desbois later moved to Paris, where he was spotted and nurtured by Rodin, who became a friend along with Camille Claudel, whose works are also exhibited. Over sixty of his works are displayed in this beautiful building in the village square. The museum was financed by regional, national and EU funding.
Rodin’s tribute to the talent of Jules Desbois was should he himself pass away, “you still have Desbois”.
David d'Angers Sculpture Gallery
This gallery is dedicated to David d'Angers and set in a boldly converted church in the Angers. An amazing amount of light through the windows shows off the exhibits.
The Musée des Beaux-Arts
This gallery of fine arts in Angers has a great permanent collection, in particular Rodin, along with innovative exhibitions. Its major collections range from early Italian pieces to Flemish works. There is also a wonderful garden too and cafe at the entrance to the Musée des Beaux-Arts.
Modern Art Gallery at Bouvet-Ladubay
In Saumur there is the Modern Art Gallery at Bouvet-Ladubay. Here you can see some excellent temporary exhibitions by cutting-edge artists and as a bonus visit the caves of Bouvet-Ladubay to learn how the local fizz is made.
Maison d’Outils — The House of Tools
A collection of handmade tools from the 17th and 18th centuries will soon be displayed in Parçay Les Pins.The aim of the association Outil Poésie Ouvrière is to exhibit a collection put together over thirty years by Raymond Huard and his son Pierre (a sculptor and blacksmith, who works with iron and anvils).
Musée Populaire des Artisans and Métiers
The Musée Populaire des Artisans and Métiers at Noyant has 13,000 tools and objects from more than 55 trades which have either disappeared or soon will. A collection built up carefully over 30 years.
Musée Aux Anciens Commerces
The Musée Aux Anciens Commerces in Doué-la-Fontaine brings back to life a wealth of old-style shops ranging from 1850 to 1950. A café, barber’s shop and grocery store are just few of the shops reconstructed there.
Apothecary’s Shop and Hospital, Baugé
A pharmacy established in 1675 and active until the 1940s. This is a chance to take a tour through French medical history and hospital life.
The village of Turquant is worth a visit, not only for an excellent restaurant but to see the boutiques which have been created in the troglodyte dwellings. There’s a glassblower, stone carver, gilding workshop, plus a jeweller and a boutique selling beautiful hand-made leather goods.
Close by, at Fontevraud there’s a custom jewellery boutique, a stringed instrument maker and the workshop of illuminated manuscripts.
Angers is widely known for its pewter-ware and Durtal for its stoneware pottery.
Windmills and watermills once proliferated across Anjou. The Moulin de l’Epinay is one that still turns and serves food in its restaurant using flour you can see made in the mill.
The village of Le Coudray-Macouard has a workshop making the most intricate of weather-vanes to order.
Terracotta deserves a special mention. The village of Les Rairies has specialised in terracotta tiles for the châteaux of the Loire since the 14th century and is renowned all over France. In the 19th century, there were in the region of 50 working kilns and as many drying barns. There are still a number of kilns in existence, but the sole artisan company is the family business of Yvon Cailleau. Guided tours are available all year round and fascinating. We commissioned them to make tiles for renovation of the fireback in The Grange.
Abbeys and Churches
A history of rich patronage has given the Loire Valley a wonderful heritage, mighty churches and religious institutions, châteaux and some major Gothic churches in Angers, Saumur and Le Puy-Notre-Dame.
At Le Puy-Notre-Dame there is a huge edifice built in honour of a supposed piece of the Virgin Mary’s girdle. Even French royals came to venerate for its purported child-giving powers.
A curiosity in old Saumur is the Protestant Temple and quarter. Much was done to counteract Protestantism in Anjou and even the architecture was made to seduce people back to the Catholic church, such as the sensational dome of the Notre-Dame-des-Ardilliers pilgrimage church in Saumur. Two striking contrasts in one beautiful town.
The area around Baugé is noted for its clochers tors, twisted spires. Le Vieil-Baugé, Pontigné, Fontaine-Guérin and Mouliherne are well known, but you will find others as you travel around. It is thought that they were purposely built this way to keep the devil out.
Visit the Abbey de Solesmes and you will hear the Gregorian chant.
L'Abbayé de Fontrevraud
Fontevraud deserves a special mention. The Abbey was founded in 1101 and is the largest surviving complex of monastic buildings in Europe, with grand medieval kitchens. It is steeped in history of the Plantagenet Kings and symbolises the Royal connections with the area and long association with England. Henri Plantagenêt stayed at the abbey before heading to England to be crowned King Henry II, while Eleanor of Aquitaine ended her days here.
The abbey attracted controversy as its founder, Robert d’Arbrissel attracted large numbers of women to the Abbey. He created a mixed order where the abbesses held the reigns of power, an exceptional situation in the medieval world which continued into the 17th and 18th centuries.
Today the Abbey is a favourite place to visit, with both permanent and temporary exhibitions.
Concerts are a regular feature in the area, notable the Avoine Jazz Festival at the beginning of July and concerts in the abbeys at Cunault and Fontevraud as well as at Angers and Tours.
For opera fans the Opéra de Baugé season is a pure delight.
For details of festivals see our Events Calendar.