Hotel de Ville d'Angouleme, ancien chateau

A quick stop in historic Angoulême

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I wanted to see Angoulême just for historical interest, from the importance of the counts of Angoulême and especially because of Isabelle d’Angoulême, wife of King John of England, and Marguerite d’Angoulême, so famous in the Renaissance. A little summary of my reasons for interest:

Taken from the Visigoths by Clovis in 507, it was the seat of the counts of Angoulême from the 9th century. Fought over by the French and English in the Hundred Years’ War, it also suffered in the religious wars of the late 16th century. The Land of Angoulême was the name given to the site of present-day New York City in 1524 by Giovanni da Verrazzano, who discovered the harbour while serving King Francis I, who was also count of Angoulême. Angoulême’s 19th-century town hall occupies the site of the counts’ château (birthplace of Margaret of Angoulême), of which two towers, the Valois (15th century) and the Lusignan (13th century), remain. The Cathedral of Saint-Pierre (1105–28; restored 19th century) is a domed Romanesque-Byzantine structure whose elaborate façade, enriched with Romanesque sculpture, contrasts sharply with the stark aisleless interior.

Encyclopedia Britannica online, Angouleme | History, Geography, & Points of Interest | Britannica

It was no real surprise that today’s city has few vestiges of the early times that fascinate me. I do love river towns and wanted to see the Charente river there. We were mostly disappointed, certainly as we drove over the most central bridge, but a bit further on we got glimpses of some nice stretches of water even though the riverfront seems little used to advantage. You can see that there are some handsome buildings here, even if overall we weren’t charmed. It’s a hilly town of narrow winding streets, challenging to navigate.

Not very satisfying shots, but the first five photos here are the city hall. The base of the Lusignan’s polygonal keep from the 13th century is seen in the first photo, and the top in the next, but I didn’t get an angle with the 15th-century round Valois tower, so I’ve linked to a photo where you get a glimpse of it.

Angoulême has several museums, including the famous Musée de la Bande Dessinée (museum of comic strips). The International Comic Festival takes place here the last week of January every year, and the museum and the festival are probably the town’s major current claims to fame. We did not tour any museums this day, as we had to hit the road; I would likely have chosen the Musée d’Angoulême beside the Cathedral, but I’m also curious about the Musée du Papier. Someday, perhaps!

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