The Bestiary of Angers Castle

Castle of Angers

Discover the animals of Angers Castle, both mythical and real.

The sculpted bestiary
Gargoyles, friezes and keystones serve as supports for fantastic creatures or heraldic beasts.
Gargoyles serve to protect façades by projecting rainwater away from them and often take the form of mythical beasts. This maned creature stands on the top of the northern façade of the royal apartment block of Angers Castle.
This gargoyle with the head of a mythical beast stands on the top of the northern façade of the royal apartment block of Angers Castle. Medieval gargoyles often resemble imaginary or monstrous animals which aroused great curiosity in the Middle Ages. Their purpose was both technical and symbolic. They were guardians of the Good and repelled the forces of Evil: evil spirits, demonic beings, which they cast out along with the dirty water.
This keystone bears the arms of Bertrand de Beauvais (circa 1400-1474) with their four crowned leopards rampant, langued (with their tongues out). They are “armed”, that is to say their claws are out. They decorate the vault of the first floor of the gallery in the royal apartment block at Angers Castle.
A detail of the sculpted leafy frieze under one of the gallery windows in the royal apartment block at Angers Castle. On the right-hand end of the frieze, a fantastic beast devours what may be a finely sculpted frond of hop. Finely indented.
The woven bestiary in the Tapestry of the Apocalypse
This tapestry, made in the late 14th Century, is over 100m long and 4.50m high. It swarms with real animals (a lamb, horses, an eagle, a lion, a rabbit, and birds) as well as mythical beasts (a seven-headed lion, land and sea creatures, manticores and demons).
Detail of scene 11 of the first section of the Tapestry of the Apocalypse: “Third seal: the black horse and famine”. This detail shows a bird shelling a nut. Photograph on the reverse.
Detail of scene 11 of the first section of the Tapestry of the Apocalypse: “Third seal: the black horse and famine”. This detail shows the horse’s head. Photograph on the reverse.
Detail of scene 26 of the second section of the Tapestry of the Apocalypse: “The myriads of horsemen”. This detail shows the fantastic tail of a mounted beast. Photograph on the reverse.
Detail of the scene introducing the third section of the Tapestry of the Apocalypse: “Man of power seated beneath a canopy”. Detail of a butterfly bearing the arms of Louis I of Anjou. Photograph on the reverse.
Detail of scene 24 of the second section of the Tapestry of the Apocalypse: “Fifth trump: the crickets”. This detail shows fantastic crickets emerging from the abyss. Photograph on the reverse.
Detail of scene 23 of the second section of the Tapestry of the Apocalypse: “The fourth trump: the eagle of woe”. This detail shows the eagle holding in its claws and beak the phylactery bearing the Latin inscription “Ve, ve, ve” which means “woe, woe, woe”. Photograph on the reverse.
Detail of scene 27 of the second section of the Tapestry of the Apocalypse: “The angel of the book”. This detail shows one of the heads spitting fire, symbolizing thunder. Photograph on the reverse.
Detail of scene 66 of the fifth section of the Tapestry of the Apocalypse: “The fall of Babylon overwhelmed by demons”. This detail shows the head of one of the demons being attacked by a bird. The two profiles stand out against a flowered blue background. Photograph on the reverse.
Detail of scene 36 of the third section of the Tapestry of the Apocalypse. “Saint Michael fighting the dragon”. This detail shows the head of the dragon whose neck is pierced by a spear. Its raised head stands out against a background of geometrical motifs. Photograph on the reverse.
Detail of scene 40 of the third section of the Tapestry of the Apocalypse. “The sea monster”. This detail shows the lower central head of the sea creature’s seven heads. They resemble leopards’ heads crowned with diadems. Photograph on the reverse.
The woven bestiary of the tapestries in the Treasury of Angers Cathedral
In addition to the Tapestry of the Apocalypse, the collection in the Treasury of Angers Cathedral includes about a hundred pieces which are conserved and sometimes displayed in the castle or the cathedral. These tapestries, created between the 16th and 18th centuries, illustrate religious and profane subjects. The quantities of millefleurs and greenery in the collection form the perfect backdrop to a bestiary.
Millefleurs, an extremely popular motif in European medieval arts and crafts. It is seen, for example, in the illuminated borders of manuscripts called Ardilliers, 16th century. Against a background of small flowers and animals (dragon, griffon, stag, pig, bear, dog, fox, rabbit) and birds (falcon, eagle) are arranged before a city built on hill. A central medallion emerges from a floral crown.

Tapestry of the Ardilliers, the stag.

Tapestry of the Ardilliers, the pig.

Tapestry of the Ardilliers, falcon and eagle.

Tapestry of the Ardilliers, the griffon.

Tapestry of the Ardilliers, the dragon.

Tapestry known as the Audenarde greenery, 16th century. Surrounded by luxuriant greenery, two peacocks perch on a balustrade.

Detail of the tapestry known as “The lion hunt”, 17th century.In a landscape planted with fruit trees, three riders surround a lion. One carries a hunting spear, the other a pistol.

Detail of the tapestry known as “The hare hunt”, 17th century. The scene is divided in two by trees. On the left, four dogs rush forward to devour a hare. A servant raises his stick.

Detail of the tapestry combining two hunting scenes, a stag hunt and an ostrich hunt, sewn together. They date from the 17th century.  The scene on the right depicts a stag hunt. In the foreground, a mounted huntsman prepares to kill a deer. The pack of hounds is on the animal’s heels. On the left, a servant runs up to help his master. Behind this scene, we see a second stag hunt moving in the opposite direction. In the top right-hand corner, we see a huntsman carrying a gun but cannot see his prey. It is probably a dangerous animal because firearms were used for risky hunts, bear hunts, for example.
In the left-hand section of the tapestry we see “The ostrich hunt”. An enormous ostrich is running away, its wings outspread. Here, it is being attacked by two huntsmen on horseback and a servant carrying pitchforks. Two dogs are snapping at its feet. In the background, two men are chasing another ostrich on foot.
A tapestry known as “Greenery with squirrels” (17th century), showing luxuriant trees inhabited by birds and two squirrels. In the background, a building with two towers.
A tapestry known as “Greenery with a unicorn”, 18th century. In this fragment, between two trees, birds and a unicorn approach a stream with buildings and mountains in the background.
Greenery known as “the giraffe”, 18th century. In a meadow, between two flowering trees beside a cascading stream, a bird holds a fish in its beak, facing a giraffe. In the background are monuments at the foot of a mountain.
Tapestry recounting the life of Joseph (18th century). In this scene, Joseph is being sold to merchants one of whom holds the halters of two dromedary camels.

Detail of the tapestry (16th century) of Penthesilea, Queen of the Amazons, against a background of millefleurs. This rabbit appears in the lower border, probably a later addition.

Angers Castle
Credits: Story

This virtual exhibition has been put together by teams from the Centre des monuments nationaux, with the help of teams from the Château d'Angers, the support of teams from the images unit and coordination by the digital unit.

The images were taken from Regards - Banque d’images des monuments © Centre des monuments nationaux.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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