Notre-Dame de la Couture

Le Mans, France

Notre-Dame de la Couture is a former abbey church in the centre of the present-day town of Le Mans. The abbey was founded just after 605. In 865 and 866, the Bretons and Normans both sacked Le Mans and the abbey was pillaged and partially destroyed. It was restored and rebuilt around 1000 and the church was renamed Saint-Pierre de la Couture by bishop Sigefroi, who became a monk in the abbey and partly left abbot Gauzbert to take on his duties. The remains of the original church can still be seen 18 metres up in the south cloister.

For most of the 11th century the church and the town experienced relative peace and prosperity, notably under the control and influence of abbot Anselin. After his death in 1072 the situation became harder and his successor abbot Renaud faced several challenges. Building work on the church continued, forming an aisled nave, a transept and an ambulatory choir opening onto five side chapels. All but one of these chapels are now lost - the surviving, that dedicated to St Joseph, is located to the south of the choir. Another survivor from this era is what now forms the exterior north wall. Like the nave of Le Mans Cathedral, the nave of this era at Notre-Dame was made up of fourteen spans separated by columns and double arches. In its first span on the north side is a late 11th century statue of Christ.

A major fire in 1180 destroyed much of Le Mans and severely damaged Notre-Dame. The latter was rebuilt during the 12th century, showing the artistic originality developed by the Plantagenet court. The choir include ogive vaults and the former building was completely redesigned, trying to make the maximum use of space in the old building. Between each window is a caryatid resting on a half-column. These show figures from the Old and New Testaments and may be the first of their kind, before the Plantagenets popularized them throughout their lands in Maine and Anjou - previously column-statues were more common in doorways than interiors.

The nave is 42 metres long and has three spans on a square plan, drawing on Angers Cathedral. At 22 metres long the main vaults are longer than the middle vaults of 16 metres. Some columns are more than 5 metres high although the exterior walls have been thickened to enable this. Unusually the central nave has twin windows topped by an oculus. The two west towers date to the 13th century. The porch originally had a triple arcade with a central column showing Christ, but that column was destroyed in the 19th century and never rebuilt due to difficulties finding matching stone of high enough quality - part of the lintel is also missing. The first sculptures were carved in 1245 and many on the porch survive in good condition, including two angels, four prophets and eight virgins.



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Founded: 12th century
Category: Religious sites in France
Historical period: Late Capetians (France)


4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Annie Guerard (6 months ago)
Gorgeous wedding in ND de la Couture!
Tanguy Pros T (16 months ago)
Sublime building, the columns are decorated and the place is charming.
Nathalie DESHAYES (4 years ago)
A very beautiful church in which I spent a wonderful moment listening to a beautiful concert!
Jean-luc Sénéchal (6 years ago)
Nathan Reynolds (8 years ago)
beautiful old church just off the main road through town. worth a quick visit, Gothic style architechture similar to Notre Dame in Paris
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