Angoulême

The capital of the Charente department, Angoulême (pop 46,000) sits on a rocky promontory overlooking a bend in the Charente River. Although it has been inhabited since the Roman times, Angoulême gained importance only during the Middle Ages, through events such as the surrender of Bretigny and the French Wars of Religion. The city’s ramparts stand as evidence of its tumultuous past and the city has a distinct medieval feel to it. More than 2 km of continuous ramparts stand protecting the old city quarter, which is encircled by wide boulevards. These ramparts and boulevards provide splendid views of the city below, as well as the surrounding countryside.

The old town quarter that lies inside, is built around the Byzantine-Romanesque Cathedral Saint-Pierre [18 rue Fénelon, +33 545957602], and is home to narrow alleys and aristocratic houses. The Cathedral Saint-Pierre is the seat of the bishop of Angoulême and the site has been a place of worship since the 4th century. The current cathedral’s construction began in the 11th century and was designed with a crucifix layout.  Its tall spire can be seen from anywhere in town and its grand façade and ancient artwork still remain admirable.

Since the 18th and 19th centuries, Angoulême has been famous for paper mills manufacturing the fine vellum writing papers. This trade brought the town great prosperity in the past, and city tours can bring you to little workshops where this ancient trade is still kept alive.

Every third Sunday in September the city holds the quirky Circuit des Remparts street races for vintage cars.  It attracts car enthusiasts, particularlly for the highlight event, the Grand Prix Bugattis and typically 20 or more Bugattis race around the narrow streets of the old walled town.  The festival has been running on and off since 1939, interrupted by the odd war and political climate.

 However, the city of Angoulême is better known today for being the French capital of cartoons. Its twenty or more cartoon-style mural walls and annual comic strip festival [http://www.bdangouleme.com] will tell you why cartoons are considered the ninth art in this city. The Musée de la bande dessinée (www.citebd.org/) specializes in comic stips and displays over 100,000 magazines and comic books; a kind of Louvre for comics!

 

 



ANGOULÊME
:   1. Tourism office  2. Cathedral Saint-Pierre  3. Musée de la bande dessinée

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