Le Mans Tourist Attractions

Le Mans CathedralLe Mans Cathedral
Le Mans, an important town in Roman times, the see of a bishop since the fourth C., capital of the medieval County of Maine and now chief town of the département of Sarthe, lies half way between Paris and Nantes on both banks of the Sarthe. A smaller river, the Huisne, flows into the Sarthe on the southern outskirts of the town. To the south of Le Mans is the car-racing circuit used in the famous 24-hour race, the "24 Heures du Mans".

Place de la République

The central feature of Le Mans is the large Place de la République, on the west side of which are the Palais de Justice (Law Courts), in an old monastic building, and the church of the Visitation (1730), with a Baroque interior.

Notre Dame

In Le Mans, southeast of the Place de la République is the former abbey church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Couture, which was originally built in the 10th C. but was given its present aspect in the 13th and 14th centuries. The west front, which is preceded by a porch, has a richly carved doorway. The church contains tapestries and pictures, including (on right) "Elijah's Dream" by Philippe de Champaigne. Opposite the pulpit is a beautiful white marble Virgin by Germain Pilon (1571). The crypt dates from the 10th C.
To the south of the church, in the former abbey (18th C.), is the Prefecture, with a very fine staircase hall.

Old Town

In Le Mans, northwest of the Place de la République, on a hill above the Sarthe, is the old town, with many ancient houses. The main street is the Grande Rue, at No. 71 of which is the Maison d'Adam et d'Eve, a handsome Renaissance house of 1525.
Northeast of this is the old-world Rue de la Reine Bérengère, at No. 13 of which (on right) is the Maison de la Reine Bérengère (1440-1515), now occupied by a museum of ethnography and regional history.

Le Mans Cathedral

In Le Mans, at the north end of Rue de la Reine Bérengère is the Cathedral of St-Julien (named after a third C. apostle). The Romanesque nave dates from the 11th-12th C., the Gothic choir from the 13th and the Late Gothic transepts from the 14th and 15th. On its south side is a 12th C. doorway decorated with statues, reminiscent of the Royal Doorway at Chartres, with a porch (Porche du Chevalier). The interior is impressive, with magnificent stained glass (13th-14th C.) in the choir, beautiful tapestries (15th-16th C.), two tombs (on left) and a 17th C. terracotta "Entombment" (on right). In the north transept are a fine 15th C. rose window and (on left) the tomb of Berengaria, wife of Richard Coeur-de-Lion (13th C.). In the Lady Chapel (Chapelle de la Vierge), in the apse, are beautiful 14th C. frescoes.

Town Walls

In Le Mans, opposite the west end of the cathedral is the Hôtel du Grabatoire (1530). To the west, near Rues Denfert-Rochereau, St-Hilaire and de-la-Porte-Ste-Anne, which run round the west side of the old town, are remains of the Gallo-Roman town walls, with towers.

Place des Jacobins

In Le Mans, behind the choir of the cathedral is the spacious on the east side of which, occupying the site of a Gallo-Roman amphitheater, is the theater, built in 1842 (with a modern extension). Beyond this is the pleasant Promenade des Jacobins.

Musée de Tessé

In Le Mans, immediately northeast of the theater, in a park, is the former Bishop's Palace, now occupied by the Musée de Tessé, with a large collection of pictures. Among other items of interest is an enamel panel, made in Verdun between 1145 and 1150, from the tomb of Geoffrey Plantagenet.
To the west of the old town, on the right bank of the Sarthe, is the former abbey church of Notre-Dame-du-Pré, a fine Romanesque building (11th and 12th C., restored) with an impressive crypt.
Address: 2 avenue Paderborn, F-72000 Le Mans, France


Automobile Museum

Just south of Le Mans are the famous car-racing circuit, 13.5km/5.5mi long, used in the Le Mans 24-hour race ("Les 24 Heures du Mans") and the Circuit Bugatti, a 4.25km/2.5mi long training circuit. There is an interesting Automobile Museum with 150 vehicles, including cars dating from 1914 and racing cars of 1920-1949.
This is more than just a car race it's a festival. There are midway rides, food of every possible nationality, with things to do for the entire 24 hours.
Racing for 24 hours is much tougher than racing 24 times for one hour. The strain on the machines, the drivers and the mechanics is enormous, which invariably leads to high drama. It's a motor sport event that every racing fan must see at least once in his lifetime. The race is held in June on roads that are used by the public the rest of the year.
Address: Circuit des 24 Heures du Mans, F-72009 Le Mans, France

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