David d'Angers' Gallery : The site
The former Toussaint abbey church, dating from the 13th century, was restored in 1984. It is now covered with a glass roof, an audacious feature of modern architecture, and houses the works of sculptor, Pierre-Jean David, known as David d’Angers (1788-1856).
A chapel was first built here in the 11th century to provide the poor and those without a parochial cemetery with a burial ground. The layout of the original cemetery is reproduced by slate segments on the floor, inside the church.
The actual Toussaint abbey church was built in the 13th century by the canons of Saint-Augustine. The freestone walls and the curved vaults, characteristic of the Anjou region, endowed the church with an air of lightness and harmony. The original church design was t-shaped: the chancel with the rose window on the Gothic-style east-gable end was added in the 18th century.
In the 17th century, the growing community necessitated the construction of conventuel buildings which served as the prior’s dwelling and the cloister.
From the Revolution onwards, the buildings were confiscated and assigned to army reserves.
Little by little, the abbey church fell into ruin, overgrown with vegetation, a veritable open-air museum where tombs and stone fragments lay scattered about, hidden by the undergrowth, until they were discovered during town planning work.
In 1980, the city of Angers decided to renovate the church. Pierre Prunet, chief architect of Historic Monuments, proposed promoting local materials (such as slate, freestone and argillaceous slate) and combining these, in a very apparent manner, with contemporary materials like wood, concrete and glass. The concept behind the architectural work was to restore the interior volume of the vaults while bathing the entire building in light, thereby showing off to perfection the exceptional collection of David d’Angers’ sculptures. The glass roof and large windows allow for a subtle comparison of the little bas-reliefs with the large and contrasting volumes of the rondes-bosses.