L’Hôpital Saint-Jean is a remarkable architectural site dating from the 12th century. Since 1967, it has housed Le Chant du Monde [The Song of the World] by Jean Lurçat (1957-1966), the manifesto of a socially-conscious artist. The former orphanage (dating from the 17th century) houses the collections consisting mainly of donations by Lurçat, Thomas Gleb and Joseph Grau-Garriga.
The collections of the Musée Jean Lurçat et de la tapisserie contemporaine are presented in two nearby buildings: the former Hôpital Saint Jean and the former orphanage.
L’Hôpital Saint Jean
A major Gothic-style edifice in the west of France, the Hôpital Saint Jean is one of the last remaining examples of a remarkably well-preserved large hospital complex. Built in the 12th century, it is today considered as one of the exceptional monuments from Angers' heritage. Since 1967, the former Salle des Malades has housed Jean Lurçat’s Le Chant du Monde (1957-1966).
The gable is flanked by broad, flat buttresses along the façade. The construction materials are typical of the region: slate for the base and limestone for the raised parts. A covered gallery was added in front of the main doorway in the 17th century. The current entrance leads directly into the Salle des Malades [the sick ward] dating from the 12th century.
The elegance and grace of the interior of the Salle des Malades contrasts with the force and severity of the façade.
This vast hall, 60 m long and 22.5 m wide, is divided into three naves of equal size. The penetrating ribbed vaults support the highly curved arches that are characteristic of the Pays de la Loire region and the unique Angevin gothic style, referred to as ‘Gothique Plantagenêt’. An apothecary from the 17th / 18th century houses an impressive collection of ceramics from this period, as well as an exceptional pewter theriac container, made by a local craftsman.
Today the Hôpital Saint Jean comprises the large Salle des Malades, a cloister, an adjoining chapel, an attic and cellars, situated a little higher up on the hill.
The museum spaces, open to the public include the large Salle and the cloister. The cellar and attic spaces are used for functions.
The adjoining cloister, as well as the large Salle des Malades, dates from c. 1180, although the south wing dates from the 16th century. The chapel (which is not open to the public) dates from the 13th century.
The former orphanage
The former orphanage dates from the 17th century and was renovated in 1986 for an extension to the Musée Jean Lurçat. Only the façade has retained the original architectural features, the interior rooms of the structure have been modernized so that their original function is no longer apparent to the visitor.