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PAYS de la LOIRE, Part 2


Pays de la Loire Region logo


Anjou {ahn-zhoo'} is an historic region and ancient province of western France. Straddling the Loire Valley, it is bordered on the west by Brittany and on the east by Touraine. Its name is derived from the Andes or Andecavi, a Celtic tribe dating back to 52 B.C. who were conquered by the Romans.

The Angevin or Plantagenet line of English kings originated in 1154, when the count of Anjou ascended the English throne as Henry II. English kings ruled Anjou for the next 50 years. The county of Anjou was finally added to the French crown in 1480. In 1790, Anjou was divided into Maine-et-Loire and parts of adjacent departments with its administrative center at Angers, the former provincial capital.

The north of Anjou is geologically part of the Massif Armoricain of Brittany. It is a plateau of Precambrian schists, and the characteristic Breton landscape of hedgerows and small fields prevails. The climate of Anjou is slightly milder and less rainy than that of Brittany. The principal agricultural products are wheat, fodder crops, and beef. Here the rivers Mayenne and Sarthe converge to form the Maine River, which flows into the Loire.

Vegetables, flowers, fruit, and vineyards are important in the sheltered Loire Valley. The vineyards extend southward over the rolling sedimentary plateau of southern Anjou. High-quality rosé wines and the sparkling wines of Saumur have the widest reputations of a great variety of wines produced in the region. Angers on the Maine and Saumur on the Loire in the east of Anjou are market centers for wines and other produce.

Timothy J. Rickard, Professor of Geography, Central Connecticut State College, New Britain.
Source: 2001 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.


Maine {men} is an historic region and ancient province in northwestern France, traversed by the Loire River. Le Mans is the traditional capital. By the 5th century Maine was a Gallo-Roman district, and from the 9th to 11th century it was ruled by hereditary counts. In the 12th century Maine passed to Anjou, which held it until 1481, when Maine came under the control of the French crown. Maine was a French province until 1789, when, during the French Revolution, it was divided into the departments of Mayenne and Sarthe and parts of Loir-et-Cher, Eure-et-Loire, and Orne.

Source: 2001 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.


Nantes {nahnt} is the préfecture (capital) of the Loire-Atlantique département and the capital of the Pays de la Loire region in west central France. Situated on the Loire River, about 360 km (225 mi) southwest of Paris and 55 km (35 mi) from the Bay of Biscay, the city has a population of 277,728 (1999). Noted citizens have included the politician Georges Clémenceau and the writer Jules Verne.

All activities

Nantes and its seaport, Saint-Nazaire, form a major industrial region of western France, concentrating on port activities and shipbuilding. Other major industrial activities in Nantes include sugar processing and the production of food products, tobacco, household appliances, building materials, and textiles.

Nantes was the main city of the Namnètes, an early Gallic tribe, prior to the conquest of Gaul by the Romans. Vikings (Normans) raided the area during the 9th century, causing extensive destruction. A major historical building is the moated fortress castle, begun during the 10th century. The city became part of the duchy of Brittany, which was formally incorporated in France in 1532.

The importance of the port grew as France developed trade with its colonies and the rest of the world. Prior to abolition, Nantes was the slave trade capital of France. The city was also the site of the signing of the Edict of Nantes in 1598, which granted certain civil and religious liberties to Protestants.

A ship canal to Saint-Nazaire was built in 1891, and the port facilities in Nantes were improved following World War I. The area was of strategic importance during World War II, partly because of the location of Nazi submarine pens at Saint-Nazaire. Nantes was separated from Brittany by the Vichy government in June 1941.

Edited by Ian C. Mills.
Sources: Lawrence M. Sommers, Professor of Geography, Michigan State University, East Lansing (writing for the 2001 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia), and Wikipedia - the Free Encyclopedia.

Le Mans

Le Mans {luh mahn'} is the préfecture (capital) of the Sarthe département in the Loire Valley of northwestern France, with a population of 146,105 (1999). Situated at the confluence of the Sarthe and Huisne rivers, about 185 km (115 mi) southwest of Paris, Le Mans is an industrial and marketing center. Manufactures include railroad and automobile machinery, textiles, plastics, and tobacco products.

Le Mans was settled as early as the 5th century B.C.; it was originally the capital of the Cenomani, a Celtic tribe. The old walled city was fortified by the Romans, who called it Vindinium. It is the site of the Saint-Julien Cathedral (11th-15th century), the Church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Couture (10th-13th century), and the Church of Sainte-Jeanne d'Arc (begun 11th century). During the Hundred Years' War, the city was besieged by the English five times, and it was occupied by the Germans in 1871.

The city is perhaps best known for its connection with motorsports. There are actually two separate racing tracks at Le Mans, though they share certain portions. The smaller is the Bugatti Circuit (named after the Bugatti car company), a relatively short permanent circuit which is used for racing throughout the year. Just south of the city, the longer and more famous Le Mans Circuit de la Sarthe is composed partly of public roads, which are closed to the public when the track is in use for racing, and plays host to the famous Grand Prix automobile race, the 24 hours of Le Mans.

Edited by Ian C. Mills.
Sources: 2001 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia and Encyclopedia Americana (publ. Grolier Interactive Inc., Danbury, CT); Wikipedia - the Free Encyclopedia; and the Le Mans Tourism Office.

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