The old town of Le Mans takes its name from the Henry II, founder of the English Plantagenet dynasty, who was born in Le Mans in 1133.
Henry II ruled as King of England from 1154–1189. He was also Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Gascony, Count of Nantes, Lord of Ireland and at various times controlled parts of Wales, Scotland and much of Western France.
Many traces of this early medieval period can still be found in the wonderful old town of Le Mans, dating from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Nine hectares of cobbled streets and half-timbered houses are protected by a Roman wall with the Cathedral St Julien towering above it. The Plantagenet City, due to the magnificent backdrop it provides, is regulary used as a film set. Part of “Cyrano de Bergerac” (Jean-Paul Rapeneau), “Le Bossu” (Philippe de Broca) “Les blessures assassins” (Jean-Pierre Denis) “Jean de la Fontaine” (Daniel Vigne) and “Molière, le comédien malgré lui” (Laurent Tirard) were shot here in Le Mans.
Le Mans – La Nuit des Chimères
La Nuit des Chimères or “Night of Fantasies” is a “son et lumière”, a free laser light show which takes place all over the old Plantagenet quarter each summer evening from nightfall, Tuesday to Saturday.
Throughout the summer holiday period (29 June to 28 August 2010) the buildings and monuments in the fortified Plantagenet town of Le Mans are transformed into a giant projection screen. The Nuit des Chimères changes every year; for 2010 the visitor sees a laser projection and music show at a number of showpiece sites, linked by smaller displays along the route.
- the stairs and fountain in the Place des Jacobins form a spawning ground for the fantasy figures (15 mn)
- the city wall is at various turns a mask and dragon spectacular,a bestiary, and a Greco-Roman Sports arena (30 mn)
- Angels and Demons give a celestial concert on the cathedral walls (15 mn)
- Queen Bérengère, wife of Richard the Lionheart, haunts the courtyard of her museum (5 mn)
- The Plantagenets serve a banquet outside the conservatory (10 mn)
- and between each site, gargoyles and fantasy figures guide spectators around the old town.
Arrive early and park in the Parking des Jacobins at the foot of the cathedral, then dine in one of the many good restaurants of the old city.
The sound and light show begins at sunset, around 21h30. You walk at your own pace, stopping for ten minutes or so in front of each scene. The whole magical tour, if you’re up for it, takes about 2 hours to see.