Stage town for the 2nd time
Prefecture of Mayenne (53)
Population: 49,728 (Lavallois and Lavalloises), and 17,301 in the 34 communes of the Laval agglomeration community
Personalities: Ambroise Paré (surgeon), Henri Rousseau (painter), Alfred Jarry (playwright), Alain Gerbault (sailor), Ousmane Dabo, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (football), Franck Rénier, Ludovic Turpin (cycling).
Specialities: Pommeau du Maine, Sabot de Pégase (chocolate), le M (cake), le véritable Trappe (cheese of the nuns of Laval)
Sport: Stade lavallois Mayenne FC (football, National), Stallions (US football), Laval Water-Polo (N3A), Francs Archers Laval, Stade lavallois hockey sur gazon (N2), etc. Events : Boucles de la Mayenne (cycling, June), Grand National du Trot (horse racing, June)
Economy: Dairy industry, electronics, chemicals.
Culture: Laval Virtual (innovation, new technologies, April), Festival des 3 éléphants (contemporary music, May), Chaînon Manquant (artistic meetings, September), Lumières de Laval (illuminations, December)
Motto: "Eadem mensura", motto of the Laval family, which means "of the same measure".
Labels: City in Bloom (3 flowers) / Active and Sporting City (3 laurels) / City of Art and History / French Capital of Virtual Reality / 3 sites labelled as preparation centres for the 2024 Games
Websites: www.laval-tourisme.com / www.laval.fr / www.agglo-laval.fr / www.lamayenne.fr / www.m-mayenne.fr / www.mayenne-tourisme.com
LAVAL, A STORY
The singular legacy of Douanier Rousseau
Now on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Sleeping Bohemian Woman, one of the most emblematic paintings by Douanier Rousseau, could have been the jewel in the crown of Laval’s museum collections. In fact, in 1898, riddled with debt, the former Parisian octroi officer Henri Rousseau, a native of Laval, proposed to the city's mayor that he purchase this painting for the sum of 2,000 francs. Victor Boissel, however, remained deaf to the pleas of the artist whose work was slow to be accepted. And yet, his time would soon come, but unfortunately after his death in poverty in 1910. The success of the exhibition "Les primitifs modernes" (Modern Primitives) organised in Paris in 1932 by Wilhelm Uhde definitively established Le Douanier Rousseau as the master thinker of the so-called naive pictorial movement. Laval then remembered this illustrious citizen buried in a modest grave in the Bagneux cemetery. Steps were then taken to ensure the transfer of his ashes to his native town. In 1947, Henri Rousseau was transferred with great pomp to the botanical garden of La Perrine, where he has since been laid to rest under a tombstone decorated with an epitaph written by poet Guillaume Apollinaire. Twenty years later, the opening, in the heart of the Old Castle, of a museum dedicated to Naïve Art and Singular Arts definitively confirmed the reconciliation between the master and his native town.
LAVAL AND CYCLING
Laval only hosted the Tour de France in 1999 for a stage that started in Nantes and was won in a sprint by Tom Steels, now sports director of the Deceuninck-Quick Step team. It was the second of the three stage victories of the four-time Belgian champion in this edition and the sixth of his nine victories in the Grande Boucle.
The prefecture of Mayenne has given birth to many riders who have participated in the Tour de France. At the top of the list is Jacky Durand, winner of three stages in 1994, 1995 - wearing the Yellow Jersey for two days - and 1998, and twice winner of the Most Aggressive Rider prize in 1998 and 1999, a year in which he finished last in the race. Jacky has become a respected cycling consultant for Eurosport. Ludovic Turpin has participated in five Tours de France for Ag2R, while Frank Rénier took part in the event four times between 2001 and 2004 for Jean-René Bernaudeau's teams. We should also add Marcel Duchemin, the best French amateur of the 1970's who never became a professional despite his three victories in the Course de la Paix or the Dalibard father and son, Philippe and Antoine.
Laval is also the finishing town of the Boucles de la Mayenne and has been a favourite of Bryan Coquard, who won in the city in 2016 and 2019.
Château de Laval
The dynasty of the lords of Laval has been a part of French history: the town was for a long time the crossing point between the Île-de-France and Brittany. A thousand years ago, a first castle was founded on the current Place de la Trémoille, followed in the 12th century by a stone building on the rocky spur overlooking the river Mayenne. The keep then became a symbol of the town. The main tower, erected at the beginning of the 13th century, dominates the Mayenne River and the Old Bridge which spans it by more than 34 metres. The courtyard of the castle, which is freely accessible, offers a remarkable view of the main building, whose tufa windows are decorated in Renaissance style. Transformed into a prison during the 19th century, the castle has housed the Museum of Naive Art and Singular Arts since 1967.
Museum of Naive Art and Singular Arts - MANAS
Since 1967, the Laval museum has been enthusiastically exploring naïve and singular creations and has the finest collection of naïve art in Europe in homage to Laval-born Henri Rousseau. The museum has works by Jules Lefranc, Séraphine de Senlis and many others! It keeps a watchful eye on non-standard creation and is identified at national level as a discoverer and supporter of visual artists who are far from the distribution circuits.
Saint-Julien wash house
Built in 1904 for the laundryman Alphonse Fouquet, this large wooden boat with two decks is 28 metres long and 5.10 metres wide. With its twenty or so washing boards protected by a zinc canopy, its flat-bottomed hull served as a washhouse for the forty or so washerwomen who washed and rinsed their clothes there. The central part of the building still contains the two boilers that supplied hot water to the vats above. In addition to the large basins in which the laundry was boiled, the first floor contains the living quarters of the laundryman and his family.
Bath and shower facilities
The need to promote bodily hygiene in a town where the possession of a toilet was exceptional at the time, led the municipality to commission its architect Léon Guinebretière to build a building for public baths. Construction of the building began in 1925 and it opened to the public in 1927. The exterior is modest but modern. It draws on the art deco repertoire in a spirit close to the Viennese Secession. The geometric lines are softened by the use of Egyptian motifs. Composed of sixteen showers and six baths, the bathroom is dominated by the blue of the mosaics commissioned from the artist Isidore Odorico, who also designed the Rennes swimming pool. This jewel of Art Deco architecture now regularly hosts temporary exhibitions and cultural events.
Cité du Lait (City of Milk)
It is no coincidence that the entrance to the Cité du Lait museum is through the façade of the Société laitière de Laval A. Besnier et Cie. It was here, at the end of the old rue du Moulin, that in the 1950s the collection trucks arrived loaded with milk cans. Since 1933, in the wake of André Besnier, the company's founder, Lactalis has witnessed and played a part in the metamorphosis of this profession. The Cité du Lait tells this story, first by offering an immersion in the atmosphere of the 1950s. This reconstruction allows us to understand the environment and the organisation of the dairy of the time.
The first floor of the museum then presents the Lactalis Group, a small company from Laval that is now the market leader and present on five continents.
Living museum of public school
The museum, located exactly on the site of the former Henri Chantrel school, sets the tone by faithfully presenting the atmosphere of a primary school from the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century in one of its permanent rooms. At its peak, the school had seven classes. Competing with the school in the Hilard district, it closed permanently in 1970. It remains the property of the city of Laval. In 1982, the year of the celebration of the centenary of secular laws and public education, the idea of creating a school museum was born. It opened to the public in 1991 thanks to a group of volunteers who, in 1988, created an association to manage it and make it a living and evolving museum.
Notre-Dame de la Trinité Cathedral
The church of the Trinity was built on the outskirts of the castle in 1070 by the monks of Couture in Le Mans. The building has been extensively altered over the centuries and was only raised to the rank of cathedral in 1855. This is why it has a rather composite architecture (Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, etc.). Its visit allows you to discover the different phases of transformation, visible in particular in the windows and vaults, as well as the richness of its furnishings: altarpieces, statues, triptychs, funerary monuments, tapestries, organs, etc.
The Pegasus hoof
A Mayenne speciality, the Sabot de Pégase (Pegasus Hoof), presented in a 380g box, is a chocolate sweet created by the pastry chef Moïse Derval as a tribute to his hometown. Indeed, Pegasus, the winged horse, is the symbol of Mayenne, a department known for its numerous stud farms and its renowned horse races. The Pegasus hoof is presented in the form of a half horse hoof and is available in white, milk or dark chocolate with hazelnut caramel.