Sunday, 19 July 2015

The historic town of Troyes; part 3 - its cathedral and some sculptures

Close to the ancient city centre is the Cathedral dedicated to Saint Pierre and Saint Paul. This is the third such on or around this site. The first was built in the 5th century but destroyed by the invading Normans in the 9th. Around the year 1000, a second Romanesque style church was built, and in 1128 it witnessed the founding of the Order of Knights Templar, but less than 200 years later, this was badly damaged by fire. The early 13th century had brought in the Gothic style of church building and work commenced on one of the largest and most beautiful of France's churches. The building work went on for 400, yes 400 years, interrupted by the Hundred Years' War (1337-1453) and repairs necessary due to fire and storm damage. In 1634, the building work was stopped due to a lack of money, the second tower remaining unfinished to this day, as you can see below!

The main elevation

This plaque commemorates the day in July 1429 when Joan of Arc escorted the Dauphin (King's son) to mass in the cathedral, en route to proclaiming him Charles VII of France at Reims cathedral, in contravention of the Treaty of Troyes signed in 1420. This treaty was set up as a plot between Henry V of England and a French ally, Phillip of Burgundy to try to prevent the Dauphin from becoming French king (Charles VII) on the death of his father Charles VI, who was mad in any case! Henry has already married a French noblewoman in 1420 in order to try to stake his own claim to the French throne, so Joan of Arc had thwarted Henry's plans and he never achieved his desire to be king of England AND France, as many of his ancestors has been!

Towering columns supporting the stone vaulting of the roof.

Altar and choir, built in the 12th century

Rose window of the North Transept

If these stones could talk..............!

Spectacular stained glass windows in the nave and transept.

 A permanent sculpture, entitled the Heart of Troyes, next to the Bassin, explained in the last part of this blog.

The following four sculptures are nearby, and somewhat controversial according to the local press. They are the work of Reynald Jenneret, a local artist and are in the so-called "retro-futurist" style. He says they are "tongue-in-cheek" and not to be taken seriously! If you don't like them, you will be pleased to hear they will be moved away in November!

My thanks once again to Nigel for all his research and help.

See also my daily Photo Diary Here

My Life Before Charente   - New post 19/07/2015

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

The historic town of Troyes - part two.

We're in the pedestrianised rue Paillot de Montabert here, with our hotel, the Relais Saint Jean on the left. A great place to stay and the friendly and helpful managers speak English! The car parking is brilliant; you drive down a ramp into a basement in a nearby street, park the car, take your bags down a passage to a lift, which magically pops up in the hotel reception! Very convenient, as there aren't many places to street park in the old town area.

This is the house diagonally opposite the baker's house shown further down. It belonged to a silversmith, Francois Roize, who built it between 1578 and 1618, incorporating this turret to accommodate the staircase. Space was always at a premium (see last picture too) and ingenious ways were found to make the best of what there was available.

This shows the support to the circular turret above; the figures are two caryatids and a Telamon, so I'm told!

View from the hotel bedroom window.

This building is known as "the baker's house" after its first owner. Note the silversmith's turret at right. The pulley at the top of the house, used to pull flour bags up to the loft, can still be seen. This house was the first in the area to be renovated, in 1964, after a long battle to prevent it being demolished! The facade is typical of building styles in the town in the 16th century. The building now houses  the cultural centre. Why is there a commando hanging from his parachute? Well, when were in town, there was an exhibition illustrating the liberation of the town by Allied forces from the Nazis in 1945.

The central fruit and vegetable display in Les Halles, the food market in an enclosed building near the town hall. This was taken near the end of the day, so there isn't a lot going on!

Different styles in a row, but all beautifully restored.

Restaurants, of which there are plenty in and around the old town. This is rue Champeaux, around the corner from the hotel.

Police station - it had to be, with those bars on the windows!! And that's a seriously big pot!

One of three museums in town, this is Musee Saint Loup, named after the bishop of Troyes, who saved the town from Attila the Hun and his hordes in the year 451 and lived apparently to the age of 95! It house exhibitions of fine art (including sculptures by Girardon, sculptor to Louis XIV), archaeology (including a gallo-roman bronze statue of Apollo) and natural history.

Cellier Saint Pierre, just across a square from the cathedral - this is a beautiful wine shop, which was unfortunately closed when we were there!

Troyes is famous for its sculptures. This bronze lady, if I remember rightly, overlooks the Bassin de la Prefecture, a dinky little waterway almost bisecting the centre of modern town. The bassin, or canal one might say in this case, seems to have been created by diverting water into a man-made loop off the river Seine (yes, the same river which passes through Paris, 180 km or 110 miles to the WNW), which flows around the east end of Troyes. Very imaginative and a memorable design feature!

Leaning houses propped apart! The upper floors of houses in the Middle Ages were often built out over the street to provide that extra little bit of living space. Foundations were often absent or, at their best, still inadequate to support the building load.Thus, settlement of these dwellings over hundreds of years has meant that the town council has had to resort  to extreme measures to preserve them. The ancient buildings around here are all being restored and converted into living accommodation by the council.

There's a part three to come, with photos of more delights, including the cathedral.
My thanks to Nigel for all his research and help.

See also my daily Photo Diary Here
My Life Before Charente  - 'My Mum buys a racehorse' - New post 10/06/2015

Friday, 22 May 2015

Troyes, capital of the Aube department, north-central France.

We  stopped for the night in Troyes last week, when returning from Amsterdam (of which more of both in the near future). The town centre is being exquisitely preserved by the town council, and walking around the narrow streets, you have the feeling that it is just as it was 500 or more years ago!

This is a information board in the town to show people this part of the town centre and how this church is tucked into the buildings surrounding it. La Madeleine was originally a rural settlement, developed along the western road to Paris, but, undefended, it was sacked by the Normans in 887. Once it had been enclosed within the city walls around 1200, the area was revived and the population swelled with craftsmen and traders, some being associated with the Champagne Fairs. The grand families living around the church prospered and when part of the quarter was devastated by fire in 1524, the houses were rebuilt in stone, and  are still standing today! There are 13 churches in Troyes centre, so a feast for the eyes of those who enjoy their architecture. but this is said to be amongst the best. First mentioned in 1157, it was added to, and altered, over the next 5 centuries.
The main entrance to the church, Eglise Sainte Madeleine. The great mass of masonry is difficult to see in this very narrow street! It's very anonymous from the outside, but the inside is unbelievable! Like most medieval churches, the walls inside were originally coloured, but someone in the 18th century whitewashed the lot!

And from the other direction, with a better view of the tower, which was added in 1525.

This is the portal over what they call the "small door", right next to the main entrance !

This breath-takingly carved and detailed rood-loft or gallery (one of perhaps only 12 in France) was ordered by the church clergy in 1503 and is the work of master mason Jehan Gailde, who supervised several others,  completing it during the years 1508 - 1515

It's unbelievable that craftsmen with the hand tools of the time were able to create this work out of the local fragile chalk stone.The very rich decoration mixes floral and animal motifs, with ethereal draping, grotesques and figures in period clothing. It's quite the most rich and beautiful stonework we've ever seen, anywhere!!

Gailde also made this spiral stair himself. The soft stone is presumably conducive to fine carving, but the authorities of today no doubt have a huge maintenance problem!

The glorious stained glass windows behind the altar are the subject of immense admiration by visitors.

Stone roof vaulting. How the builders worked out all the angles and curves is amazing!

Saint Robert - a carved painted wood statue from the 1500's. Saint Robert was a monk who founded  two local abbeys in the 11th century, representations of each of which he carries in his hands. A clever way of showing his achievement.

See also my daily Photo Diary Here
My Life Before Charente  - New post 22/05/2015

Thursday, 30 April 2015

A few of my favourite photos taken so far this year.

01/02/2015 Sunset.

04/04/2015 Rain drop.

05/03/2015 Snowdrop.

08/04/2015 Reflections in a wine glass stem.

11/04/2015 The problem for home grown vegetables !

26/01/2015 Blue Tit at the lounge window. "Where is my food?"

10/02/2015 Greenfinch and Sparrow altercation.

06/04/2015 A red moon.

We will be away for a bit  Off to look at  WW1 battlefields in Northern France and Belgium, before spending a few days in Amsterdam.  Hopefully I will return with some interesting photos. See you all soon.

See also my daily Photo Diary Here
My Life Before Charente  - New post 18/04/2015

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Châtellerault : town sights and its motor museum.

Châtellerault is a smallish town (about 30,000 people) in the Vienne department (part of the Poitou-Charentes region), 100 kilometres (62 miles) or so north of us. It's well situated on the river Vienne, very near to the A10 motorway linking Bordeaux and Paris. The high speed train line between these two cities also runs through here. We parked the car and the first thing we saw was this beautifully restored building, now apparently containing private apartments.

Lavish decoration, all done to a tight curve!

This stone plaque records the site of the Saint Catherine's gate, once an entrance into the town and through which passed the French heroine Joan of Arc in March 1429 during the 100 Years War. You will recall that Joan, a young lady of seventeen, was inspired by "voices" to raise a force to recapture the town of Orleans, held by the English. She successfully did this in May 1429 and went on to win a series of battles against them, including the capture of Reims, where Charles VII was crowned king of France in July 1429. In May 1430, Joan was captured and tried by the English as a heretic. They burnt her at the stake in 1431 in Rouen, but in 1920 she was raised to sainthood in recognition of her efforts and sacrifice for France.

Pont Henri IV. THE thing to see in the town, so the guidebooks say. The work was ordered by Catherine of Medici (queen of France, wife of King Henry II) in person, during quite a frenzy of such projects at the time and started in 1572 by Charles Androuet, whose brother built the Pont Neuf bridge in Paris. This one is 144 metres long and 21 metres wide, but it took a looooong time to build! Androuet's son Rene took over the supervision in the last 5 years up to completion in 1611.

This second bridge nearby, is the bridge Camille de Hogues, built in 1900 and notable for being the first reinforced concrete bridge in France! Chimneys at the motor museum (see later) in the background.

Église St-Jacques is yet another church on the pilgrim route to Saint Jacques de Compostelle in Spain, featured in other blogs! It was built in the 12th and 13th centuries, but the towers were added in the 19th century.

The beautiful roof vaulting inside.....

....and the stained glass windows.

But now to the main reason for our visit,  the car and bike museum.  These are only a very few of the photos I took, and if you are in the region, it is well worth a visit for a modest 5 euro entrance fee.  The museum is large and there are loads of things to see. It is housed in a 19 century former armaments factory, which is eye-catching in itself, but in 1970 the space was provided for the motor museum. These two beautiful and shapely brick chimneys below form part of it and can be seen from a long way off. A masterclass in brickwork!

Below is a very small selection of those which caught my eye! I've tried not to be too technical, limiting myself to the brief descriptions on the signs in front of each exhibit.
Draisiaenne - A replica of a German design of 1820, pioneered by Baron Drais. It allowed the rider to be "seated" and the front wheel to be steered. They excited great curiosity and amusement in the public who saw them on the streets of Paris and London!

Tricycle from 1889 offering more comfort, technical design advances and manoeuvrability than available with the bicycle of the time

Werner from 1903. The 2,5 hp 4 stroke engine was started by the cyclist pedalling. it could attain 35 -45 kph. Note: 100 kph is 62 miles per hour! It won at least 2 long distance races in 1901; Paris - Bordeaux and Paris - Berlin but the marque disappeared in 1906, when regulations were changed.

Panhard - Levassor. State of the art in 1890! One of the first models with a petrol engine. Similar to the car which Levassor drove non-stop in 1895 for 48 hours and 48 minutes! Brave man!

1906 Brouhot. Four cylinder engine with maximum speed of 60-80 kph. This car was rebuilt from pieces in 1969 and is the only known surviving example.

The Darmont from 1929, developed under licence from the English company Morgan, who had started with 3 wheeled cars in 1908. This French version has an 1100cc engine powering the car to a very respectable 150 kph!

Longchamp was an engineer who built chassis and bodywork for speed recordbreaking competition cars. The engines were ordered from other specialists. This car is from 1953 and doesn't look out of place today!

1939 Peugeot 402B , although the 402 model first appeared in 1935. A 2100cc engine gave it a top speed of 135 kph. Production was stopped in 1939 with the start of World War 2.

Teilhol electric car, with Paris registration, from 1972! Useful for parking where there isn't much space. Powered by batteries to maximum speed of 75 kph. Weighing 500 kg, it could be driven for 75 km before recharging was required.

The world famous English marque, a BSA, with sidecar from 1918. Only 4.5 horsepower! Birmingham Small Arms Company (hence BSA) manufactured rifles in the 19th century but later turned to motorcycles. The sidecar was relatively modern for its era; shaped metal panels on a wood frame.

Just a glimpse of the host of interesting exhibits following the evolution of  personal transport from the wooden bike to the more familiar machines of today!

Thanks to Nigel once again for all his research and writing the article to go with my photos.

See also my daily Photo Diary Here
My Life Before Charente  - New post 18/04/2015