Written by MichaelJM on 19 Feb, 2006
Our French friends introduced us to Provins, and it is surely a great day out from Paris. Provins, set in the middle of the Rriard Plateau, is a perfect town to view medieval architecture, having almost 60 protected historical buildings. It seems that Provins has…Read More
Our French friends introduced us to Provins, and it is surely a great day out from Paris. Provins, set in the middle of the Rriard Plateau, is a perfect town to view medieval architecture, having almost 60 protected historical buildings. It seems that Provins has had providence as a settlement since modern history started, and it was certainly an important Roman town. However, good records outlining Provins’ importance were not started until the early 800s, so this place exudes history!
The ramparts were constructed between the 11th and 13th centuries, and efforts had been made to make them stylish (there’s bossed masonry) to confirm the importance of this ancient town. Saint John’s and Jouy Gate were built in the 14th century, and as "royal gates" they are impressive pieces of architecture (the latter was restored in 1994).
Caesar’s Tower is named after the alleged builder of this fortification, but as this one was constructed in the 12th century, we can be 100% sure that it has nothing to do with him. There was a previous tower on the site, so perhaps that one’s down to him! For less than 4€ you can enter the tower, and I can assure you that this will offer you the best view of the surrounding countryside. We were interested to study the outer wall known as Pâté aux Anglais (the English crust).
The tithe barn is well worth the 3.50€. During the medieval Fairs of Champagne, the building was used as a covered market, and it is known that Toulouse merchants rented it in 1223. The ground floor was used as a storeroom, whilst the upper floors were living space. The cross-ribbed vaulting of the entrance hall is impressive, and at the bases of the vaults you can still see deep grooves that used to support wooden room dividers. Throughout this building, there are scenes set out depicting medieval traders, such as potters, wool traders, and moneychangers.
Saint Quiriace church was commissioned by Count Henri the Liberal in the 12th century at the bidding of Count Henri the Liberal, but severe financial difficulties meant that the construction was never completed. The impressive dome, which can be spotted from miles away, was added in the 17th century. The church is illuminated at night, a terrific spectacle.
There’s a network of caves under the town, but it is unclear why they were originally hewn out. It is assumed that they were early quarries for "fuller’s earth" (used in cloth manufacturing), and then they had a variety of uses: early centres of worship, hiding places during times of strife, and secret centres for the town’s Freemasons. For around 3€ it's worth investigating them.
If you check out before you go, they have a range of "medieval shows," including hunting birds and a variety of battle enactments. However, it’s a great place just to wander round and take in the atmosphere!