Sunday, April 17, 2022

A Quiet Morning in a Medieval Town... Troyes!

A few weeks ago, I returned to the beautiful Medieval town of Troyes, having kept such pleasant memories of this incredible site.
Unlike my last visit, on a Summer's day a number of years ago, this one took place on an early Spring day...
There was one common element however; both trips being made in order to admire the art of painter Jean Marrel. More about that in another post...
Whereas my first visit had led me through the relatively busy streets and alleyways of the town, this time I found myself wandering through the virtually deserted roads and walkways that meander along and around the old town.
The vibrant blue skies brought out all the timber details on the architecture that seemed to tower above.
Despite a radiant light, the Sunday-morning air was bracing ! Hardly surprising then that I initially encountered so few people...
In fact, that suited me perfectly as I wanted to imagine life as it may have been in centuries past, and in the historical heart of the town this is almost possible to achieve.
Over the last few decades, the town municipality has taken measures to protect and preserve the historic buildings and monuments that reflect the former importance of Troyes.
The cash dispenser in the bank above is fairly discreet, and generally speaking the shops and services likewise tend to respect the cultural heritage of the sites that they occupy.
However little indicates the degree of commercial exchange in the town during the foires de Champagne of the Middle Ages or the size and significance of its textile industry of Troyes over the centuries.
The wealth of Troyes today is largely dependant on tourism, accommodating and catering for those drawn to the town. Restaurants and cafés flourish, of course, and some serve the incomparable local meat dish - andouillette de Troyes.
Many visitors come to purchase big brand clothes and other goods at the factory outlet stores outside town, but others converge on the historical centre and wonder at the architecture and negotiate those impossibly narrow alleys.
The Medieval half-timbered buildings - à colombage - with their variety of colours contrast against the striking blue sky and the 19th century architecture that cohabits this space ...
I couldn't help but wonder who lived in all these buildings, what stories lie behind any one of these amazing façades or within the many courtyards beyond. Not to mention the lives of those who commissioned or carried out the building of such archicture and its decoration...
The merman below has to be one of my favourite carved figures. What was his exact meaning?
Forms of man, beast and flower adorn beams, cornices and corners, peering out at us in our 21st century ignorance !
Many, of course, are symbols of the Christian faith and appear on private buildings in addition to the numerous churches of Troyes. I suspect that for the most part, their meaning is lost on us too as we are no longer able to 'read' them.
On this latest trip to Troyes, I soon realized that the town is deceptively big. It may appear light and accessible on first impression yet is as dense and complex as the wooden structures that hold up its 16th century architecture.
I will surely have to return to visit the other magical places of this town - one of these to be found behind this impressive wall - Le Musée de Vauluisant .

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