Ten Centuries of love and Romanticism
With its maze of streets and alleyways lined with hidden gems of history, its quays which are perfect for a stroll, and its myriad of Gothic churches which house the finest collection of stained glass windows in France, Troyes offers the ideal stimulus for gentle souls.
Troyes is a place that touches the soul and makes the heat beat stronger!
Is love really possible between spouses ? Marie de France had an uncompromising answer to this somewhat absurd question: no. “This judgement of ours, published after much guidance and suppor – ted by the advice of numerous other ladies, must be accepted by you as beyond doubt and abidingly true. Given in the year 1174 on the 1st of May, on the 7th of the Indiction.” Marie, Countess of Champagne, wife of Henry I of Champagne, known as Henry the Liberal, and daughter of Louis VII of France, known as Louis the Young, and Eleanor of Aquitaine, made this proclamation as chair of Troyes’ Court of Love.
The «Court of Love» in Troyes: where matters of the heart were heard
Only a select few cities in France were privileged enough to host these unusual court sessions, chaired by one of the leading ladies of the kingdom. They exclusively heard matters of the heart, from disputes between lovers to issues of morality. The “sentences” handed down were strictly moral in nature. These courts had no power to inflict corporal or financial punishment. They were gover – ned by one code – the code of courtly love. This was a set of rules and principles to which all respec – table knights and ladies were expected to adhere. Courtly love, also known at the time as “fine love” or “perfect love”, demanded that a suitor show total and complete devotion to the object of his desires. Yet he was still expected to fulfil his duties to his comrades.
Was Mary, Countess of Champagne, an enlightened lady, in fact the patron of none other than Chrétien de Troyes? Indeed, was it she who commissioned his novel Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart? Less romantic souls will claim that these “courts of Love” never existed and that, in fact, they were a product of the imagination of Andreas Capellanus. If this is true, then hats off to Andreas Capellanus
Troyes, a city with a heart !
Until now, Troyes was known for its “head” and its “body”, as marked by the characteristic champagne cork shape of the old city centre. But now, the city also has a heart 15 .
This sculpture, by a local artist, sits on the renovated quays along the old canal. This disused waterway marks the boundary between the city centre’s “head” and “body”. This pierced heart, which beats with light at night-time, is also the heart of the city itself, both physically and metaphorically. You’re either romantic or you’re not!