Troyes, la ville aux 10 églises

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Troyes, la ville aux 10 églises

Points of interest

1 - Saint-Pantaleon's Church

The Saint-Pantaléon church was, during the Renaissance, a parish of wealthy bourgeois, who made a point of displaying works of art, such as statues and stained glass windows.
After the Revolution, 16th century sculptures rescued from other buildings were brought there, transforming it into a remarkable museum of Champagne religious statuary.

Some authors mention a synagogue on this site and then, starting in 1189, a half-timbered church dedicated to Saint-Pantaléon, martyr. According to legend, his hands were nailed to his head in Rome in 304. At the start of the 16th century, the church was replaced by a stone building that was partially burned in 1524. Nearby devastated land was annexed in 1527 in order to build a larger church. In 1570, the lower parts were covered by a temporary roof and the upper part was finished a century later. Around 1740, a span and the classic façade were added.

The sober exterior features a portal with two superimposed pediments and an astonishing octagonal steeple. The interior creates a sensation of elevation owing to the narrow nave.
The surrounding balcony, the 28-meter wooden barrel vault and the huge bay windows are also remarkable.
The pillars support two rows of beautiful statues. On the 1st pillar to the right, is an admirable Saint Jacques by Dominique Le Florentin, master of the Troyesschool and, on the 2nd, a Sainte Barbe, holding a book and a short palm, a masterpiece of Troyes art ; the Chaire de vérité (pulpit), by the sculptor Simart (1806-1851) ; on the pillars in front of the altar are La Foi and La Charité (1551, Le Florentin) ; in the second chapel on the right a very realistic polychrome group of the Arrestation de Saint Crépin et Saint Crépinien, patrons of cobblers, is displayed. The church contains many other superb polychrome statues.

The historiated stained glass windows, often in “grisaille”, form a remarkable ensemble from the 16th century, including Histoire de Daniel and La Passion (1531), attributed to Jehan I Macardré.

2 - Eglise Sainte-Madeleine

Of all the admirable churches in Troyes, Sainte-Madeleine is perhaps the oldest and certainly one of the most beautiful. It is mentioned as early as 1157 and its construction dates from 1120, but it was rebuilt around 1200 in a Gothic style that had recently emerged in France. Its apse and choir were renovated around 1500 in the Flamboyant Gothic style of the time. Its square Renaissance-style tower dates to 1525, as does the richly sculpted portal of the former cemetery located to the right of the entrance (today Jardin des Innocents). The church's main portal was refurbished in the 17th century and the nave was restored in the 19th century.
Sainte-Madeleine is remarkable for its famous rood screen and the apse's stained glass windows, a masterpiece of exceptional finesse that all visitors admire. Only some one dozen religious buildings in France still have a rood screen, which is an elevated stone gallery between the nave and the choir with room for a choral or officiating priests addressing their flock.
Around 1503, the clergy of Sainte-Madeleine called upon the region's artisans to replace the old wooden rood screen. At the same time, the chapter of the Cathedral of Troyes sought an architect to build its portal. The project submitted by Jean Gailde, who worked on the construction of the Sainte-Madeleine choir, was turned down, but he was selected to do the rood screen. People said he wanted to avenge his eviction by the canons by pulling out all the stops in his creation of the stone lace on display here today. He was both a designer and a sculptor and at his death was buried under his masterpiece.
The rood screen was originally polychrome but was whitened like all the church walls during the 18th century.
The church's choir has superb examples of the Troyes school of stained glass windows from the start of the Renaissance, characterized by a highlighted design, striking colours and great technical refinement. Be sure to see the beautiful Tree of Jesse (from the start of the 16th century), The Genesis, and the Pearls of Saint Eloi, a stained glass window done in 1506 by Nicolas Cordonnier for this corporation, whose detail is reminiscent of the work of a silversmith.

3 - Eglise Saint-Jean-au-Marché

A Saint-Jean-l'Evangéliste church was located here in the 9th century. Louis le Bègue (Louis the Stammerer or Louis II) was allegedly crowned King of France here by Pope John VII.
Destroyed around 889-892 by Norman pillagers, it was probably rebuilt in wood like many buildings of the time. In 1188, the neighbourhood was ravaged by fire and reduced to ashes, but the lucrative foires de Champagne helped to revive the city and the church then took the name of Saint-Jean-au-Marché.
In the 13th and 14th centuries, the church was totally rebuilt, this time in stone, as we see it today, but the choir and the transept, damaged by the great fire of Troyes in 1524, were rebuilt at the start of the 16th century. On the exterior, the church was flanked by small stalls, or small houses, which were demolished at the start of the 20th century.
The steeple of the Saint-Jean-au-Marché church, located at the southwest corner of the building, collapsed in 1911, and was removed along with the west façade during the demolition of the stalls. Its structure was wood and contained the bells that have been moved to the northern and southern sides of the building, which were only slightly damaged during the accident.
In the interior, the flat apse has an Italian-style monumental altarpiece designed in 1667 by the Parisian architect Noblet and decorated with a painting by the Troyes painter Pierre Mignard (17th century). The 32 stalls are probably from the former Notre-Dame-aux-Nonnains abbey, closed down at the Revolution (current site of the préfecture). The nave and the aisles, with pillars, decorated capitals and sculpted keystones, have wide Gothic bays. The stained glass windows were made during the Beau XVIe s. troyen. In the third bay the Judgement of Salomon (1511) is admirable and curious visitors will not overlook the Circumcision of Christ, the Martyrdom of Saint Agatha (with her blissful smile) and the Crowning of the Virgin, a stained glass window from circa 1495, all of which are located in the bays along the southern aisle. The church also contains beautiful sculptures from the Troyes school, most of which from before the 1524 fire,including a stained glass window circa 1495, in addition to beautiful sculptures also from the Troyes school : a Pietà, La Visitation of Flemish inspiration, and La Déploration. The tabernacle was decorated by François Girardon (1691).
In June 1420, the church was the venue of the marriage of Henry V, King of England, and Catherine of France. This marriage ratified the disinheritance of the future Charles VII, because at the death of Charles VI and Isabeau of Bavaria, the kingdom of France was to go to the King of England.

4 - Basilique Saint-Urbain

Consecrated as a basilica in 1964, it's a pure jewel of Gothic art.

Few cities in France can boast of being the birthplace of a pope. Champagne was an exception in having two : Urbain II, born in 1042 in Châtillon (Marne), and Urbain IV, born in 1185 in Troyes in a house that was demolished to make room for the Saint-Urbain church.
Urbain IV's name was Jacques Pantaléon. The son of a cobbler from Troyes, he briefly studied at the Cathedral school and then left to study theology at the Sorbonne (Paris) around 1200.
He was a canon in Langres and an archdeacon in Liege, then in Laon, bishop of Verdun, chaplain of the Vatican, and a legate of the pope in Poland. He was appointed patriarch of Jerusalem in 1255. In 1261, before he became cardinal, he was elected Pope and took the name Urbain IV, although he never lived in Rome. When he died he was buried in the Saint-Laurent de Perouse cathedral in 1264, despite the fact that his wish was to be buried in Troyes in his dearly beloved church Pope Urbain IV never forgot his native city. In 1261, he decided to build a superb collegiate church (a church served and administered by a college of canons) on the site of his father's old shop. He hired the architect Jean Langlois and paid him a huge sum. The work soon started, despite the staunch opposition of the sisters of the Notre-Dame-aux-Nonnains abbey, who were unhappy at seeing a new church being built in their jurisdiction. They went so far as to thrash the workers and sack the worksite. The Saint-Urbain collegiate church was not consecrated until 1389, before it was finished, and the upper part of the nave was only completed at the end of the 19th century by the architect Selmersheim, in keeping with the original plan.
A masterpiece of Gothic art, Saint-Urbain is known for its superb proportions, its stone lace and huge windows and was called the “Parthenon of Champagne”. The vast portal, covering the entire western side of the building, was completed in 1905, but the pediment, on which a magnificent Last Judgement is shown, dates from the 13th century.
Upon entering the church, visitors are struck by its elegance, sobriety and luminosity. The incredibly light transept and choir still have their original magnificent stained glass windows, dating from around 1270 and restored in 1992 by the Troyes company, Le Vitrail. The statuary is also admirable, in particular the famous Vierge aux Raisins (in the chapel on the south aisle), whose finesse and reverence are typical of the 16th century Troyes school.
In 1935, the remains of Urbain IV were transferred to the church, which was given the title of basilica in 1964.

5 - Cathédrale Saint-Pierre Saint-Paul

t was in all likelihood the bishop Saint Loup who had the area's first cathedral built in the 5th century, in the southeast corner of the castrum (fort). It was nearly totally destroyed in 890 when the Normans torched Troyes. At the end of the 10th century, after a long and troubled period, Milon, the 44th bishop of Troyes, rebuilt the cathedral in the Roman style. But in 1188, another fire ravaged a large part of the city and the cathedral, the remains of which are now located under the present one, was also seriously damaged.
An era of Christian fervour and technical innovation launched Gothic art in France in the 12th century. Starting in 1198, the bishops Garnier de Trainel and then Hervée (represented in a 13th century stained glass window in the choir) undertook the construction of one of the grandest and most beautiful cathedrals in France, beginning with the apse's chapels, on the site of the former Gallo-Roman ramparts. The transept was built in 1260 and the first spans of the nave were installed starting in 1310, but the project was interrupted by the Hundred Years War (1337-1453).
In the 16th century, the final spans were placed in the old church. The west façade, a masterpiece by Martin Chambiges, a master mason from Paris, was finished in 1554, along with the base of the Saint-Pierre tower, which was not completed until 1634. During the construction, eight loggias were built along the building's wall for use by labourers and stonemasons. They were replaced in the 19th century by stalls where bread was sold.
The Saint-Paul tower was never built because of a crisis in the Christian faith and a shortage of financing. Erected over a period of more than 400 years, the cathedral illustrates the various stages of the Gothic styles : Pure, Rayonnant and Flamboyant. But the ensemble is very homogenous and admirable both inside and out. At 114 metres long and 28.5 meters high, it is one of the most famous in France owing to its elegance, the quality of its sculptures, its paintings, tapestries and especially its stained-glass windows (1,500 m²). In the choir, the 13th century stained-glass windows represent Mary, Saint John, various episodes from the Bible and figures from the Middle Ages. In the nave, the Tree of Jesse (circa 1500), the Mystic Wine Press (1625) by Linard Gonthier and other leading works by this famous master stained-glass artist from Troyes (1565-1642) are on display. The sculpted wooden stalls of the choir (18th century) are from the Clairvaux abbey, as are the famous large organs (18th century).
The cathedral houses a remarkable treasure, established in 1204 when Constantinople was sacked by the Crusaders. It includes an exceptional set of reliquaries, including that of Saint Bernard de Clairvaux, restored by Viollet le Duc, relics, Limousine enamels and other items of silver, including a Byzantine chest made of crimson-tinted ivory (11th century), the purses of the Counts of Champagne (13th - 14th century), enamels from the reliquary of Saint Loup (16th century), etc.
It was in the cathedral that the “ Honteux Traité de Troyes ” (the shameful treaty of Troyes) was sworn in 1420, granting the crown of France to Henry V of England. On 10 July 1429, on this same spot, Joan of Arc secured the allegiance of the city for the young Charles VII in order to drive the English out of France,
as indicated on a plaque at the foot of the tower.

From this same place in 1536, Denis Bolori, a Troyes watchmaker of Italian origin, jumped off the tower in an attempt to fly, wearing a set of articulated wings, which held him aloft for several minutes, before crashing 1 km further eastward, at Saint-Parres-aux-Tertres. An unsung pioneer of aeronautics !

6 - Eglise Saint-Nizier

In 582, Bishop Gallomagne took to Troyes the relics of Nizier, primate of Lyon, who was highly venerated in the region and who died in 573. Bishop Gallomagne deposited them in
the Saint-Maur church, built at the end of the 5th century, which subsequently took the name of Saint-Nizier.
The present church dates from the 16th century and its square tower was completed around 1619. The remarkable roof of glazed tiles is reminiscent of the Burgundy style.
Inside the church, visitors will admire the large Gothic naves and their luminosity. The stained glass windows, an exceptional example of the Troyes school, illustrate subjects from the Old and New Testaments. Several anonymous sculptures date from the start of the Renaissance, including a Burial (at the back on the right), a polychrome Pietà (at the back on the left) and the famous Christ of Pity (third chapel on the left).
The place Saint-Nizier was refurbished in 2001 as a pedestrian zone, with Etrochey (Burgundy) paving stones. In the gardens, three bronze statues were installed, the work of the famous Aubois sculptors Paul Dubois (Le Chanteur florentin), Pierre-Charles Simart (Oreste) and Alfred Boucher (L'Enfant à la fontaine) according to the originals from the Saint-Loup Museum.
Nearby, there are many restored half-timbered houses dating from the 16th century.

In detail

  • Positive altitude: 29.42 m
  • Altitude drop : -29.44 m
  • Departure altitude: 115.85 m
  • Arrival altitude : 115.83 m