The church was finished in 1084 for a monastery created by the Dukes of Champagne for this, their main city at that time. They lived above inside their walls, the monks in the "suburbs". St. Ayoul was a miracle worker in the are who was buried in 845. The finding of his tomb in 1000 at this site, led to its religious attraction and the resulting Abbey. It was mostly destroyed by fire in 1157 followed by a rebuilding. The last phase was a broad facade of three portals under a porch with a fine tympanum over the central doorway with column statues in the embrasures of the type just evolving in Chartres (a better view of the relaxed style being created can be better seen nearby at St.-Loup-de-Naud; See Our Tips). The scarred doorway has been recently recreated in a dark material by a talented artist.
The dome Church of Saint-Quiriace tends to dominate the skyline of the upper village along with Caesars's Tower. The plan for the church in the 12th Century proved to be too ambitious when financial difficulties hit and it was never completed. Also a collapse of part of the building and a fire caused some modifications including the dome which was added in the 17th Century. However, it is still an imposing edifice and inside is a very light and elegantly simple church. An historic note: Joan of Arc and Charles VII are said to have stopped to hear mass here in the early 15th Century.
This was evidently originally a school run by local nuns for the benefit of local girls. It was later owned by Victor Garnier who bequeathed the house and grounds to the town in the 19th Century. I wondered if he was related to Charles Garnier of Paris Opera House fame but could not find out. At any rate the gardens are a lovely spot with beautiful statuary, a Japanese bridge reminiscent of Monet's and ducks and geese tending the little stream.
Due to restoration work, this church has been locked for several years but it is worth a stop just for the bizarre facade which dates from the 13th Century. The facade (16th Century)is a strange collection of beasts encircled by leafy arabesques. The church was said to have a fragment of the true cross brought back from the crusades, hence its name. During the revolution it was used as a gunpowder factory.
You would think that a French town with a Tower of Notre Dame would have a church by the same name associated with it. Well, at one time it did but the French Revolution took care of the cloistered church and left only the tower. The 16th Century tower is still a local landmark and lends a majestic ambience to the center of the lower town
I don't know much and couldn't find much about Saint Ayoul, but his church here is where the rise of Provins to a power in the 11th Century started. His remains were either found here or brought here and that marked the beginning as it led to the building of a Benedictine priory here. It became a rather extensive complex but the church here is all that remains now. The main door is an amazing array of statues all around the arch and dates from the 12th Century but crowned by a very modern sculpture by Georges Jeanclos. Inside the church the atmosphere is quiet and mysterious but with some wonderful statuary including a moving and striking pieta which I could not identify, just admire. You get no hint of the troubled past of the church including a time when it was used to store fodder.
This tower used to be a be a watchtower, a prison, a bell-tower and a place of military retreat. The keep offers a panoramic view over the town and it's surroundings.
The bells are still hanging in the tower and make lots of noise now and then.
Warning: lots of stairs and very, very narrow passages to the upper floor. Not adviced for overweight persons!
The tower is interesting but not exceptional. I thought the price of 3,40 euros for a self guided visit was way too high.
This former covered market place is nowadays a museum. It shows a permanent exhibition of scenes and characters, showing hand crafts and merchant activities of the Middle Ages.
Audio guided visit with earphone.
It's a quite static affair, but what a beautiful building!!! Ans what a remarkable cellar!
No one could guess what is hidden behind this barn's front.
Rating: interesting for adults, boring for kids.
This impressive fortified wall was built during the 13th century. 2 km of military architecture!
Once, these walls protected the inhabitants and the traders and showed off the power of the Earls of Champagne.
The Visitors Center is professional, American style. All brochures, offers and guided visits are in several languages.
To have an idea of all the must sees in town: ask to switch on the introducing video show in the movie theatre before starting your visit.
When leaving this place through the back door... it's like stepping out of a time machine. The ramparts are a few steps away.
Also available in the visitors center's shop: souvenirs such as tiles, umbrellas, place mats, sweets an typical specialities of the region.
The harvest festival takes place in late August (see website for info on actual date). As for the medieval festival, it is set in the upper town of Provins, the one that has the most medieval buildings.
This event is reminiscent of the fairs that took place in Provins in the past and has displays of farm animals, old tractors and other machinery.
The festival lasts two days.
The medieval festival takes place in June. It has its own website at:
During a whole weekend, the upper town is closed t cars. People disguised as monks, knights, beggars and merchants roam the streets, which are also filled with tourist. If you bring your onwn costume, the entrance is free for you. You can complete it by purchasing additional gear in the extensive markets in the moat and inside the town. Every medieval item is available from hand sculpted wooden objects to swords and polearms.
A parade takes place every day of the festival in the main street.
There was a quiet day ,in the middle of the week when I visited Provins ,so I had the hole tower just for me.Take a walk on "Pate aux anglais"( the outer wall), visit the guard room and listen the footsteps of ancient soldiers making their round,on” chemin de ronde”.And...finally climb at the last floor to admire the XVIIth century timberwork and the "Quiriace", the huge bell dating from 1511.There is a inscription on the bell:
"En l`an 1511 ayant ete fondue
De Quiriace on me donna le nom
Je regne dans les airs et chasse de la nue
Diable,tonnerre et grele par mon nom".
The view over the city is great: at the east, the lower town, at the west: the upper town
It is the symbol of Provins, and a quide for the new-comer, because its shape rises over the little houses. The tower was built between 1152-1181 by Henri le Liberal and was intended as a place of refuge and a watchtower. It was the symbol of count's authority but its military role was weak. In the XIIIth century under English occupation it served as a prison.
A characteristic of houses in Provins are the lower rooms (les salles basse) with arcades and columns used as covered market during The Fairs of Champagne. La Grange is like a time machine. Visiting it you will be surrounded by the spirit of ancient times ;The large room with crossed-ribbed vaulting resting on capitals adorned with foliage it`s full of life : merchants selling their goods ,artisans working the wool ,the stone or leather, an ancient banker,a lady dressed a l`italienne.You can enjoy all this due to a very good audioquide