Study the Cathedral Rose windows carefully as they represent some of the earliest examples.Rose windows became a beloved feature of French churches starting in the 12C and quickly became larger and more complex over the next century. Obviously their antecedent was a simple oculus which became enlarged and ultimately decorated. The first decorative exploitation was to place reinforcing spokes (usually little columns with capitals at each end). In fact these were called wheels;religiously this was converted to a “wheel of fortune” or fate and Suger used one in St.Denis and there is one at St.- Etienne in Beauvais. Calling it a Rose came later. The window on the North transept at Laon shares the pride of “first” with the Rose on the West facade at Mantes (which we have never stopped to see) in the 1170’s. They are both of good size but that at Laon is really a set of 8 rosettes while that at Mantes has “petals”. The west portal Rose at Laon quickly followed. Obviously the designers were not satisfied with their first attempt because this one is twice as large and has incorporated the more mystical number 12 instead of 8 segments which is echoed again at the East end. The West facade Rose at Chartres was inserted about 1216.
Fondest memory: The beautiful West towers with the bovine statues peering out.
This is definitely a great town to walk and wander in, and is small enough that you are not overwhelmed. You feel like you are transported back in time - the streets are so narrow and full of twists and turns and hidden alleys and corners. It's wonderful to just wander the streets and discover the architecture.
My photos of Laon were all taken on conventional film, so I will try to add more pictures and tips as I have the time to scan them in.
Fondest memory: Good examples of Gothic architecture, wonderful small architectural details on the buildings. Beautiful view of the surrounding countryside from the top of the hill the city is built upon. This was a walled city in the Middle Ages, and it has saved nearly 7km of the original ramparts, and preserved 3 of the original gateways into the town. Definitely worth checking out if you are on a countryside tour of this part of France.