This stage was jam-packed with sights
Notre-Dame de Reims
Reims is way too big a city to cover here, but the Cathedral is probably the most prominent structure in town so this will be our taste of the city.
Construction began in the 13th century and was completed in the 15th century. It was built to replace an earlier church that was destroyed in a fire in 1221 and was built in the tradition of Notre-Dame de Paris and Chartres Cathedral. You can definitely see the resemblance but the detail has certainly been amped up.
Bar-Le-Duc is one of those cities I had previously never heard of, but after seeing it and reading up on it I feel I will absolutely have to visit it one day.
Its a town split in two really. The lower town, which is referred to as the Ville Basse, is long and narrow and is bisected by the Ornain river, over which are 7 bridges. The far side of the Lower town is once again outlined in water, but this time by the manmade Canal de la Marne au Rhin.
The upper town, or Ville Haute, is located across the river and perched on top of a rocky outcrop. Historically it was accessed only by a number of steep stairways and narrow passageways.
Bar-Le-Duc has a very long history, beginning as a Gallo-Roman outpost in the 1st century. The town’s heyday, however, was during the Renaissance when nobility and artists flooded the town and prosperity reigned. The Dukes of Bar celebrated by building grand churches, houses, and schools, most of which are concentrated in the upper town’s Renaissance quarter where you will see a number of 16th, 17th, and 18th-century townhouses. This section of towns main thoroughfare is Rue des Ducs de Bar, off of which are a number of treasures that are themselves included below.
- Tourism Lorraine
- Bar le Duc: A Fine French Find – National Geographic
- Meuse Tourism
- France Voyage
Church of Saint Etienne
In the center of the Upper town is Place Saint Pierre on which are located many impressive buildings including the Church of Saint Etienne which was built in the 14th and 15th centuries and is a listed historic monument
Inside the Church of Saint Etienne is the Cadaver Tomb of René of Châlons. This is a funerary monument commissioned by the wife of René de Châlons. It is a white stone statue of a half-decayed corpse/skeleton with its left arm raised and its other hand holding its heart. It is the work of 16th-century artist Ligier Richier who was a pupil of Michelangelo. It is considered a major Renaissance masterpiece.
- Wikipedia on the Cadaver Tomb of Rene of Chalons.
- Saint-Etienne church in Bar-le-Duc and its scary skeleton
Tour de l’Horloge (Bar-Le-Duc)
Located at the end of the Rue des Ducs de Bar is the 12th-century clocktower that was part of the old ducal palace. It is one of the few remaining pieces of the fortifications of the Upper town.
There are two clock faces, one of each side of the tower. One faces the Lower town and the other side faces the Upper town. The clock faces themselves are from the 14th century. They were restored in the 1990s to their original state.
At the base of the tower is a steep staircase down to the Lower town.
It was classified as a historical monument on September 10, 1941 and has become one of the emblems of the city.
Collège Gilles de Trèves
Built by Gilles de Trèves , dean of the collegiate church of Saint-Maxe, to educate the young people of Bar.
It is a very fine example of civil architecture of the Renaissance, to the point that it was described by Montaigne in 1580 as “the most beautiful townhouse that is in France”. It was particularly attractive from the aerial footage showing its square open-air courtyard surrounded by buildings.
It was built mid-slope between the Upper Town and Lower Town. The building was completed in 1574.
- Michelin Travel Guide
- Tourism Lorraine
- RESTAURATION DU COLLÈGE GILLES DE TRÈVES
- Information on the restoration taking place
This one was a story the commentators were telling which was capped off with a shot of this monument to the man that had been dressed in a yellow jersey for the occasion of the Tour passing through.
Born in Bar-Le-Duc, Piere Michaux was one of the most influential French inventors of all time. His contributions to the field of bicycles forever changed human public transportation.
He was a blacksmith by trade, who furnished carriage parts in Paris. He may have invented the forerunner to the modern bicycle by adapting cranks and adding pedals to the front wheel of the draisine or ‘Dandy Horse’.
In 1868 he formed a partnership with the Olivier brothers under his own name, which was the first company to construct bicycles with pedals on a large scale, a machine which was called a velocipede at the time.
Although he is most often credited with adding pedals to the dandy horse there is some debate about whether it was truly his invention.
In any case, it’s cool to have the Tour pass through the city where the man who basically invented bike pedals lived and worked.
Le Clos Poincaré in Sampigny
Located in Sampigny, this was originally the summer home of Raymond Poincaré, the lawyer, prime minister and President of France. The original was destroyed by German bombing in the war. Mr. Poincaré had it repaired after the war and mostly lived there at the end of his life.
It currently houses the Raymond Poincaré Museum on the main floor. The gardens behind the house are themselves an attraction for the public.
- Wikipedia on Raymond Poincaré
- Musee Lorrain on the museum
- Tourism Meuse
- Les Jardin du Grand Est – Jardin du Clos Poincaré
- Raymond Poincaré and Le Clos, by the school of Sampigny.
- Aerial video of the house and grounds – Part 1
- Aerial video of the house and grounds – Part 2
- The Garden of Le Clos Poincaré
Château Stanislas de Commercy
Another of the aerial views, I found this one really interesting in how it seems to sit in relation to the town itself. In a way, it seemed much grander than the town itself, while at the same time seemingly almost forgotten somehow. Not sure that will make sense and it may not be the case when there in person but that’s the feeling I got from the 20 seconds of footage. Its history has been a fascinating read.
In 1708 Charles Henri, son of the Duke of Lorraine, began to build and reconstruct an old fortress from 1662 using designs from the architect Germain Boffrand. Dying without an heir, the building was passed to his half-cousin Léopold de Lorraine who was then the Duke of Lorraine, therefore making the chateau another holding of the House of Lorraine. It would pass to his son François III de Lorraine who would marry Empress Maria Theresa of Austria thus creating the Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty.
At the end of War of the Polish Succession in 1737, the areas of the Lorraine and Bar were ceded to the landless ex-king of Poland, Stanislas Leszczyński (becoming Duke of Lorain), father of Marie Leszczyńska, Louis XV’s Queen consort. Commercy, however, was given to the widow of Léopold, the dowager duchess of Lorraine until she died at which point ownership reverted to Stanislas.
This was Commercy’s golden age, as Stanislas’s court made frequent visits and where ‘social pleasures were the main occupation’. In 1748 Voltaire spent the summer there. In 1755, Madeleine Paulmier stayed at the château and, according to legend, gave her name to a cake, gâteau Madeleine, the Madeleine cookies we all know today.
At the death of Stanislas, in 1766, the Duchies of Lorraine and Bar reverted to the Crown, after which the Chateau’s decline began. The building off and on housed the military. Neglected, the gardens quickly became overgrown. The once-great formal gardens and the Grand Canal to the rear of the building were destroyed.
For decades, the area was a ruin. In the 19th and 20th centuries, it again served the military, especially during WWII when it was heavily damaged.
In 1957, the city of Commercy acquired the ruins from the State in order to carry out its restoration. Completed in 1977, it included the reconstruction of the courtyard façade facing the town and the restoration of the horseshoe-shaped plaza.
Today, the château houses Commercy’s town hall, municipal library, and several administrative offices.
I have found a number of images of old paintings of the building from the 18th century where you can see the elaborate gardens and how the property used to be spread out. Its interesting to then go look at google maps and see what it looks like now. As you see below the difference is stark in some directions.
- Wikipedia FR – Chateau de Commercy
- Tourism Lorraine
- Tourist Office Intercommunal Commercy Void-Vaucouleurs
- Tourist Office – History of the Castle
- Old painting
Cathédrale Saint-Étienne de Toul
The cathedral was built in the 15th century in the Flamboyant style of gothic architecture which was a phase in the late 15th century that had an increasing emphasis on decoration which I think is fairly apparent.
- Wikipedia – Toul Cathedral
- Wikipedia FR – Toul Cathedral
- Tourism Lorraine
- Official Website for the city of Toul
- Flamboyant Style Gothic Architecture
L’église Saint-Gengoulf – Maron
This was another one of those aerial shots that I love. A very small town with basically one main thoroughfare, but the road literally split apart to go around the local church. No plaza really, just a building smack in the middle of the road.
Its all very narrow so it’s exciting to see the entire peloton squeeze through along with all the spectators which you can see in the photo above.