Churches in Troyes, France

by Wendy VanHatten

Troyes is a renaissance city in the south part of the Champagne region. Several things grabbed our attention as we first read about the city and then as we wandered along the streets.

The half-timbered houses are not the typical white with brown timbers. These are multi-colored houses. There was a fire in 1524, which destroyed almost the entire city. When the houses were rebuilt, colors were used on the houses and buildings. It makes for a pretty historic center.

Then there are the cathedrals. Eleven of them. That’s right…11 cathedrals in one city. We had time to visit five. Each one is special. Each one has its own special windows and features. I have never seen so much stained glass. I have never seen such a variety of stained-glass windows.

The Troyes Cathedral was started in the 13th century and completed over 400 years later. You might think this would make for a jumbled mess of design. It doesn’t. It is entirely Gothic throughout. This is considered one of the most beautiful churches in all of Europe.

Walking into the spacious nave, we could only stand and stare. Light engulfed us as it streamed in through more than 1,500 square meters of stained glass. That is over 16,000 square feet. That’s a lot of stained glass.

Some of these windows date back to the 1200s.

There are three huge rose windows, each over 30 feet across. We often see one impressive one. But, three? They were all designed by Martin Chambiges, a renaissance architect. So many colors and light. As I kept looking at one of the windows, I felt like I could be in a kaleidoscope. The colors changed, the shapes jumped out at me, and the light continued to radiate.

Eglise Sainte-Madeleine is probably the oldest church in Troyes. Some say it is the most beautiful.

Construction dates from 1120, being rebuilt around 1200 in a Gothic style. The apse and choir were renovated around 1500 in a more flamboyant Gothic style. The square Renaissance looking tower was added in 1525.

One of the most impressive parts is its famous rood screen. A rood screen is an elevated stone gallery between the nave and the choir. It has room for a choral group or officiating priests. This was originally wooden. Replaced with a stone one, it has the look of lace. And, it did look like lace. It was hard to believe it was stone. Only about a dozen religious buildings in France still have a rood screen.

In addition, the apse’s stained-glass windows are colorful story-telling examples. The Tree of Jesse, The Genesis, and The Pearls of Saint Eloi are some of the best we have seen. Unlike others, the stories presented are easy to follow.

Don’t let the outside fool you into thinking the inside will be plain. Not the case.

The Basilica of Saint Urbain was commissioned by the 13th century Pope Urbain IV, who was born in Troyes. He had it built on the site where his shoemaker father had his workshop.

This one includes stained glass windows from the 13th century and a large amount of historic art.

There are more…you will just have to see them for yourself.

If You Go: Troyes is located about two hours southeast of Paris.