I thought it only fair that I devote a permanent page to the place that inspired me to write the Jean Bellimont series (refer to my novels page). I hope it inspires you as well. If you’re interested, here is the link to the tourist office website (in english).
Troyes is a charming medieval city located near the southern extreme of the Champagne region of France. When I first visited it some 16 or so years ago I was impressed by its medieval authenticity and decided there and then that it would be the setting for my first novel. Once I dug a bit deeper I found – serendipitously – that a number of significant historical events had occurred there around the time my character was supposed to have lived. These became the departure points from which each of my 4 novels were written.
In my 4 visits over the years (usually around June – July) I have yet to encounter many tourists, so it remains a relatively unspoilt treasure. It has 7 medieval churches in particular which should not be missed – the Cathedral of St Pierre et St Paul, the Basilique St-Urbain, St Pantaleon, Ste-Madeleine, St Nicholas, St Jean in the Market, and St Nizier. Of the excellent museums, I strongly recommend the Vauluisant museum located near the church of St Pantaleon. This modest and quiet establishment contains some wonderful medieval sculpture, as well as a fascinating historical hosiery section (Troyes was an important textile centre for many years).
One of the most important locations of significance to Jean is the Cathedral (which remained largely unfinished during his time, but was nevertheless a dominant feature of the town – see photo above).
Spoiler alert – in one of the later books (I won’t tell you which one), Jean’s grandchild is christened in their family church of Ste-Madeleine. As far as I can tell, the baptismal font and the baptistery chapel remain largely unchanged from that time.
The church of Ste-Madeleine appears regularly throughout the novels and plays a pivotal role in many of the important social events (such as marriages and births). The church’s most notable features – ie, the magnificent Rood Screen and stained glass – postdate the period in which the novels are set, but the fabric of the church in general remains (mostly) unchanged. I also love the lovely narrow lane leading to the church (see below). This is the setting for the penultimate chapter of “Pilgrimage”.
Medieval Troyes was famous for its Trade Fairs, textiles, medieval sculpture and stained glass. There is a clarity and vibrancy to the stained glass that appeals to me, and an attempt to engage you with the sculpture which is unusual (although far from unique) during the gothic period. The portrayal of the sorrowing Mary below is achingly beautiful and has a distinctly renaissance feel about it (in fact, I don’t think it’s too fanciful to suggest that it’s almost Michelangelo-esque in style).
I hope you enjoyed this short insight into one of my favourite cities. If you happen to visit there one day and enjoy medieval art, be sure to poke your nose into as many churches as you can. Each one offers something different and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.