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Published: September 9th 2015
At the gateways of both Burgundy and Champagne regions.
It seemed like a pleasant drive on a chilly autumn morning. Meandering through undulating county – some covered by dense forest and then opening out onto cleared grain farming land where the wheat has been harvested and farmers are tilling ready for later planting. Then we come to a more hilly area with smaller holdings and some very contented Limosin cattle interspersed with horse studs and chook runs ( including turkeys ducks and guinea fowl all being fattened free range).
All seemed so ho-hum.
Time for morning tea stop . The Town of Langres would no doubt have a boulangerie – a place to get our daily ration of baguette, gateau or croissant. So get a park and wander off. There is an Aldi nearby. But there is more. Langres is rated as one of the 50 most beautiful cities in France – by the Readers Digest. But its also an historic old city.
We look about – and decide this will be the end of today’s travel – after all we have already done 30 something kilometres and seen
at least 3 changes of scenery and passed through 4 or 5 pretty villages.
Time to start exploring this Langres place.
Its a completely walled city. We are parked right outside the city gates and will park here the night.
3.5 klm of ramparts enclose the old town. There really is not much other than a few modern houses outside the walls. Inside the walls is a fully functional modern town. It is the local big town servicing the smaller villages in the region – with the sous prefecture, office of revenue, le poste, working town hall, high schools, a hospital, banks, jewellery maker, and various retailers etc. Tourist attractions abound, but its a fully operational town set in an historic stage.
As we walk through and around we see people going about their ordinary business and tourists wandering like us but without any “ come follow me” nor in fact any tour groups.
The basic infrastructure ( roads, drainage system and the 3.5 klm of ramparts) dates back to the 3rd
century wih Gallo- Roman layout and narrow streets. Additions to fortifications now totalling 8 klms make Langres the longest complete
fortified city in Europe. Various newer building projects from the 17th
century onwards include a number of religious community structures. One of interest is the Jesuit college built in 1621 but burnt down in1746. A new structure ( still standing ) completed by the Jesuits in 1770 was never occupied or enjoyed by the Jesuit order as they were expelled from the kingdom about that time. Other 17th
century buildings still in use include the Jean Duvet School an Ursuline Center and a Catholic Girls College.
Construction on a a Roman basilica type cathedral (with latin cross plan and skillion attachments to either side of the main body of the church ) called Saint Mammes began in 1138 and the western facade was not completed until 1792. A unique feature of this cathedral is the multi coloured roof. This cathedral felt somewhat drab when I first entered – a bit like St Stephens. However the short time it took to start enjoying the relative warmth of the vast church’s ambient temperature gave the cathedral time to reveal its depth of earthy colours in the soft natural light filtered through elaborate stained glass illumination windows. While there
is only one side altar in Saint Mammes (the rear altars behind the main altar) convey depth of the meaning portrayed in their artistic icons.
We could have easily driven past the town of Langres, and I would never have written this blog. But who knows what we missed out on by not ·driving on?
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