Welcome to the 12th Century

This morning we (John and I, Tyre and his mother, Sheryl, along with Dan and Kim Jape) hopped a train and journeyed back to the 12th Century, visiting the medieval town of Provins about an hour southeast of Paris.

Walking through the streets of Provins is, as Kim so aptly put it, kind of like being in the opening scene of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” when Belle strolls through a village singing. She could be strolling through Provins! At the center of the town is the a tower — Caesar’s Tower — and a cathedral, both erected in the 12th century.

The cathedral was simple in comparison to the others we’ve visited, but the wall paintings were lovely.

Caesar’s Tower was downright creepy. It was built by the count of Champagne, Henry the Liberal, symbolizing his power and authority over the town and region. By the 13th century, the tower was used as a prison — and I can’t think of a more dismal place to be held. It was quite easy to imagine the suffering which occurred within the Tower walls, particularly with some 21st century audio-visual assistance. You enter the Tower to the sounds of imprisoned men with illustrations of prisoners and their guards (aka torturers) projected on the walls. I’m surprised “International Ghost Hunters” hasn’t been to the Tower in Provins!

The top of the tower houses the bells of St. Quiriace church. Louis XIV gave the canons permission to house the bells in the upper part of the tower in 1689. Getting to the top involved squeezing up an incredibly narrow, step spiral staircase. Once there, you get a real feel for what Quasimodo was dealing with — pigeon poop galore. The view from the top, however, was lovely and thought-provoking. The town center has changed little in 900 years.

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