Provins, Mysterious and Exceptional—A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Provins in the Paris regionProvins is a town in Ile de France that makes us wonder. This unusual site rises out of the immense checkerboard of farms that is the Brie countryside.

Provins and the Tour CaesarRich with military, civil, and religious architecture (58 monuments are listed as historic monuments), the town was the setting for one of the largest fairs of the Middle Ages. Provins’ proud mercantile history is linked to the Counts of Champagne (including the illustrious, if turbulent, Thibaud IV), who assured the protection of both the inhabitants and the merchants. It is also known as the city of the Rose of Damascus, the most captivating flower brought back from the Crusades in the Middle East. In short, it has more than enough assets to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which it was in 2001.

This town begs to be explored in detail. Towering ramparts (over 1,200 meters remain of the 5 kilometers of walls), impressive city gates, the Tower of César (the town’s symbol), all testify to the power of the Counts of Champagne.

The curious Grange aux Dîmes, a covered market that was at the center of the famous trade fairs, evokes a time when the town coined its own money, and the reputation of its fine fabrics and linens drew merchants all the way from Flanders and the Mediterranean coast. Even more mysterious is the network of underground tunnels and rooms. How to explain this subterranean labyrinth? Quarries where earth was dug up to degrease the wool used for fabrics? Facilities for lodging the poor or pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela? Warehouses or refuges? Sites for secret meetings? There are numerous theories.

Provins has adapted to modern times. To satisfy the curiosity of visitors of all ages, Medieval-themed spectacles have been created that show off the extraordinary architectural heritage to great effect. Visitors can enjoy displays of Medieval-style falconry and equestrian skills and imagine what life was like back in the day…

A lively place all year long, in February and March Provins hosts the Festival Encres Vives (Festival of Living Ink). Around a hundred authors participate in this event, which also includes numerous live shows and concerts at the cultural center, as well as evenings shows like “Lueurs du Temps” (“Glimmers of the Past”) on July 2 and August 7, 2011—a highlight of the summer season.

Official website of Provins
The Stella Cadente House in Provins
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