Site: Provins Medieval
Location: Provins France
Provins is located in the Île-de-France region in north-central France.
Provins became a UNESCO world heritage site in 2001
Provins is well known for its medieval fortifications walls and the town that lies within. The city walls are huge by any standard and still intact as they were hundreds of years ago. We stood in amazement looking at the walls. Where in cities you can’t see the scale of town walls. Provins sits uncrowded by a modern city letting its features be viewed uninterrupted. The scale of the walls is unmatched by anything else we have seen on our travels. I truly expected to see a king or nobleman come riding up with his guards by his side. Provins is broken up into two sections. The town, shopping district and residential section are known as just Provins. The walled area and sites I will be talking about are known as Provins Medieval
History: Provins importance was first mentioned in 802 in relation to Charlemagne when he sent the abbot of St Denis to Provins.
In 996, during the reign of Hugues Capet, the relics of Saint Ayoul were miraculously discovered in a marshland near the town. A number of religious buildings were erected on the site in honor of this miracle.
Provins is a town of medieval fairs. Provins is the best example remaining of a town that was developed totally for trade fairs. Provins was home to these fairs from 1120 onwards. At that time, Provins was a major crossroads, with nine main roads and eleven secondary roads converging on Provins. Provins influenced competing, Fair staging towns such as Bruges in Belgium and many Hansa trading towns. Fairs were held three times a year. Traders from all over Europe converged on Provins to sell their goods. Provins was a great source of income for the counts of champagne who in their business smarts reduced taxes to attract traders
In 1234, Thibaud, the Count of Champagne, was crowned King of Navarre. In 1239, Thibaud like many French nobles from this region left on Crusade to the holy land. He returned to Provins with the famous Damascus rose. This rose is the predecessor to many roses we know today. The Damascus rose was later cross-bred which gave rise to many different varieties of French and European roses.
Features: Provins Medieval stages a festival annually. We happened to attend the 32nd festival in June 2015. The festival changes the themes every year.
This year’s festival featured Craftsmen, jesters, merchants, and games which entertained and informed the visitors during the two days of the festival.. Its was great for the kids to have fun and learn lessons of life from the 12th century. Children and adults alike were invited and encouraged to engaged in the daily tasks of medieval life. There was an emphasis on Games for kids in the medieval age. Rope pulling and climbing contests, skittles, hoop throwing, treasure fishing, Dancing, calligraphy and even games of chess, Actors and performers dressed as Jesters. Puppets and humoristic shows were performed. Musicians belted out Medieval Rock songs. Acrobats and performers flood the city’s streets.
The 12th century was a not a peaceful time. So paying homage to these times military camps were set up. Exhibitions of jousting, fortress siege were staged. Fights, duels, battles, archery and crossbow tournaments held. The real highlight of this festival is the willingness of the attendee’s to get in the spirit and dress up. It’s estimated that 40% of the crowd get into costume and really get into the spirit of the event. Some of the costumes where amazing, the attention to detail was mind boggiling. The costumes where enough to keep our kids entertained..
Provins Medieval also has many permanent sites to Visit. As mentioned previously the Walls are amazing, I can not describe how little they make you feel when walking beside then. Its truly right out of the medieval period. Our girls Willow and Marley enjoyed climbing the watch towers and peer over the edge of the walls.
The Caesars Tower is an outstanding example of medieval architecture. The tower has been used over the years as everything from a prison to a residence.
The Tithe barn has been used since the 10th century. In the 12th century it was turned into an undercover market for the fairs of champagne. Saint-Quiriace Collegiate Church is visible as you approach Provins with its domed roof standing out in the distance.
The discovery of St Ayoul relics turned the church into a pilgrim site over the centuries. The church has had many rebuilds since the 6th century. The museum of Provins and surrounds gives one a good incite to the history of the area.On display, you will find artifacts from the prehistoric age through to the early middle ages.
There is also staged shows run every day at Provins Medieval for tourists. These include:
Eagles and the Ramparts: A show based around birds and horses. It features eagles, hawks, buzzards. see the birds fly.
The Legend of the Knights: A show featuring jousting, trick riding and dressage
Age of the Ramparts: This show displays the skills and techniques used to wage war in the Medieval period
Banquet of troubadours: A real life medieval feast is served up to you.
We unluckily dod not get to attend any of the shows since the festival was on the day we attended. I would love to go back one day and catch some of the action of these shows at Provins Medieval
Tours: Guided tours of Provins medieval run on Sundays and Public holidays through the summer months. You will need to make a reservation for an english tour
Facilities: Toilets, restaurants, cafe, Tourist office
Pro’s for Children: The kids will love the medieval shows featuring animals and actors. The walls and ramparts are climbable. The costumes will amaze
Cons for Children: Provins is a large site and lots of walking will be involved. The walk from the train station requires walking up a steep hill ( in tourist season a shuttle runs regularly from the train station). It can be very hot in Summer and crowded. Depending on crowds it may be hard to get a stroller around the site.
How to get there: Train from Gare Du Nord to Provins takes 2 hours. Alternatively you can catch a bus from Paris with PARISCityVISION that runs coaches to Provins in the summer months
Accommodation: Click here for accommodation options for Provins