Champagne Region Attractions
Champagne extends to the east of the Ile de France, between the upper Oise (near St-Quentin) and the Yonne (near Sens), approximately as far as the upper Meuse.
The former province includes the present-day départements of Marne, Haute-Marne, Aube, Yonne and Ardennes. The main industrial towns in addition to Reims are Châlons-sur-Marne and Troyes.The western part of Champagne, round Reims, Epernay, Châlons, Ste-Ménehould and Vitry-le-François, is known as Champagne Crayeuse ("Chalky Champagne"), a region of dry soil consisting of permeable chalk which during the First World War was also called "Champagne pouilleuse" ("lousy Champagne"). The gently undulating plain, widely used as pasture for sheep, gives only scanty yields.The adjoining region known as Champagne Humide ("Wet Champagne") forms an arc to the east of Ste-Ménehould and Vitry. It consists of sandy and clayey strata of the Lower Cretaceous and is a wooded and well watered cattle-rearing region with many individual farms. In northeastern Champagne are the Ardennes, a gently rolling and well wooded region with hills rising to just over 500 m/1,640ft through which flow the Meuse and the Semois. The Ardennes are noted mainly for their forests of beeches and firs and their abundance of game. The region can be explored either on foot or on horseback; horses can be hired in Charleville-Mézières.Much of the history of France has been written in Champagne. When Caesar conquered Gaul in 57 B.C. he made the chief town of a Belgic people, the Remi, a local capital under the name of Durocortorum, since eight trading routes met here. After the collapse of the Roman Empire in the early fifth century the Frankish king Clovis was baptized by Archbishop (St) Remi in Reims in 496, establishing the city as the place of coronation of the French kings. In subsequent centuries authority lay in the hands of the Archbishops of Reims and the Counts of Champagne.During the Middle Ages Champagne, within which important trade fairs were held (dealing mainly in luxury wares like silk and spices), enjoyed great prosperity - a prosperity which was reflected in its architecture. In 1147 St Bernard launched his call for the Second Crusade in Châlons. The region's prosperity began to decline in the 13th century as a result of the increasing centralization of authority and the devastation wrought by the Hundred Years War. In 1361 Champagne finally came under the control of the French crown.In 1429 Joan of Arc crowned Charles VII in Reims. Two leading 18th century figures, the philosopher Denis Diderot (1713-1784) and the Revolutionary politician George-Jacques Danton (1759-1794) came from Champagne. In 1792 French Revolutionary forces won their first victory at the mill of Valmy.The economic revival which began in the 19th century was interrupted by the three wars with Germany. Like Lorraine to the east, Champagne saw much fighting during these wars. Notable events in the 1870-1871 war were the battles for Sedan and Metz (in Lorraine). The fighting round Reims in the First World War has left its mark in the remains of trenches and numerous military cemeteries. The Maginot Line is a relic of the Second World War.The Route du Champagne runs through the famous Triangle Sacré du Champagne.
Châlons-sur-Marne (pop. 47,339), chief town of the département of Marne and the see of a bishop, lies on the right bank of the Marne. Its most important building is the Early Gothic church of Notre-Dame-en-Vaux (12th-13th century), with four towers, one of the most beautiful churches in Champagne, notable particularly for the splendid 16th century stained glass (the "Troyes Windows") in the choir. The Musée du Cloître contains sculptured columns and capitals. The 13th century Cathedral of St-Etienne, with a Romanesque tower over the choir, has fine stained glass (13th-16th century) and a rich treasury. The Porte Ste-Croix, on the south side of the town, was built in 1770 in honor of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette.
Although most visitors to the Champagne region tend to focus on the areas around Reims and Epernay. They are located between, and beyond, the towns of Bar-sur-Aube and Bar-sur-Seine.With the opening of the A26 highway between Reims and Dijon more tourists will begin to discover the Aube route. Towns of interest in this region include: Bar-sur-Aube, Bar-sur-Seine, Bayel, Brienne-le-Château, Clairvaux, Colombé-le-Sec, Colombey-les-Deux Eglises, Essoyes, Gyé-sur-Seine, Polisy, Neuville-sur-Seine, Les Riceys and Troyes.A festival takes place in Troyes during the second week of June. A similar festival takes place in Bar-sur-Aube in the second weekend in September.
The old fortified town of Sedan (pop. 20,548), situated on the Meuse at the foot of the Ardennes, is now a busy industrial town. During the Franco-Prussian War a French army led by Napoleon III and Marshal MacMahon capitulated here on September 2 1870. In the Place d'Armes is the 17th C parish church. The large citadel, originally built in the 14th-15th C, is surrounded by numerous towers. Within the walls is a 17th C Château housing a museum which displays a large collection of material on the history of the town and the Château.
Charleville-Mézières (pop. 55,490), which straddles the Meuse, is a double town, consisting of Charleville, founded in the 17th C, with the Place Ducale, and the much younger Mézières. There are some remains of fortifications on the west side of the town.Charleville was the birthplace of the poet Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891), who is buried in the cemetery.Northwest of Charleville-Mézières is the little fortified town of Rocroi.
18km/11mi southeast, of Bazeilles, on the Meuse, is the little town of Mouzon, which still preserves remains of its walls, notably the Porte de Bourgogne (15th C). The church of Notre-Dame (consecrated in 1231) has a richly decorated west front and doorway; the north tower dates from the 15th C, the south tower from the 16th. The interior is of impressive size with the choir surrounded by a ring of chapels, and an organ dating from 1725.
Chateau de la Motte Tilly, La Motte Tilly, France
Château de la Motte Tilly is an 18th C castle featuring 15 rooms and a park. The chateau was dealt several devastating blows during the France's invasion by the Allies and the Second World War. Restoration began in 1910.A notable attraction in Château de la Motte Tilly is the Orangery where exotic species such as orange, pomegranate and pineapple trees could be found in the 18th century.
In the village of Ay is the Musée Champenois. Also worth seeing is the Gothic church which has an ornately decorated front. Nearby wass a house belonging to Henri IV (11 Rue St-Vincent).Estates of special interest include Ayala & Co., Boolinger, Deutz & Geldermann and Gosset (the oldest in Champagne).
This old fortified town of Langres (pop. 9,586), the see of a bishop, lies on the edge of a plateau. Its most notable features are its 4km/2.5mi long circuit of walls, which incorporates a Gallo-Roman town gate, and its handsome Renaissance houses.
Cloitre de Notre-Dame-en-Vaux, Chalons-en-Champagn, France
Cloître de Notre-Dame-en-Vaux features was built between 1170 and 1180. What was left of the cloister was demolished in 1759. Excavations in 1963 uncovered a good portion of the monastery including examples of Gothic sculpture.
Champagne - Summer Festival
Epernay (pop. 25,844) is the headquarters of such well known firms as Moët et Chandon and Mercier and many miles of cellars hewn from the chalk. The Musée du Champagne displays archeological material of the early historical period.
At Hautvillers, 6km/4mi northwest of Epernay, is the abbey in which Dom Pérignon was cellarer. His tombstone is in the church. From the abbey garden there are very fine views.
St Amand sur Fion, France
St-Amand-sur-Fion, north of Vitry-le-François, is a typical village, with many half- timbered houses and an ochre-colored Romanesque church (12th C; nave and choir altered in Gothic style in 13th C).
Château de Bazeilles
3.5km/2mi southeast of Sedan is Bazeilles, with an imposing Château of 1750.