A HISTORICAL REMINDER : The Renaissance was a cultural and artistic movement of the 15th and 16th centuries originating in Italy, between the Middle Ages and the Classical era. Numerous castles were built during this period, especially in the Paris Basin and the Loire Valley, and some of them are among the most outstanding and famous examples of French Renaissance architecture. The best-known figures from this period in history are Leonardo da Vinci and King François I.
THE RENAISSANCE, LORRAINE’S GOLDEN AGE
During the long reigns of Duke Antoine (1508-1544) and Charles III (1545-1608), Lorraine enjoyed an unprecedented expansion in architecture and the Arts, thanks to the influence of the ducal court and supporters of the powerful bishops of Toul, Metz and Verdun. Numerous artists came from Flanders, Germany and, sometimes, Italy to work for the Dukes of Lorraine and their friends. Sculpture, painting and engraving all enjoyed considerable popularity from the mid 16th century onwards, turning Lorraine into a centre for the Arts, like Prague, Florence or Rome. (extract from “La Renaissance à Nancy et en Lorraine” - © CRDP de Lorraine, 2012).
The most outstanding examples of Renaissance architecture in Meuse
Located between Reims and Nancy, the “county town” of Meuse, Bar-le-Duc, is one of several towns in Lorraine to be accredited as a “Town of Artistic, Architectural and Historic Interest” (Ville d'art et d'histoire). It is also one of the “finest detours in France” network (Plus beaux détours de France). Stretching out along the banks of the River Ornain, it was, for many years, the capital of the powerful, independent Duchy of Bar and its superb Renaissance district, the upper town, stands like a lighthouse keeping watch over the surrounding area.
In addition to a few reminders of the Middle Ages, the upper town is best-known for its 16th-century Renaissance heritage. This was the most opulent of all periods in the town’s history from the political and cultural point of view. Nowadays, visitors see magnificent freestone mansions and residences forming an urban district that is a conservation area and one of the most outstanding Renaissance urban districts in France.
Bar-le-Duc invites you to explore its magnificent upper town. See the ornate architecture of Place Saint-Pierre, St. Stephen’s Church (église Saint-Etienne) containing the famous Corpse (Transi) by Ligier Richier, and the housefronts in rue des Ducs. The carved pediments, fluted pilasters and overhanging gargoyles are all reminders of the prestige and luxury enjoyed by the district in days gone by. Lower down the hill, the castle esplanade leads to a building commissioned in 1563 by the Duke of Lorraine and Bar, Charles III, as his private residence. It is now a museum, the Musée Barrois (archeology and fine arts). In 1573, the Gilles de Trêves College was built immediately below the esplanade. It was described by Montaigne as the "finest urban dwelling anywhere in France". Gilles de Trêves commissioned the school to provide education for the town’s children.
Every year at the beginning of July, the town hosts the RenaissanceS Festival, one of the largest festivals of circus acts and street entertainment in the world.
Located at the gateway to the regional country park (Parc Naturel Régional de Lorraine) between Commercy, Verdun and Pont-à-Mousson, and backing onto the Meuse, Saint-Mihiel has been nicknamed Lorraine’s Little Florence because of its importance to the Arts in the Renaissance period. At that time, it shared the title of legal capital of the Bar area with Bar-le-Duc.
The Benedictine abbey, collegiate church and bourgeois houses are reminders of the prosperous history of a town proud of having been the birthplace, in the 16th century, of the most prestigious of all Lorraine’s sculptors, Ligier Richier. Two of his works are on display in the town’s churches – The Sepulchre in St. Stephen’s (église Saint-Etienne) and The Virgin Mary Swooning in St. Michael’s (église Saint-Michel).
A stroll round the town reveals the architecture of Saint-Mihiel in all its glory, with countless ornate, amazing and delightful housefronts. Don’t miss the Benedictine library (Bibliothèque Bénédictine) containing more than 8,500 works including 74 manuscripts and 86 very early books, and the museum of religious art (musée d'art sacré) showcasing the religious heritage from various towns in Meuse (gold and silver plate, sculptures etc.).
Located in the north of Meuse, 10 km from Belgium, between Montmédy and Longuyon, Marville boasts a large number of listed buildings and objects of interest.
Although Marville came into its own in the Renaissance period, its history began in the Middle Ages. A powerful nobleman, Count Theobald I of Bar, took control of Marville at that time and built a fortress there. Marville reached the peak of its prosperity during the Renaissance, the 16th and 17th century. It has several examples of the Spanish Renaissance style, a rarity in the Gaume area, with some beautiful houses designed for families of noblemen, the wealthy middle classes and merchants attracted by the town’s wealth in the 16th century. Even today, the streets contain reminders of this period of luxury. Every street corner and every doorstep has something new and exciting. And the town has one of the few graveyards to be listed as a historic monument, thanks to its exceptionally good state of conservation and the wide range of designs used in its tombs.
Montmédy citadel : the first fortifications were built here in 1545, during the reign of Emperor Charles V.
Stenay has some arcaded houses and a large number of buildings in the Renaissance style.
Avioth basilica church.
Saulx Valley : Varenne Castle in Haironville, Gilles de Trèves’ castle in Ville-sur-Saulx, bridges etc.
Montbras Castle : built between 1598 and 1611, this is a fine example of the Renaissance style as it was interpreted in Lorraine.
Louppy-sur-Loison Castle : a dazzling example of Renaissance architecture.
Museum in Verdun : the musée de la Princerie has an inner courtyard.
St. Louvent’s Church in Rembercourt-aux-Pots : the West Front is the most comprehensive example of the Renaissance style in Meuse.
Hannoncelle Castle in Ville-en-Woëvre.
>> BROCHURE : THE RENAISSANCE IN MEUSE
>> The Ligier Richier Trail in Meuse
The Ligier Richier Trail takes you on a trip through Meuse and gives you a chance to see its finest Renaissance sculptures.