Archive for April 6th, 2018

April 6, 2018

The ecclesiastical historical Burgundian Sens!

As we go to all over our belle France, we have so much to see ,sometimes even with money there is no time. However, this is a nice surprise visit to the beautiful ecclesiastical , historical Burgundian Sens.

Sens  is in the department 89 of the Yonne in the region of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté and about 100  km south of Paris. I have to say from the start, that this was a find for me; as with a group of Americans living in Paris and a former professor of history of the University Paris IV ,I was invited for a ride by car ,yes! To visit Sens. A pleasant surprise and a memorable visit.

Sens  is traverse by two rivers, the Yonne ,one of the tributaries on the left bank of the Seine river and the Vanne on the right bank.  The Yonne has a total of 292 km long crossing the town south to north coming from the Morvan before joining the Seine river at the town of Montereau-Fault-Yonne. There is an aqueduct de la Vanne that provides a great part of the water to Paris, long of 156 km the work started in 1866 and finished in 1874 ordered by the Baron Haussmann that wanted to bring potable water from sites far from Paris and provide a regular flow of water to the Capital.  Sens is crossed by two rivers: the Yonne (main tributary left Bank of the Seine) and the Vanne, one of its tributaries right bank.

There is regular TER train service from the gare de Bercy in Paris. Internally, the city has 14 lines of buses to cover its needs but the best is still the car here. The roads A6 and A5 passes by here very nicely.

A bit of history I like. The city was called  Agendicum in the Roman period , however, the actual name of the city comes from the Gaullic tribe of Sénons. By the year 53 BC, during the invasion of Gaul by the Romans Ceasar had spent winter six legions here just south of the city and you can see many remains of this period in the town of  Motte du Ciar  near the  joining of the Vanne and Yonne river.

The Diocese of Sens was founded in 240AD by Saint Savinien. His archbishops had an important place in the Church of France: In the 9C, Pope John VIII gave the archbishop of Sens the title of “Primate of Gauls and Germania” and until the 17C, the Bishop of Paris depended on the archbishop of Sens. These seven bishoprics constituted an exceptional ecclesiastical province which was reflected in the motto Campa — acrostic of the initials of the seven seats — enshrined under the arms of the Cathedral of Sens. In 769, the Archbishop of Sens, Villicaire, was at the helm of the French Episcopal mission which was attending Rome at the council responsible for judging the intruding pontiff Constantine II, with the title of Archbishop of Gauls. The archbishop’s throne dominated in the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, the episcopal throne of the bishop of Paris. In 1622, the Ecclesiastical province of  Sens  was divided into two, Chartres, Meaux, and Orléans became under the new archdiocese: Paris.

In 1015, the county of Sénonais was first attached to the crown and finally to the death of the last Earl Renard  the Bad in 1055.   In 1135, the city chose to rebuild its cathedral in an innovative style. It was the first Gothic cathedral in France in 1163, under Louis VII, for nearly three years, Pope Alexander III, exiled by Frederick Barbarossa, fixed himself with the Curia at Sens. The city receives the Archbishops of Canterbury Thomas Becket and Edmond (Saint Edme). In 1194, a bailiff royal is located in Sens. It is the first of the royal domain to be so localized while the institution has been known since 1184. . On 27 May 1234, Archbishop Gauthier le Cornu organized and celebrated the royal marriage between Saint Louis and Marguerite de Provence at the Cathedral of Sens, where many personalities were invited. May 28, 1234, Marguerite de Provence is crowned queen of France.

The Parliament of Paris gave the Archbishop of Sens the title of “Primate of Gauls and Germania” to remind all the pre-eminence of the Archbishop of Sens dating from the end of the 8C, when he was systematically appointed legate Permanent Pope for the free kingdoms. The title is preserved today. During the reign of Louis XIII, the Diocese of Paris was erected in archdiocese by dismemberment of that of Sens. Death of tuberculosis shortly before Christmas 1765, the Dauphin Louis-Ferdinand was buried in the cathedral. The Dauphine Marie-Josephus, who had contracted the evil of her husband by treating him, joined him a few months later. Their tomb was desecrated in 1794 but their remains, thrown into the common grave, were placed in their tomb in 1814 on the orders of their son king Louis XVIII.

In 1914, the city welcomed the French General command  before the launch of the Battle of the Marne. The first German motorcycles arrive in Sens on June 15 , 1940 at the end of the morning and troops with armored vehicles were in by 14h. By 1944, Sens was abandoned by most of its Nazis occupants  and the city was crossed on August 21st 1944 in the early afternoon by Troops of General Patton’s USA Third Army who left the next day at dawn in the direction of the east.

Things to see in addition and beyond my previous blog post here:  My post on Sens

St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Saint Etienne) , the first Gothic cathedral in France. The former Archbishop’s palace: the Synodal and archbishop Palace. The covered market: inaugurated in 1882, it is located on the Place de la République, opposite the Cathedral.  The House of Abraham: half-timbered House of the 16C built for the Tanner Nicolas Mégissier, also called House of the Four winds. Tree of Jess carved on the post, representing the Virgin and eight kings of Israel. The working instruments of the tanners are carved on the studs.


St Etienne (St Stephen’s) Cathedral of Sens


central nave St Etienne Cathedral of Sens

The courthouse (palais de justice), built on the site of the former royal Palace, built in the 11C, it retains a round part corresponding to a Gallo-Roman tower of three levels (the ground floor is incorporated into a private property). This palace welcomed Saint Louis after his marriage with Marguerite de Provence, celebrated at the Cathedral of Sens. Its central body was rebuilt in the middle of the 16C, the walls of the royal Chapel (served by the parish priest the neighbouring church of Saint-Maximin) persists, encroaching on the pavement. The stables were located across the street in front of the courtyard. The Queen’s halls, located in the northern prolongation of the king’s halls, were done  around 1500. The Royal garden and the prisons have recently taken up constructions in the south.  Today, the TGI or main courthouse is the tenant there.

Saint-Jean-lès-Sens Abbey,  Church of Saint-Savinin-the-young of Sens,  Park of Moulin in Tan and its tropical greenhouses.  Jean Cousin Park, La Grande Rue: Pedestrian shopping street. The banks of the Yonne and the Church of Saint-Maurice. In the central aisle of the cemetery rests Saint-Denis, the last  Mamaluke  of Napoleon 1st, who after serving the emperor at St. Helena until his death retreated in Sens where he died. The museums of Sens, are in the building adjacent the Cathedral and Justice palace more on them here:

Some webpages to help your planning for a visit to Sens, it is worth a detour. These are:

City of Sens tourist office :

Tourism office of Sens:

Tourist office of dept Yonne 89:

Tourist office of Burgundy on Sens:[city]=SENS&Alentour_44

Hope it helps your planning to visit this wonderful city of Burgundy not far from Paris.This is Sens enjoy it. Happy travels, good health and many cheers!!!

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April 6, 2018

Metz, the Cathedral ,the Christmas market..and..a lot more!

And why not stay in an old region of France, this is on department 57 Moselle in the old region of Lorraine, now Grand Est. A very unique city of France and with an unique history. We love it going at it by car and enjoy very much their Christmas market. The Cathedral is awesome to rival any in my opinion, and so much to see here. Of course, from the title you know I am talking about Metz. You say it like a mess and not met pronunciation.

Metz  is in the department of the Moselle no 57 and in the region of Grand Est. It was part of the Three bishops until 1790 (together with Verdun ,and Toul) and was in the historical Lorraine region.  The city is several thousand years old known as the Divodurum Mediomatricorum and later as Mettis , becoming capital of the kingdom of the Francs, wanted by the kingdom of France,, Metz is annexed in the 19C to the German empire. With a diversity of architectural buildings from antiquity to the 20C with medieval and classic French influence as well as German especially in the neighborhood Imperial from the annexation of the Alsace-Lorraine on the Wilhermine architectural style.

The city is at the crossing of many roads and only 55 km from Luxembourg, 53 km from Nancy, and 60 km from Sarrebruck, 130 km from Strasbourg, 155 km from Reims and 320 km from Paris as well as 230 km from Francfurt. Metz is in the Valley of the Moselle and on the Moselle river coming from the southwest and the Seille that goes by the historical gate of the Germans or Porte des Allemands coming from saulnois; the town is on the hills of the Sainte Croix and the Citadelle. The roads are good coming on the autoroute A4 that connects Paris to Reims, Strasbourg and the A31 to Luxembourg on the north (my route) and Nancy, Toul and Lyon on the south. By airplane you have the local regional airport of Metz-Nancy-Lorraine about 20 km from the city center and link to the train station Lorraine TGV that, is also link by expressway to the city , the major airports is that of Luxembourg –Findel at about 70 km by the A31 and on the same distance you have the Sarrebruck-Einheim on the A320 road. The train station of Gare de Metz is very nice and fast trains arrived from Gare de l’Est of Paris as well as train station Gare Metz-Nord handles the local TER lines.  Metz is also accessable by the canal de la Moselle reaching the city center with a pleasure marina.

A bit of history I like ,and a lot of it.

The name comes from the original inhabitants known such as the Médiomatriques a celtic tribe that eventually gave the name to the city of Metz; first appearing on a text from a Roman general Julius Ceasar. The celtic tribe was here around 3C BC on a territory going from the Argonne to the Vosges.  It was in 58 BC  that the Romans occupied the city ;shortly after the conquest the Romans name Metz as a Divodurum Mediomatricorum and make it part of the Belgians Gauls of which the capital was Durocortorum , present day Reims. The city was first destroyed by invasions in the year 253 AD by the Alemani. Metz was the capital of the kingdom of Austrasia (Prussians/germans) for two centuries of the Frankish period from  511 to 751.  In 511 upon the death of king Clovis the sons inherited the territory so Thierry 1er fix his capital at Reims then later at Mettis (Metz) and it is here that the Carolinian dynasty is born started by Pepin le Brief in 751, a descendant of two families of the austrasian aristocracy such as the Arnoul bishop of Metz and Pepin de Landen, mayor of the palace of Pepinistes. Metz is declared a free city of the Holy Roman Empire.

In 1552, the king of France Henri II takes the area of the three bishops or Metz, Verdun, and Toul. After the entrance of the troops of Anne de Montmorency in town and thanks to some local  support  the king Henri II makes an entrance to Metz on April 18 1552.  In the last period of the campaigns by Napoléon 1er in two occassions of 1814 and 1815, the city is surrounded by coalition forces and only surrended after Napoléon signs the capitulation and the news reach Metz; so for doing this act, the city was called the fortress of the east .  AFter the battle of Borny-Colombey in August of 1870 Metz is siege or surrounded by the 20 of August and finally surrended on October 28; the German troops entered the town the next day after taking the strongest city in France and Metz is attached again to the German empire from May 10 1871 as stipulated in the treaty of Francfurt. Metz becomes the main town of the Bezirk Lothringen a district in the Lorraine integrated to the Reichsland Elsab Lothringen or German state until 1918. As in the rest of the Moselle, the French language is prohibited in the primary schools where the German teacher gives classes in German. The French is allowed as a foreign language in the high schools and some bilingual schools. Each year, the emperor William II comes visit the city  to inspects the civil works and the fortifications.

While WWI begins the Moselle people sided with the German empire , very rare are those who refused, and died in the fields defending the Germans on the Eastern front but also on the west. By November 16 1918, the troops leave the city and the French army entered the city on November 17 evening with a deserted town; the city is returned to France in 1918, but the Moselle stayed traumatized for the damages of nationalism and the war as well as the massive expulsion of German citizens from 1918 to 1919 touching all the social classes.  After the intervention of the USA many Germans who were send back could return by 1920; but the superior management classes and the capital never returns to Metz or the Moselle region. After 48 years of annexation the population had become bilingual and the German culture is well impregnated in the daily life of the Metz people, the Messins. The majority of Messins had by consequences a double cultural franco-german base on the eve of WWII.


Porte des Allemands or Gate of the Germans

As WWII begins by June 14 1940 Metz is declared an open city, and three days later at 17H (5PM) the Nazis arrived with a motorized patrol of the 379 infantery regiment opening the way for the 169th infantry division on an empty city and raised the nazi flag on the city hall . Again anexed Metz becomes the front post of the Gau Westmark or the western march of the third reich of which the seat was at Sarrebruck. The nazi regime established a politic of annexation by forming a CdZ Gebiet Lothringen and even Hitler himself visit the city at Christmas December 25 1940, but a brief visit not to make big speeches and just visits the  1st division SS his elite division base at Metz in August 1940, as well as visiting the Avenue Foch renamed the Hermann-Goring strasse, the old Bergamt mines hotel and next day he passed revue to his elite troops and leave that same afternoon for Sarrebruck . As been the Moselle annexed the Metz population becomes part of the Deutsche Volksgemeinschaft or the community of German people under strick security  and followup by the police. At the battle of Metz August 27, 1944, The American Third Army led by General Patton faced the 1st army of General von Knobelsdorff ,the nazis block the advance of the Americans using the forts of WWI as defensive wall; the battle ended with heavy losses on both sides after many bombings and tanks offensive;finally the battle ended on November 22 1944 with the American and allies victory .  The nazis holding the fort Jeanne d’Arc held by the 462nd Volks Grenadier division until December 13 1944.

This is heavens in architecture of two sides of their history.  Some of the monuments by architectural period (there are too many to see !!!) are:

Those from the Holy Roman Empire are the Church of Saint Maximin ,Church of Saint Pierre aux Nonnains (possible oldest Church in France) , Chapelle des Templiers and the Grand and Moyen pont des Morts. Those with Italian influences ( 13C to 14C )are the facades of the Place Saint Louis, Hôtel Saint Livier and some mansions of the Place Sainte Croix; Gothic style are the abbey of Saint Vincent, Saint Etienne Cathedral (wonderful a must to see) Hôtel de Gargan, Hôtel de la  Bulette, the grain depot of Chévremont, the gate or Porte des Allemands; from the Renaissance period ( 13C to 15C) we have the Hôtel de Burtaigne, and the Maison des Têtes. The main buildings from the Monarchies periods are in renaissance style (16C)  the storage stores and the citadelle, on the baroque style (16C to 18C) Church of des Petits Carmes, Church of Notre Dame de l’Assomption, Church of Saint Simon-Saint Jude ; from the neo classic period (16C to 18C) we have the Porches of the abbey of  Saint Vincent, Hôtel de Ville, Opéra-Theater, Justice Palace and the covered market; the rococo style (18C) we have the abbey of Sainte Glossinde.  The main buildings from the German empire are on the neo gothic style, the porch of the Cathedral St Etienne, façade of Church Sainte Ségolène and the temple de garnison, in the neo roman rhenan style (19C to 20C) the central post office, the temple neuf, and the gare de Metz train station.; on the neo renaissance Flemish style (19C to 20C) we have the Governors palace, and the Hôtel des Arts et Métiers; art nouveau style (20C) we have the maison bleue, place Saint Jacques (great at Christmas time) and some buildings on the avenue Foch and neighborhood of Imperial , Sablon, and Queuleu.; Main buildings from the Imperial period of France and the French Republic are on the neo classical style (19C) the Arsenal, neo roman (19C) synagogue consistoriale; on the modern movement we have the Church of Sainte Thérése de l’Enfant Jesus, and on the contemporary style we have the amphitheatre in centre Pompidou Metz.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here in addition to my blog post above are:

City of Metz on heritage sites:

Tourist office of Metz :

Department 57 Moselle tourism on Metz:

In essence you need more than one day here, and will need to move. This is a town to stay, we love it as we have been even at the Chrismas Market here all over the city. Hope it helps and enjoy it as I do. Happy travels, good health, and many cheers!!!

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