Meaux and the Cité Episcopale !!!

I have written several posts on this sentimental city of mine, There is always something to tell in medieval old Meaux, in Seine et Marne dept 77 of the Ïle de France region of my belle France ! I like to tell you more about an emblematic site that I first learned about it in 1990 with what would be later my dear late wife Martine , her native town, Of course, I have walked all over the city and know it as my own, Let me tell you more especially about the Cité Episcopale or Episcopal City ,and its wonderful surrounding monuments.

Meaux was the first town in Île-de-France region to be labeled City of Art and History, in 1988 ! Its Gothic cathedral, its episcopal palace which has become a museum, its garden created by Le Nôtre, its remains of medieval ramparts, form a beautiful historical setting. The largest city of Seine-et-Marne also plays every summer, with hundreds of volunteers, a sound and light show retracing 1,000 years of its history ! Gorgeous event indeed.

The official sound and light spectacle of Meaux

The Cathedral Saint Etienne in Meaux took 350 years to build, whereas a cathedral took less than 100 years to build. This makes it one of the few in France to combine all the architectural styles of Gothic ! The cathedral is built on an old Romanesque church, whose choir was demolished in favor of another, Gothic, which was completed at the beginning of the 13C. But poorly designed, it threatens to collapse. It needs to be consolidated. Standing in the middle of the building, we admire this choir which offers a fine and luminous architecture. Opposite, the rose window and the organ gallery stand out in a flamboyant, post-15C style. Between the two, part of the nave has remained in a primitive 13C. The stained glass windows are smaller. Today, there remains only one tomb in the vault of the bishops, that of the famous Bossuet, nicknamed the Eagle of Meaux. Two huge statues commemorate the centenary and bicentenary of his death. He was amongst other things the confessor to king Louis XIV !!

Meaux cat st etienne parvis et PF mar13


The Vieux Châpitre or Old Chapter has kept its authenticity. It was there that the canons meted out justice. It can only be entered by guided tour. The palace, the bishop’s residence, became a museum in 1908. You can access the lower rooms, the chapel, the bishop’s bedroom and the reception room. The 19C parquet floor shines and creaks under our feet, the windows offer a view of the Bossuet garden bordered by lime trees, it was designed by Le Nôtre, This garden can be admired like a painting from the palace. The Meldois (as the locals are known from an old celtic tribe that gave the name to the city) have been talking about the Old Chapter since the 19C. But what is the origin of this name? The first hypothesis: the assembly of canons who stood in the catechism chapel (in the courtyard of the episcopal city) at the beginning of the 19C, the castle then became the “old” chapter, that is to say the ancient, The second hypothesis and the most probable: From the end of the 18C, cracks were clearly visible on the south-west turret and the south span. The state of disrepair set in and intensified throughout the 19C. The first hypothesis probably favored the second, the clergy not wanting, not being able to finance the work.  The building became state property, the restoration began in 1916 and was completed in 1933 (except for some interior fittings: heating, toilets, etc. completed in 1937). The footbridge was completed in 1935. The chapter castle dates back to the 12C or 13C. It thus marks the power of the chapter against those of the bishop in his palace and of the counts of Champagne and Brie in their castle The external staircase was covered with its framework in the 14C. It leads to the first floor.  The configuration of the Vieux Châpitre are as follows :The base room ,located about 5 meters underground was used as a cellar. It would also have served as a prison. In the 19C, the room was partitioned off. The two naves are separated in the middle by four massive pillars thus delimiting ten cross vaults. The ground floor has the same layout as the basement.This room would have been the refectory of the canons or the meeting place of the chapter. The first floor is reached by the only external staircase. Inside, four columns carry a 15C framework. It is the noble floor as in any castle of the Middle Ages. And enforce Justice, later, this room would have served as a dormitory for the canons. The attic can be reach by a spiral staircase located in the south-west turret. The very beautiful frame rests on the north and south walls joined by four oak beams crossing the room.

We go now to the Palais Episcopale or Episcopal Palace exteriors :

meaux episcopal palace et musee Bossuet back of cat st etienne dec18

The facade on the courtyard side was carried out at the beginning of the 16C. At the crossroads between medieval and modern, it includes a medieval chapel, remodeled in the 15C and built as an appetizer at the eastern end, and a rectangular brick and stone tower that projects from the middle of the building. The facade on the garden side seen from the garden, presents a harmonious whole that unites the classical building with the Renaissance work in brick. It comprises a vast body bounded at the ends by two corner pavilions. The building opens onto a terrace, supported on the ground floor by a series of seven semi-circular arches, which form a kind of gallery serving to hide the 12C wall. The garden, has been known since the 17C to have been entrusted the expansion of the episcopal garden to the young gardener André Le Nôtre. It is a “French” garden of 8500 m2, composed of a flowerbed evoking the miter of a bishop. It is divided into four alleys lined with greenery which meet around a pond and extend to the ramparts of the city on which a terrace planted with yew and boxwood is laid out.(My first real kiss with my then girlfriend was done here, so much to us and now me forever!!), The Bossuet cabinet, on the terrace of the ramparts had a charming little pavilion built, now called the Bossuet pavilion. According to local tradition, this small construction was greatly appreciated by the Aigle de Meaux who liked to go there to work in peace and meditate. On the occasion of the tercentenary of his death in 2004, a plant was planted in his honor in the garden a new variety of roses called “Bossuet Aigle de Meaux” which recalls by its mauve color, the episcopal habit. It still there and very much appreciated.

Meaux episcopal palace la taverne maison en bois jun10


We go into the interiors of the Palais Episcopale :

The rise ramp made up of inclined sections which stop on successive levels, is rare in France, The lower rooms, on the ground floor, two magnificent rooms, separated by a thick wall, occupy the entire length of the building. Each of the rooms is divided into two naves by a row of monolithic columns, confined by four engaged columns which receive the fallout of the warheads, The double chapel, is a chapel oriented on two levels of palatial type dating from the second half of the 12C. On the ground floor, the lower chapel is accessed through the official hall. This chapel, divided into several rooms by partitions, On the second level, the upper chapel has a rib-vaulted nave of two bays separated by a transverse arch and ends with an apsidal choir vaulted in six quarters of ribs and lit by three long windows in tiers-point, The apartments, have a room located to the right of the ramp and known as the Changeux room. Giving access to the upper chapel, it was formerly divided into two spaces occupied by bedrooms. Currently, this space hosts the very first room in the Bossuet Museum dedicated to the end of Mannerism. The Synod Hall, so called because these assemblies were held there in the past, is today a magnificent room with imposing dimensions ,and with a framed ceiling made up of three beams mistresses. Four characteristic 17C windows give light onto the garden and give access to the terrace. To the right of the Synod Hall is the Bishops’ Lounge, known as the Antichamber a noble-looking room adorned with a pretty marble fireplace dating from the time of Louis XIV. Located after the bishops’ lounge, the king’s room or bishop’s room is undoubtedly the most beautiful room in the palace. Forming a forefront on the garden, the Bossuet cabinet or the Queen’s bedroom, following the King’s bedroom, once served as Bossuet’s study. While King Louis XVI occupied the bishop’s room, Queen Marie-Antoinette and the two children occupied the Queen’s bedroom.  As in the king’s bedroom, there is a fireplace surmounted by Empire woodwork decorated in the lower part with a mirror and in the upper part with a canvas representing, according to tradition, Henrietta of England , sister-in-law of King Louis XIV. At the western end of the palace is the Renaissance room called Salle Moissan, formerly called the second room of the episcopal palace. To the left of the ramp is the Bishops’ room. It is a large square room decorated with a fireplace illustrated with a representation of the Holy Family.

meaux cat st etienne garments popes dec18

The official Bossuet Museum

This green space of gardens connects the episcopal palace and the fortification walls of the city. At the time, it was not a garden but part of the city, with the houses of the canons. They gradually bought the land, then the bishopric bought the ramparts to nicely enclose the whole before creating a hanging garden, around 1642. A happy idea since these are the only ramparts still standing in Meaux.

The city of Meaux on its history

The Meaux country local tourist office on the Cité Episcopale

There you go folks, this is my Meaux!!!  I have taken new text by translating the above links where English was not available. The pictures are older but new to my blog. Hope you enjoy this wonderful part of my belle France, worth the detour and easy connection for a day from Paris or even Disneyland! 

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all !!!

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