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Troyes Travel Guide
Half-timbered houses, Troyes (© DX - Fotolia.com)
Half-timbered houses, Troyes.

Introduction

Troyes (pronounced 'Trwa', like 3 in French) is a historical town located on the Seine River, 150 km southeast of Paris. It is the prefecture of the Aube department.

Troyes is renowned for its numerous half-timbered houses dating mainly of the 16th century.

The local clothing industry has produced such household brand names as Lacoste, founded by René Lacoste in 1933, and the kids wear Petit Bateau, founded by Pierre Valton in 1893.


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History

Half-timbered house, Troyes (photo by Javelefran - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)

Troyes was founded by the Romans as Augustobona Tricassium and was located on the Via Agrippa, the main road linking Reims to Lyon.

In 451, the area was the scene of the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains, in which a coalition led by the Roman general Flavius Aëtius and the Visigothic king Theodoric I stopped the progression of the Huns led by Attila.

In medieval times, two synods were held at Troyes. The first one in 867 proclaimed that no bishop could be disposed without reference to the Holy See. The second, more important one, in 1129 recognized and confirmed the Order of the Knights Templar.

Medieval literature, and particularly Arthurian tales of knights in search of the Holy Grail, owe a lot to the local poet Chrétien de Troyes (1135-1183), who served at the court of his patroness Marie of France, Countess of Champagne from 1160 to 1172. His better known works include Yvain, the Knight of the Lion, Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart, and Perceval, the Story of the Grail.

From the 13th century, the Champagne fairs, an annual cycle of trading fairs, were held by the Counts of Champagne in the main towns of the region. Troyes' prominent position secured it two fairs per year. It is during those market fairs that the Troy weight (troy ounces and troy pounds) emerged as units of mass. They spread to England and later the rest of the English-speaking world, where are still used today, customarily for precious metals, gemstones, and black powder.

England's relationship with Troyes doesn't end there. In 1420, in the aftermath of the Battle of Agincourt, Henry V of England married Catherine of Valois (daughter of Charles VI of France) at Troyes Cathedral. The ensuing Treaty of Troyes acknowledged Henry V as the heir to the throne of France. This would have important repurcussions in the French psyche. Four years later, Joan of Arc experienced her first vision at the age of 12. In 1429, she would take the leadership of the French army at the siege of Orléans, then set about to recover French control over the Champagne region in order to get Charles VII crowned in Reims.

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