"The Champagne Miracle"
The "Champagne Miracle "
An exquisite moment
Those men of the years 1480-1560,have left such sensitive traces that our eyes and maybe our hearts can still decipher them without too much difficulty. If for a long time the inhabitants of Champagne considered themselves French, the Champagne of the C16th had its special characteristics, one finds it: in the monuments, the paintings, the sculptures, the stained glass windows, the books from local printers, are still numerous and in themselves a real echo of the faith, the fears and the hopes of the inhabitants still comes back to us.
Art historians have tried to understand the " Champagne miracle " of the Renaissance : that exquisite moment when the still vigorous Middle Ages found enough strength to renew old forms particularly by means of engravings , and at the same time to accept the Italian influence by the use of simple decorative motifs.
A breath from Italy
As in other regions of Europe, the wind from Italy penetrated softly and as if by accident, by the means of decoration. For stained glass windows and monumental sculptures, it's garlands of putti and flowers that race all around a window or ornament the stone work around doorways; for statuary it is by an expression a little more accentuated; for architecture the classic forms (rounded arcades, columns with ancient capitals...) appear timidly in the middle of the century beside the Gothic flamboyant forms; such as the western facade of the church of Pont - Saint - Marie.
Towards 1560 classicism had won out on for example on the western portal of Saint - André - Les - Vergers or at Saint - Pantaléon in Troyes.
The Champagne Miracle was a time of balance that lasted longer than elsewhere between the sustained vigour of Gothic forms, the assimilation of the Flemish and German realism and the acceptance of the temptation of expressionism with an Italian influence.
At the end of this slide, artists continued with virtuosity to sculpt cherubs and baskets of flowers whilst abandoning the Gothic " framework " marked by ascending lines for flat classical structures moved by horizontal lines sustained by columns more or less imitations of antique styles.
A land of masterpieces
The marriage of these elements gave some masterpieces: the crypt of Chaource, the rood screen of the Madeleine in Troyes, the sculpted panels of the wooden rood screen in Villemaur that are copies of Schöengauer, the altar screen in Géraudot, the stained glass window of the apocalypse in Chavanges copied from Dürer, the statue of Saint Marguerite in Bouilly... If these marvels of balance touch us, it is largely due to the synthesis of which they are the fruit.
No matter whether it was the C12th, under the enlightened authority of the counts or later of the merchant princes, the towns of Champagne, Troyes especially, had always been places of exchange and mixing, open to all of Europe in the the north up to the Baltic, and in the south just to the gates of the Orient. Their vocation and habits gave the inhabitants of Champagne not only a wide vision of the world but also a good understanding of the specialness of the kingdom and their province.