Renaissance in Champagne


The Renaissance

The Duke of Burgundy ravaged southern Champagne

In 1477, the terrifying Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold, Grand Duke of the west, died at the foot of the walls of Nancy and his body was devoured by wolves. Before this, he had invaded Champagne and the king of France attacked by the south of the present department of the Aube with the greatest army ever united. The territory was devastated.

A new world to rebuild

To attract the survivors and emigrants from other regions , a radical measure was instituted: the abolition of serfdom. All men who cleared the land and rebuilt a house were freed and could, according to feudal law, benefit from their lands like a perpetual tenant and this right would continue with their descendants until the end of time.
An extraordinary craze took place during half a century, comparable to what happened in the United States during the C19th. Everyone helped each other to rebuild on the alignment of the new street their wooden house according to an identical model: a long house that served as lodgings, barn, and stable with a long roof that descended almost to the ground of one side as protection against the rain.
This reconstruction, clearing lands that had become wild again after being abandoned for 150 years , required money. The rich merchants of Troyes and their cousins the rich urban clergymen lent funds against a part of the future harvests, in perpetuity!

Very badly rewarded efforts

These rich merchants monopolized the lands and manipulated the currency so as to ruin their creditors between 1550 and 1574. The ruined peasantry had to give them their lands and the former free men became just farm workers.
The population declined, it did not recover economically until the 1770's when large square barns were constructed, and the long houses were then transformed into dwellings and completely restored in brick.
In 1880, the population grew again and constructions in brick were placed between the long houses. The population of pioneers very badly rewarded for their efforts lived during the Renaissance but had kept a very medieval vision of the world resulting from their long exile in the forest during the wars. They have left us an exemplary heritage of rural architectural : the half-timbered long houses and a wealth of religious statues and stained glass windows, exceptional in the history of humanity.