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Troyes, the timber-framed city

There are many cities in France and Navarre that still boast high-quality wooden buildings. Yet it is Troyes that arguably has the most extensive, uniform, and best preserved or restored heritage. Having almost disappeared entirely, this incredible collection of timber-framed houses from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance is now the pride of all Troyes. With their picturesque style and multi-coloured appearance, these buildings tell the story of an ever-changing city – a story that is far from complete.

If you wander through the streets of Troyes, you cannot help but notice the extraordinary collection of timber-framed houses that punctuate the landscape. The city undoubtedly boasts one of the most stunning and extensive collections of buildings made from this construction, also known as “half-timbered”. These buildings, with their characteristic vertical, horizontal or diagonal stripes, have their skeletons on show for the whole world to see. These exposed features reveal the wooden structure that lies beneath.

Yet this incredible heritage was almost lost forever. Indeed, its origins can be traced back to a major disaster in the city. Almost all of the timber-framed houses that exist today date from after the great fire of May 1524. This vast inferno ravaged a quarter of the city, reducing around 1,500 dwellings to ashes and leaving some 7,500 people homeless.

On a map of modern-day Troyes, the fire covered an area extending roughly from Boulevard Victor-Hugo to Rue Louis-Ulbach, and from Rue du Palais-de-Justice to Boulevard du 14-Juillet. It obliterated the city’s most affluent district, which was home to rich merchants, and destroyed all of the churches in its path. No sooner had the fire been brought under control (a process that took a little over two days), than Troyens set about rebuilding their city.

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