Our cathedral pilgrimage was essentially a journey back through time. Although there are cathedrals built in contemporary architectural styles, our interest generally does not point in that direction. We’re interested in the Romanesque and Gothic styles mainly due to their beauty and because they reflect the medieval attitude. That “God-centric” culture produced buildings and works of art that astonish even today. So, after saying goodbye to Reims we hopped into our Tardis, I mean Peugeot, and set the controls for the medieval city of Laon.
Laon is less than an hour’s drive from Reims so we had time (ahem) before checking into our apartment to visit the ruins of Vauclair Abbey, a medieval Cistercian monastery founded by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux in 1134. Winding our way through the beautiful Laonnois countryside (a small natural region centered around Laon) we found the extinct monastery standing in shattered beauty nestled in the palm of a verdant valley. Exploring these ruins one could imagine themselves actually traveling back in time.
Once established the Abbey received several estates and farms and quickly prospered, even sending out monks to found another monastery near Épernay. Between the 100 Years’ War and the 16th-century French Wars of Religion, Vauclair Abbey suffered heavy damage, but it wasn’t until the French Revolution in 1789 that it met its final demise.
Wandering amidst the remnants of Gothic vaults, pointed archways, and decorative pillars you can almost see the ghosts of the monastic inhabitants going about their daily duties.
While doing research for our trip I learned of a small town near Vauclair where Merovingian tombs had been discovered containing the first Christian burials in the region. We headed to the town of Vorges to see for ourselves. Unfortunately, the medieval church was closed, but it was still a delight to visit the town.
Finally, heading to the old city of Laon we traversed several narrow country roads until we came within view of the cathedral standing prominently on the city’s hilltop. Pulling over to the side of the road, we stared at our next destination and prepared for another journey back in time.
Index of blog posts for our Cathedral Pilgrimage
- 1. A Cathedral Pilgrimage
- 2. Preparing for a Pilgrimage
- 3. First Stop – Reims
- 4. Reims – City of Kings
- 5. Saint Remi and His Basilica
- 6. Christian Time Traveling
- 7. Second Stop – Laon
- 8. Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Laon
- 9. Third Stop – Amiens
- 10. Amiens Cathedral: Almost Heaven
- 11. Soaring Vaults and Great Treasures