The second stop on our Cathedral pilgrimage was in the hilltop city of Laon. Retaining a great deal of the charm of its history, Laon looks like a storybook town out of a medieval tale. High up on a hill above the Picardy plain, its ramparts and fortifications successfully checked the invasions of the Franks, Burgundians, Vandals, Alans, and Huns. We were privileged to stay in a beautiful apartment built along the medieval ramparts giving us a spectacular view of the plateau beneath the city stretching for miles.
After the baptism of Clovis by Saint Remi (who was from the surrounding district), Laon became one of the main towns of the kingdom of the Franks and eventually became the principal city of the late Carolingian kings. Early in the twelfth century, Laon was an important center for learning, hosting the famous Anselm of Laon‘s school for theology and exegesis. Since the French Revolution, Laon has lost its prominence, but its architectural beauty, medieval legacy, and magnificent cathedral make it a magical tourist destination.
Laon can trace its history back to the ancient Roman Empire. Today it has an art and archeological museum in the former Templar hotel preserving ancient artifacts and historical works from the city and elsewhere. We spent an enjoyable afternoon combing through its collection.
Of course, our primary purpose in coming to Laon was to visit the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Laon. It is one of France’s best-preserved early Gothic cathedrals and is notable for its unity of style and bright interior. I will dedicate my next post to the cathedral.
At the far end of the city, away from the cathedral, are the abbey and church of Saint Martin, which were unfortunately closed when we visited. They are now part of a complex of buildings that include the local hospital and a library.
Laon has a lot to offer, including an old Templer chapel and a citadel, not to mention a plethora of lovely shops and restaurants. As much as we would have loved to frequent these places, we had only limited time in this magical city, and the Cathedral awaited us.
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