Thursday, December 12, 2013

Tour César, in the Mediæval City of Provins

Perched on the highest rocks of the old upper mediæval city of Provins, the Tour César provides an important visual focal point.  It was built in the 12th century, when such structures were both advisable and in vogue.  But this tower, like the old town itself, is somewhat small.  Although it is 44 meters high, within a few generations the Tower was used primarily by the local Count as a prison. The bilingual sign says that this has been known as the Count's Tower, the King's Tower, the Prisonners' Tower, the Large Tower, and Caesar's Tower.  

To reach the Tower, you need to climb beyond the heights of the upper city, which was already a good climb.

"For Sale"--I had to take this photo, even though the Tower itself was not on offer.

The main lower structure is square, each corner having its own smaller tower.  Above all of this stands the upper octagonal tower with two window openings on each of the eight sides.  This would have been a chilly wind-swept place for anyone keeping watch or even ringing the bells for church.

I surmised this to be part of a wall with an inner passageway, but the passageway no longer leads anywhere.  In its crumbled state, we see how field stones of any size or shape were used for filler, while chiseled quarried stones were used to create the wall's surfaces.  This wall was surely not thick enough to deter a determined assault, but it could do nicely for dampening escape plans of any prissoners.

The official entrance to the tower is at the top of still more steps, but now the stairs are fully covered and protected from the elements. 

We pause, looking back down the steps we just climbed.

As we go up into the Tower, we see that we are now well above the elegant homes of the upper city.

A telephoto shot lets us see the nearly haphazard nature of the steep tiled roofs.  Our home is not the only one with moss on the roof.

(And she thought our back door was drafty!)

This descends (as I recall) into the living area in the tower.

Just remember that all of the wood for this large fireplace has to be carried up into and through the upper city, up to the Tower, and then up into the Tower.  But the warmth would have provided comfort and heat for gruel three times a day.

I should have taken a photo of the very narrow stairs I was persuaded to climb (next photo), but my mind was more concerned with claustrophobia.  To get through the door, I had to take off my camera backpack and proceed sideways.  I then had to climb the steep uneven steps somewhat sideways because my modern shoulders are too wide (and I am no rugby player).

The climb was worth it (if I kept my mind off the coming descent).  Now the geometrical design of the Tower's upper timbers could be appreciated. 

This scaffolding was built in the 17th century to hold the city's large bells (formerly used to warn the town of fire, but now rung to call people to church in the upper city).  The sign warns us that we are "Absolutely forbidden to touch the bells or climb the supporting structure.  The town declines all responsibility."  Strangely, an inner wooden stairs lets us go down to examine the structure, and this has surely been tempting for young lads with adventuresome spirits.

From the uppermost inner deck of the Tower, we can look over the plain below through any of the eight windows.  This view shows that we are nearly as high as the church tower in the upper city.  The closer metal roof belongs to one of this Tower's four smaller towers.

This was October, so school was getting out, meaning that it was about 5:00 p.m.  Time to descend before the Tower is officially closed.