Church Architecture in Champagne: The Half Timbered Trail

The Half Timbered Church Trail, located in the Champagne Ardenne region, is a unique trail with ten churches and a chapel. The trail is in the Great Lakes region of France. The trail begins in the famed National Park and continues through Aube, Marne and Haute-Marne. The quaint churches and chapel on the trail are built of timber that was left exposed and filled between with a mix of clay and straw fragments that has a coating to protect it. This filling is known as wattle and daub. The results are picturesque buildings constructed between the late 1400s and the 1700s. When the largest manmade lake, Lac du Der-Chantecoq, was constructed in the 1970s, one of the half-timbered churches was moved to avoid destruction due to the flooding to create the lake.

When planning to visit these inspiring churches keep in mind that some of the facilities require appointments and others are open daily.

Eglise Saint-Quentin, Mathaux

Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste constructed in 1761 was one of the last churches built in the half-timbered style. Unfortunately, in 1983 the bell tower and nave were destroyed by a storm. Since then it has been rebuilt. Inside, the church has a neo-Gothic wooden altar and a painting depicting Christ at a grape press.

Eglise Saint-Julien et Saint-Blaise, Longsols

This half-timbered church was constructed in the late 1400s. The structure reminds visitors of a Latin cross. A slate roof covers the tall simplistic tower. Be sure to observe the colorful altarpieces from the end of the 1600s and the wood carvings.

Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Morembert

The Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste is open from Easter to All Saints’ Day. At other times call for an appointment.  This church was first built to be a manor chapel. However, in 1841 it was changed to a parish church. In the 1700s an octagonal bell tower was added. The interior has a Pietá and a state of St. Claudius.

Eglise Saint-Léger, Saint Léger Sous Margerie

This church dates back to1492 the year that Christopher Columbus arrived in the new country. Since that time many changes have been made to the structure. The church has a six-sided choir. The date of the altar is 1719. The walls inside of the church are covered in plaster, covering the timber structure. The ceiling, which is vaulted, is painted with gold stars.

Eglise Notre-Dame, Drosnay 

The Eglise Notre-Dame in Drosnay is open summer and winter. The church was built in the early 1500s. A large gable roof covers the building. It is believed that the gable roof was not the original roof but was added by professionals who might’ve worn anti-slip shoes designed for roofing to cover a staggered roof. Part of the gable that is protected combines horizontal battens and vertical wood cladding. This style is known in the region as tavillons. The altar dates back to 1667. When visiting be sure to take notice of the stain-glass window portraying the Tree of Jesse. The window dates to the 16th century.

Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Nuisement

The Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste was originally in Nuisement-aux-Bois. When the Lac du Der was formed, the village was flooded with water. Other villages suffered the same fate. Prior to the flooding the church was moved and rebuilt in 1970 at its current location. Over the centuries the church was enlarged and changed. Today it functions as a museum open to the public.

Eglise Notre-Dame, Châtillon-sur-Broué

It is believed that this church is the only church to have a large porch that is enclosed.  Eglise Notre-Dame was constructed in the early 1500s. In 1822 the bell tower was rebuilt.

Eglise Saint Nicolas, Outines

The Eglise Saint Nicolas building dates back to the early 1500s. Visitors will see large beams and pillars, a 16th century statue of St Gond and a 14th century cross. The village of Outines also has half-timbered homes.

Eglise Sainte Croix en son Exaltation, Bailly-le-Franc

This half-timbered church was built in 1510. The roof and spire were created with chestnut shingles and battens (tavillon), Roman tiles, flat tiles and slate. The altarpiece is from the 1700s.

Eglise Saint-Jacques et Saint-Philippe, Lentilles

Built about 1512, this church is typical of half-timbered church structures. It is interesting to note that in 1970 a false plaster vault placed in the 1800s was removed. A diamond-patterned ceiling is now visible. When visiting look for the statue of St. James and the circular window (oculi.)

Chapelle Saint-Jean, Soulaines-Dhuys

Chapelle Saint-Jean in Soulaines-Dhuys is one of the oldest religious structures in the area. It was built between 1484 and 1504. The chapel was built for a leper colony. Those afflicted with leprosy were able to participate by watching the religious services from outside. When visiting the chapel tourists will see that the angle braces for the porch create three trefoil arches.

For more detailed information about the Half Timbered Trail, visit the official Champagne-Ardenne tourism website. Champagne-Ardenne is one of the exhibitors at the International Wine Tourism Conference in April 2015.

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The 7th annual International Wine Tourism Conference, Exhibition and Workshop  2015 (IWINETC) will be held in the city of Reims. The Champagne-Marne Tourism Board, Comité Départemental du Tourisme de la Marne will be the premium sponsor for the event.

IWINETC is the leading global event for the wine and culinary tourism industry. IWINETC 2015 will provide, once again a unique opportunity to build essential contacts, discover a new destination and services key to the future of your business, expand your industry knowledge and maximise your return on time.

There are several ways to participate at IWINETC 2015:

Keep up to date with the latest news from IWINETC on Twitter #iwinetc #champagne, Facebook and Linkedin

Kathy Sullivan
Wine Trail Traveler