August 27, 2018
The town of Noyon is a delightful small gem in the heart of Picardy, the region located between Paris and the border with Belgium. Today Noyon is a minor urban centre, overlooked by its larger neighbors, but in the day, it was of much greater importance. The magnificent cathedral is the dominant artifact of the high Middle Ages in Noyon, and is of a grandeur that towers literally and metaphorically over the modest town. The city hall is also an astonishing work of flamboyant Gothic architecture, set in the immediate vicinity of the cathedral.
Originally founded by the Gallo-Romans, the town of Noviomagus was mentioned in the Antonine Itinerary as being located in the proximity of Soissons and Amiens. The town became an independent diocese when the bishop Medardus moved his seat from the Vermandois to Noyon around the year 531. The bishop of Noyon was also bishop of Tournai from the seventh century until Tournai was raised to a separate diocese 1146.
Noyon figures importantly in the Frankish kingdom as well as the foundation of France. Charlemagne was crowned as co-ruler of the Franks in the cathedral at Noyon in 768 as was the first Capetian king, Hugh Capet in 987.
The Vikings incurred as far as Noyon in the middle of the 9th century. At the beginning of the 12th century, the town received its communal charter, which was later confirmed by Philip Augustus in 1223. The Romanesque cathedral was destroyed by fire in 1131, but was replaced by the present cathedral, Notre-Dame de Noyon, constructed between 1145 and 1235, one of the earliest examples of Gothic architecture in France.
By the Treaty of Noyon, signed on the 13 August 1516 between Francis I of France and emperor Charles V, France abandoned its claims to the Kingdom of Naples and received the Duchy of Milan in recompense. The treaty brought the War of the League of Cambrai— one stage of the Italian Wars— to a close.
John Calvin, the Protestant theologian and reformer, was born in Noyon in 1509. During King Henry II’s Italian war in 1557, most of Noyon would be burned, in the midst of Philip II of Spain’s invasion of Picardy prior to returning to their winter quarters in the Spanish Netherlands. Near the end of the sixteenth century, the town fell under Habsburg control, but Henry IV of France recaptured it.
The Noyon Cathedral is wonderful example of the transition from Romanesque to Gothic architecturein France, the current structure having been constructed on the site of an earlier church that burned down in 1131. The building was constructed in the shape of a Latin cross, with a length of about 105 m and height of 23 m.
The western front of the building features a porch, added in the 14th century, as well as two unfinished towers, their upper portions dating from the 13th century. The nave of the church consists of eleven bays, including those of the west front. Side chapels were added in the north aisle in the 14th century and in the south aisle in the 15th and the 16th centuries.
The vaulting of the church was originally sexpartite, but was rebuilt after a fire in 1293 in the prevailing quadripartite style. The transepts have apsidal (semicircular) terminations. While the windows of the aisles, the arches of the triforium gallery and the windows of the clerestory use round-headed arches, double pointed arches are used in the lower gallery and in the vaults of the nave and aisles.
The Noyon city hall is another jewel of the Gothic era, initially built at the end of the 13th century, then rebuilt at the end of the 15th century. The first level of the structure features nine niches between the seven mullioned bays, each with a symbol of the medieval knightly spirit. The western facade is richly decorated with an array of domestic and wild animals featured within luxuriant greenery in addition to fantastical characters and animals.
The eastern court is gated, and contained the council and audience chambers, the treasure, prison, and chapel and halls. The initial belfry was rebuilt in stone in 1328, and contained a prison, latrines and a room.
(Narrative excerpted from Wikipedia as well as www.ville-noyon.fr)