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L’église Sainte Croix (Holy Cross Church)


The architecture of this building proves that it was already built in first half of the 12th century, however the first written acts bear the date of 1154.

This charter attests that the "Chapelle des Ponts" (chapel of the bridges), maybe dedicated to Saint-Laurent, formed part of the goods of the monastery Saint-Ayoul. Built between two brooks: "Auges" and "Vicomté", on a flooded ground, this "Chapelle des Ponts" was nominated "Sainte-Croix" since the 12th century, term probably allotted at the time of the arrival of a relic sent to the East by a count of Champagne (Henri 1st or Henri 2nd).

With the end of the 12th century, this church, already parish, was served by a chaplain who received his subsistence from Saint-Ayoul, monastery entitled to perceive the "dîme" (tithe).
 

 


It is only from 13th century that Sainte-Croix Church has acquired the appellation of priory, dependent on Saint-Ayoul, therefore of "Montier-la-Celle".
The occupation by he monks brought together in community was restricted and of short duration. A "house of monks" rose near Sainte-Croix, as well as a "small cemetery", reserved to the monks in the North side, the parishioners  being made bury in the South side.
This priory had ceased existing in 1370.
In 1476, the parish Sainte-Croix has been only useful by one prior and a monk. From the 13th century, Sainte-Croix was set up in parish under "Thibault IV", about 1234, at this time of this advent, the nave was rebuilt. These two events were certainly caused by the increasing of the "Ville-Basse" district : it is at this time that the craftsmen clothiers, weavers, fullers, dyers, arrange in group in the district bordered by Durteint river. However, nothing attests that the church is exiguous. It had already a transept surmounted of a tower which still exists.


The development of this parish increased considerably its incomes and until the French Revolution, the disagreements persisted between the prior and the priest condemned on several occasions by the courts to pour half of the benefit and profits of the cure to the prior, not having more any reason to remain.
In spite of the wars, food shortages, the increasing heresy, a fire in 1509, terrible floods in 1511 when water went up to the top of the main-altar, one tested the need to increase the church.
One remade the collateral North and its surface was doubled as in Saint-Ayoul: a hovel and a garden are bought and demolished, a part of the cloister and house of the prior were destroyed to give space and clearness to the church.


One worked from 1510 to 1581, remaking the choir, the collateral chapels, as well as a double troll way and stained glasses. But whereas a ribbed vault was envisaged, one covered with a simple wood cradle which would be painted. This church installed on a easily flooded ground thus unstable, it is possible, from the 12th century, that such a cradle was assembled on walls unable to resist to the pressure of a vault: it does not exist at any time the mention of intersecting ribs.



Very frequent inundations obliged to raise the pavement in 1635. The successive repairs of the ground level buried the piles of the nave of almost one metre.

In 1718, delicate operation, the arcades of transept crossing were heightened to release the sight of the choir. The following year, three layers of quicklime bleached the choir then the whole church.

A new altar was ordered, the tiling remake, the wood balustrades which separated the choir from crossing were replaced by iron grids.

A porch built in front of the frontage in 1635, was demolished in 1769. Still at that time, the brook "Vicomté" streamed in front of the large. So it was bordered of a wall in 1719, when one tore off the two elms planted on the riverbank.


The French Revolution did not mutilate this building but re-used it: the nave became a saltpetre factory, the choir was transformed into a "décadaire" Temple (ten days in the Republican calendar).

One venerated there the Reason in the shape of a wood statue of Sainte-Marguerite, extracted from the Convent of Cordeliers. Passed with the row of simple oratory in 1791, the Sainte-Croix Church retrieved its title of parish thanks to the request of the Town council of "Thermidor an 12" which aspired to the re-establishment its three parishes : Saint-Quiriace in "Ville-Haute" and Saint-Ayoul in "Ville-Basse".

Only some restorations would follow:

in 1836, the vault of transept crossing collapsed; in 1885, one re-make the arrow of the bell-tower; in 1886-1887, one installed a vault in gypsum blocks to the top of the nave, the transept and then the choir.

In frontage, the central gate has been dated from the end of 16th century. A large window was opened with the top, the Northern gate is of Flamboiement Gothic style, including two portraits of Renaissance style.

From the books: Provins, les monuments religieux / Marquise de Maillé; Chartres: Jacques Laget: Librairie des arts et métiers, 1975.

 
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