Laon

Cathédrale de laon,aisne,picardie



L
aon (pronounced Lon, pop 26,174) is a must-see destination in the Aisne department. This hilltop city is the capital of the department and has long been an important commune in the region (as it functioned as the capital of the old Carolingian Empire as well). Its strategic location allowed the city to be of military importance over the years. Hence, you can still sight the ancient ramparts that once protected this city. Laon is also well-known for its Gothic cathedral.

 

 

 

LAON STREET MAP:   1. Tourist Office  2. Train Station (north of map limits)  3. Cathedrale Notre Dame  4. Musée de Laon  5. Porte d’Ardon  6. Rue du Rempart

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FRANCE AISNE Laon cathedral kirchenportal The main sight in Laon is the transitional Gothic Cathedrale Notre-Dame [rue du Cloître +33 323202654]. Mostly dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries (1150-1230), this cathedral was built upon an older Romanesque one. The Cathedrale Notre-Dame is considered to be a leader in the transitional Gothic architectural style as many of its features (such as the gabled porches and stalwart towers) have been replicated in other big cathedrals around the area (for example the Reims, Chartres and even the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris). The cathedral’s exterior is a dramatic one, with intricate carvings and gargoyle figurines that look eerily life-like (look out for the statues of oxen at the top of the façade towers). The interior is also splendid with an extravagant rose window in the centre of the west front and a wrought-iron choir that looks beautiful when it is well-lit. Guided tours are available [ad/ch €5/4].  The cathedral is located in the Ville Haute (Upper Town) region, which also houses a cluster of other historic buildings.


FRANCE AISNE Laon ramparts porte d'ardonYou can discover the 7km long ramparts in Ville Haute. The fortified walls are located on steep slopes and they make for a good stroll, as they offer panoramic views of the beautiful plains that unfold at the foot of the town. For the best views, head to the Porte d’Ardon or rue du Rempart, St Rémi. If you head further down to rue de le Libération, you will come across the statue of a local missionary cum explorer, Jacques Marquette. Marquette sailed through the Mississippi River and was the first European explorer to reside in the present-day city of Chicago.

If you have an appetite for ancient edifices, you will not be disappointed when wandering the narrow streets of this town. Keep a look-out for the Musée de Laon [32 rue Georges Ermant, +33 323228701 www.ville-laon.fr ad/ch €3.05/2.29] (specialising in archaeological exhibitions), as the museum garden houses the Chapelle des Templiers. This octagonal building dates back to the 12th century.