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Visiting Charleville-Mézières, France, and its Ducal Square: 17th century elegance by Clément Métezeau

Updated on July 20, 2012
Flag of France
Flag of France | Source
Ducal Square, Charleville-Mézières
Ducal Square, Charleville-Mézières | Source
Arcades, Place ducale, Charleville-Mézières
Arcades, Place ducale, Charleville-Mézières | Source
Place ducale, Charleville, circa 1906
Place ducale, Charleville, circa 1906 | Source
Map location of Charleville-Mézières, France
Map location of Charleville-Mézières, France | Source

An architect and his brother...

First of all, a word about the name of this city in France: once upon a time there were two cities, Charleville and Mézières, separated by the Meuse River. Then in 1966, they merged. The resultant municipality was deemed more satisfactory than the separate existence of the earlier entities. The resultant name change also involved somewhat of a mouthful: Charleville-Mézières. (However, the pronunciation convenience of foreign tourists is not likely to be high on the list of whatever a municipality calls itself!)

That being said, the city of Charleville-Mézières has a fine, 17th century square known as the Ducal Square (French: Place ducale ). If visitors familiar with Paris were to think that the Place ducale is looks uncannily similar to that city's Place des Vosges , then just consider this: the architects respectively responsible for each of these Squares were brothers. Charleville-Mézières's Place ducale was designed by Clément II Métezeau (1581-1652)(1), while the architect for the Place des Vosges, Paris was Louis Métezeau (1560-1615).

Notable features of the Square complex include its arcading; the smooth lines of the interior walkway arching complement the exterior arches at ground floor level. The Square measures 127 by 90 metres, consisting of 27 separate sections connected by its arcading.

Stylistically the Square is described as a combination of Henry IV and Louis XIII. The Square was mainly built in 1606.

Interestingly, for the first century or so of its existence, Charleville, with its Ducal Square, was not part of France, but in the independent Principality of Arches, of which Charleville was the capital.

Charleville-Mézières is situated in the Ardennes department of the French region of Champagne-Ardennes.

July 20, 2012


(1) Clément II Métezeau, architect of the Place ducale, had a grandfather also named Clément Métezeau who was also an architect; thus, he is known as Clément II Métezeau (my emphasis).

Also worth seeing

In Charleville-Mézières itself, the Hôtel du Département des Ardennes is a fine 18th century edifice. The Mézières Hôtel de ville , has an impressive frontage; the structure was rebuilt after destruction in World War One. The is also some impressive ecclesiastical architecture in the city. The Rimbaud Museum (French: Musée Rimbaud ) commemorates a poet who lived in the city.

Sedan (distance: 25 kilometres) ; its huge, historic fortress, strengthened by Vauban in the 17th century, may be visited.


How to get there: The nearest large, international airport to Charleville-Mézières is Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ; distance: 158 kilometres), Belgium, to which Brussels Airlines flies from New York. Car rental is available from Brussels Airport. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. For any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities, please refer to appropriate consular sources.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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