At the end of autumn with its days so short, the former Hôtel-Dieu in Troyes invites you on a journey full of light. Light from the light walls, large windows and refined architecture of this 18th century monumente century completely restored, which was dedicated to the care of the sick from its creation in the 12the century until it closed in 1988. Lumières des vitraux, new guests of the Cité du vitrail, inaugurated on the weekend of December 17 and 18, which now offers a discovery of this often misunderstood art over 700 m2.
Who says “City” does not say “museum”. This new space aims above all to give the keys to understanding the art of stained glass and its history. Its own collections are limited and, without excluding a few occasional acquisitions, are not intended to increase. The approximately 60 stained glass windows currently presented are mainly deposits (from the State, museums, municipalities, etc.) and a large part of the route will be renewed each year.
Far from being self-sufficient, the Cité du vitrail intends to be a “flagship allowing to highlight the important glazed heritage of the department of Aube, the most important in France with that of Seine-Maritime”, explains Nicolas Dohrmann, director of archives and heritage of the department. Aube has 9,000 m2 of windows dating from before the French Revolution and 2,048 bays protected as historical monuments.
An educational journey
A bit complex, the tour begins on the third floor, in the attic, and gradually takes the visitor down through the different levels. The backbone of the building, the old monumental oak staircase has been completely restored and serves as the main circulation between the rooms. It is now illuminated by a huge contemporary chandelier in blown glass, made up of 24 “sleeves” – the elongated shape that glass takes when it is handcrafted – in yellow and red hues.
On the highest floor, a first room explains the basics of the art of stained glass, materials and technical gestures. Next door, a second room exhibits, in a very educational way, the history of these glass compositions, from the beginning – the oldest archaeological traces date back to the IVe century – up to contemporary achievements.
The visitor can admire, at eye level, backlit pieces of good quality, such as this Cistercian stained glass window from the 13the century, with very graphic plant forms born of the simple contrast between transparent glass and lead. Further on, he can discover the feats made possible by the invention of “silver yellow” in the 14th century.e century, which considerably broadens the palette of master glassmakers. The golden age of stained glass in the region of Troyes, in the 16th centurye century, is also mentioned, as is its revival in the 19e century after two centuries of decline.
Exposure to natural light
On the second floor, the former sick ward, a huge room bathed in natural light, has around twenty stained glass windows. The scenography which juxtaposes works of very different sizes and periods, as well as the locks carrying the glasses, quite massive, do not facilitate contemplation, but do not detract from the interest of the pieces presented. Like this canopy evoking The history of ceramics (1878) by Louis-Charles Steinheil, this Angel by René Lalique (1926), or this Saint-Amelie by contemporary artist Kehinde Wiley, who twists the codes of neo-Gothic stained glass to question the under-representation of African-Americans.
After a detour to admire the “treasure” of the City, a Transfiguration of Christ from the end of the twelfthe century probably coming from the Romanesque cathedral of Troyes, the visit ends on the ground floor in the old chapel of the Hôtel-Dieu, which has regained its decor painted in trompe-l’œil. On the large transparent windows, a system of mobile locks makes it possible to exhibit works that will be renewed annually.
For the opening are presented stained glass windows created in 1937 by Jacques Le Chevallier for the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral and a large representation of the climb to Paradise, dating from 1548, from the Saint-Martin de Rumilly-lès church. -Vaudes (Aube), currently being restored.
In the oculus of the chapel, a contemporary stained glass window designed by Fabienne Verdier closes the visit. By taking up the key colors of Aube stained glass, blue and yellow, which shine in so many starry skies, the artist evoked the power of the creative gesture, in a vibrating spiral of light.
An educational space
The Cité du vitrail has 3,000 m2 dedicated to stained glass, including 700 m2 of permanent exhibition and 400 m2 of temporary exhibition. It includes a research and documentation center on stained glass.
In the former outbuildings of the Hôtel-Dieu, introductory educational workshops and demonstrations by glass artisans will take place. For children, storytelling tours and a “Glass Awakening” workshop are offered from 3 years old.
In connection with the City, the web application The Stained Glass Routemakes it possible to discover 65 buildings of the department remarkable by their glazed heritage.
Access to the Cité du vitrail is free until December 31. The ticket will then be 4 €. It also allows you to discover the old apothecary of the 18th century hospital.e century.
Source : BBN NEWS