A Walled Medieval City

[Photo Credit: Johann Dréo (User:Nojhan), CC BY-SA 2.0 FR, via Wikimedia Commons.]

In the summer of 1898, Julia and Sara Whitney (a friend from Oakland who was Julia’s roommate that year), traveled by train to Provins, sixty miles southeast of Paris. In the 12th century, this market town was one of the largest in France, with 80,000 inhabitants. Its ruler, Henry 1, likely built its César Tower around 1170. This battlemented watchtower was open to the skies until the 17th century, when its roof was added. Julia wrote to her cousins Pierre and Lucy LeBrun on July 31st: “I had come across Provins in the Beaux-Arts Library, and . . . [we] came on the chance of its being as quaint and full of 11th & 13th C. houses as then. . . . The first day, I was disappointed, having learned to love the city as I’d built it up from its foundations and its founders, but each day it grows more interesting and proves to be more rich in its treasors [treasures].”