Jean de La Fontaine, the most famous of the fabulists, was born in Château-Thierry in July 1621. His birthplace, in which he spent his entire childhood and part of his adult life, is still there and has been transformed into a museum. It offers visitors the opportunity to discover the man behind the poet.
His father, Charles de La Fontaine, being master of the town’s waters and forests, young Jean de La Fontaine spent his childhood in the heart of the nature surrounding Château-Thierry. This closeness to nature and its inhabitants certainly forged the imagination and bestiary of his fables that are so famous today.
We can easily imagine the young de La Fontaine wandering through the forests of the area and the vineyard landscapes. In fact, he says so himself in one of his fables:
“I am a man of Champagne.”
Despite his success in Paris, he kept returning to his Champagne region, to Château-Thierry, where he fulfilled the office he had inherited from his father, took a rest, and cultivated his tales through the rumors and gossip that were told in Château-Thierry’s Town Hall Square.
As for his wife, Marie Héricart, and his son, Charles, they remain in Château-Thierry.
All along your stroll through Château-Thierry, you may see tributes to Jean de La Fontaine. Paintings, quotations, statues, everything here reminds us of the presence of Jean de La Fontaine, his fables and his imprint on French literature.
Camille Claudel, one of France’s greatest sculptors, hails from the Tardenois region of Champagne.
Born in 1864 in Fère-en-Tardenois, she spent part of her childhood in Villeneuve-sur-Fère, where she discovered a passion for art and sculpture at an early age. It was in the attic of their house in Tardenois that she set up her first studio in which she put her younger brother, Paul Claudel and the servants to serve as models.
Her childhood was filled with the stories of the territory that the family maid, Victoire Brunet, told the children. She is the one who takes them to play at La Hottée du Diable, a place filled with superstitions and whose landscapes allow the children’s imaginations to run wild and expand. La Hottée du Diable left its mark on Camille Claudel. She will be inspired by it for her works.
Encouraged by her father to cultivate his art, the family leaves Villeneuve-sur-Fère to settle in Paris where Camille integrates private workshops. Recall that this was the 19th century, and at that time, women were not allowed in the Beaux-Arts. There she would meet Rodin and maintain the tumultuous relationship that we know.
Often masked by Auguste Rodin, we tend to forget the genius of Camille Claudel. Her works are filled with a sensuality and a particular sensitivity that is all her own and due only to herself. Although the period she spent with Rodin offered a multitude of works inspired by the passion that animated them both, Camille Claudel produced many works before and after this love affair. The end of this relationship, moreover, marks a turning point in her artistic life since, eager to emancipate herself from Rodin’s style, Camille Claudel multiplies works in different materials and different inspirations.
Interned in 1913, she keeps a melancholic memory of her young years and particularly of the Tardenois village of Villeneuve-sur-Fère. In fact, she wrote to her brother, “My dream would be to return to Villeneuve right away and not move again” in one of her letters in 1927.
A Treasure in an exceptional setting!
Built in 1304 by the Queen of France and Countess of Champagne, Jeanne de Navarre, this former hospital grouped together the most destitute patients cared for by the Augustinian nuns.
You will find more than 1,300 works of art and its 7 centuries of history, the Treasure of the Hôtel-Dieu will transport you out of time…