Joigny lies in the département of Burgundy, or Bourgogne, just over an hour south of Paris. The town was founded during Roman times, and a fortress was built here during the 10th century. A large fire destroyed most of the medieval town in the 16th century, and much of the resultant architecture is in the half-timbered construction style we generally connect with Elizabethan England. King François I, an enormous fan of Joigny’s wine, allowed wood from the nearby Forêt d’Othe (a royal possession) to be used to rebuild the town—provided that the citizens kept the wine flowing into the palace! Today the town boasts a three-star Michelin restaurant and is the point of departure for Burgundian canal cruises.
Left (above), view of Joigny and the Yonne River from the vineyards above Sophie’s home. To the right, another view of the vineyard, this one showing the allée of lindens down which Sophie and Celestine rush in “La Vendange.”
Streets in Sophie’s neighborhood in the medieval part of Joigny.
Typical half-timbered houses in the Barat neighborhood.
House of the Tree of Jesse (one of the most famous of these houses).
The Church of San Thibaut where Sophie was hurriedly baptized on the night of her birth. In the center, a Madonna statue in the church that Sophie surely would have known. To the right, a stained glass window in the church commemorating her baptism, showing her brother/self-appointed godfather Louis Barat and Louise-Sophie Cédor, the godmother about whom virtually nothing is known.
St. Jean, the other church in the neighborhood that Sophie would have known. The church was turned into a “Temple of Reason” during the Revolution. Here, it is depicted during the Easter tridium, when the Joigny faithful (here, in 2010) move in a procession from St. Thibaut up the hill to St. Jean.
The building above, now the town library, was in Sophie’s lifetime the city hall or “mairie.” During the Revolution, it would have been the political stronghold of the revolutionary government, where key decisions were made about the Joigny citizenry–including the arrest of Louis Barat and the sequestering of the Barat family goods (“Terror,” Part 1). Its proximity to the Barat home, given Louis’ time in hiding in the attic, must have exacerbated Madame Barat’s crisis of nerves.
The photo to the left is Barat family home (center building) seen from the back garden. The double windows on the right side of the house indicate the room where Sophie was born in 1779: the night of the fire that destroyed much of the neighborhood. The house, along with several others on the rue Davier, is today part of the Centre Sophie Barat, a retreat center overseen by the Religious of the Sacred Heart. The photo to the right is the staircase that Sophie would have run up and down numerous times a day.
Above, the beautiful gardens today at the Centre Sophie Barat.
A plaque announcing a small street named after Sophie in Joigny, just next to the Centre Barat.
~ NEAR JOIGNY ~
The cathedral doors at Sens, near Joigny. Louis Barat left home when Sophie was only five to study at the seminary here. These beautiful doors are depicted on the cover of the novel, and a detail of them appears on this website’s header.
The river Yonne at a spot just north of Joigny.
Link to the Centre Sophie Barat in Joigny: http://centre.barat.free.fr/
Link to La Côte Saint Jacques restaurant, hotel and spa: http://cotesaintjacques.com/en/