For lovers of history
A "Town of Art and History", Noyon is one of three towns in the department of Oise to boast a Gothic cathedral.
Like Beauvais and Senlis, the town was founded by the Romans during the first century AD and named Noviomagus ("the new market"), for, like its two sister settlements, it was located at the crossing of trade routes.
Following Christianization, the town was overseen by bishops, who acted as advisors to French sovereigns. The most famous of these ecclesiastical overseers was Saint Eloy (640 to 659 AD), named Bishop of Noyon following the death of King Dagobert I.
Noyon would retain its royal connections through the centuries, with the crowning of Charlemagne as King of Neustria (the western portion of the Carolingian Empire) in 768 AD and the crowning of Hugh Capet as King of the Franks in 987 AD, thereby founding the royal Capetian dynasty.
The power and influence of Noyon's bishopric led to the cathedral's reconstruction in the new Gothic style starting in 1140, as well as the creation of a veritable town within the town, with the episcopal district to the south and, to the north, the canonical district, whose beautiful, timber-framed Chapter Library dating from the 16th century can still be admired.
The birthplace of John Calvin, a central figure of the Protestant Reformation, Noyon has weathered the vagaries of history, from its early glory to the slow decline of the 19th century. A martyr of the First World War, with nearly 90% of its centre destroyed, Noyon has been successfully reborn, once again assuming a leading role in the concert of Oise's towns.
Did you know ?
While John Calvin was indeed born in Noyon in 1509, the town's turbulent history did not begin with him. At the heart of the conflict between France and the Empire of Charles V, Noyon was twice pillaged and burned by the imperial troops. Later, Noyon would ally itself with the Holy League against King Henry IV, who finally besieged and took the town in 1591.
It was with the French Revolution of 1789 that Noyon, like Senlis, lost its status as an episcopal city, with the bishopric being transferred to Beauvais.
Several museums allow curious visitors to better understand Noyon's past and the history of John Calvin. At the Noyonnais Museum, you can admire a very rare chess set dating from the 12th century.
You won't want to miss the façade of the town hall, whose first two levels wonderfully illustrate, as in Compiègne, the Flamboyant Gothic style, as well as the wealth of this prosperous burg awarded its "communal charter" as early as 1108, making Noyon one of the oldest communes (municipalities) of Picardy.
Lovers of 17th- and 18th-century townhouses will be delighted by a stroll along the Rue de Paris and the Rue Saint-Eloi, two of the town's main thoroughfares.