Saturday, March 30, 2013

Troyes - the Knights Templar trade base

Roman roads network France source
The court of one of the founding fathers of the Knights Templar, Hugh I Earl of Champagne (c.1074–1125) stood at the olf city of Troyes. Troyes has been in existence since the Roman era, as Augustobona Tricassium. It stood at the hub of numerous highways, primarily the Via Agrippa. At the end of the ninth century, following depredations to the city by Normans, the counts of Champagne chose Troyes as their capital. It remained the capital of the Province of Champagne until the Revolution.

During the Middle Ages, Troyes was an important trading town, and gave its name to the troy unit of weight. The Champagne cloth fairs and the revival of long-distance trade and new extension of coinage and credit were the real engines that drove the medieval economy of Troyes. Troyes and Provins had been administrative centers in Charlemagne's empire that developed into the central towns of the County of Champagne and the Brie Champenoise Region.

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The Champagne fairs were an annual cycle of trading fairs Champagne and Brie, regions in Northern France. From their origins in local agricultural and stock fairs, the Champagne fairs became an important engine in the reviving economic history of medieval Europe, "veritable nerve centers" serving as a premier market for textiles, leather, and spices. At their height, in the late 12th and the 13th century, the fairs linked the cloth-producing cities of the Low Countries with the Italian dyeing and exporting centers, with Genoa in the lead. The fairs, which were already well-organized at the start of the 12th century, were one of the earliest manifestations of a linked European economy, a characteristic of the High Middle Ages. From the later 12th century, the fairs, conveniently sited on ancient land routes and largely self-regulated through the development of the Lex mercatoria, the "merchant law", dominated the commercial and banking relations operating at the frontier region between the north and the Mediterranean.

A Medieval Market Street
(from the Gouvernement des Princes)
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The towns provided huge warehouses, still to be seen at Provins. Furs and skins traveled in both directions, from Spain, Sicily, and North Africa in the south via Marseilles, and the highly-prized vair, rabbit, marten and other skins from the north. From the north also came woolens and linen cloth. From the Islamic south came silk, pepper and other spices, drugs, coinage and the new concepts of credit and bookkeeping. Goods converged from Spain, travelling along the well-established pilgrim route from Santiago de Compostela and from Germany. Once the cloth sales had been concluded, the reckoning of credit at the tables of Italian money-changers effected compensatory payments for goods, established future payments on credit, made loans to princes and lords, and settled bills of exchange (which were generally worded to expire at one of the Champagne fairs). Even after trade routes had shifted away from the north-south axis that depended on the Champagne commodities fairs, the fairs continued to function as an international clearing house for paper debts and credits, as they had built up a system of commercial law, regulated by private judges separate from the feudal social order and the requirements of scrupulously maintaining a "good name", prior to the third-party enforcement of legal codes by the nation-state.

As such Troyes' geographic key position, the concentration of expertise on international trade, coinage and credit, all under the protection of the lords of the Earldom of the Champagne, was the ideal site for sparking, founding and harbouring the first "multinational enterprise" on trade and finance: the Knights Templar.
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sources: wikipedia themes on Troyes and Champagne fairs

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