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Half timbered houses

maison en pans de boisIn Bourges, during the Middle Ages, whilst a noble's house was built out of stone, the dwelling of the craftsmen and the tradesmen was made of timber and particularly vulnerable. Thus the “Madeleine” fire of 1487 destroyed between 1000 and 2000 houses. Rapid rebuilding was essential, and this lasted until approximately 1520.

More than 440 houses originating from this period of rebuilding can still be seen today. They are mostly located on the three centre-bound streets: Auron, Gambon, Edouard Vaillant and on the streets Bourbonnoux and Mirebeau.

In half of the examples, frontages are less than 6 metres wide. This is compensated by the height of the building, and depths from 10 to 20 metres. The position of the corridor and the staircase allows a total independence between levels (shop on the ground floor, home on the first floor). The frequent twinning of two pieces of land offered the possibility of a common well for water.

From 1488, rules against fire hazards brought constraints: obligation to build firewalls between the houses and corbelling (top floor projects over the ground floor) limited to a few centimetres. Half-timbering is mainly rhombus and Saint-andrew cross shaped. The carved decoration is always Gothic: kale, pinnacles...
Two thirds of these houses only have two levels (ground and first floor). Among the houses with a second floor, the corner-houses occupy a privileged spot and express the wealth of their owner. The skilful work carried on the corner posts, is one of these expressions.