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Jean-Louis Valentin, master carpenter from Champagne

Jean-Louis Valentin Feast of Saint Joseph (Paris)

Jean-Louis Valentin is an icon in contemporary French compagnonnage. He was born in 1942, the grandson of a carpenter and pit sawer from the area of Berry. At the age of 17, armed with a vocational training certificate in carpentry, he began an internship with Compagnon Despierre, Lyonnais le Bon Cœur, who remains his undisputed master. The work was so intense he was in tears for the first two weeks. It was not until the winter of 60–61 that he was allowed to tailler, i.e. to prepare a piece in Toulouse in order to be accepted on the Tour de France.

"Today I am called Champagne la Persévérance, compagnon passant charpentier du devoir, cheerful fellow of the Tour de France."

Marseille was the next stop, where he made the traditional pilgrimage on foot to Sainte-Baume, serving mass with the Dominican monks. He then travelled to Bordeaux in 1962, after which came a year of obligatory military service. He returned to le compagnonnage via Strasbourg; then, in Paris in 1965 he was accepted as a Compagnon under the name Champagne la Persévérance. His final project – an impressive piece of work that he created with three other candidates – was a "half-scale, one-story-tall balustrade the plan view of which contains three different centre points". His Tour de France continued with a stop in Angers, where he took on his first responsibilities as a Compagnon as a teacher for other candidates. He was passionate about the scribe system and geometry, and would sometimes work all night on a drawing. The last stop on the Tour was Tours, where he worked as a >em>rôleur, i.e. in charge of everything having to do with the carpentry profession in the city. He also worked on building the Musée du Compagnonnage with Roger Lecotté and Georges-Henri Rivière.

He settled in Tours between 1966 and 1969, and was works manager at the Poutier firm. In 1969 he returned to Troyes, where he was born, and started his own firm. At first he worked alone, with help from his father Louis, and did all his hoisting with a chèvre. He specialises in timber framing and has restored a number of houses in the historic town centre of Troyes. At the same time, Jean Louis Valentin works as an architect and teaches architecture. He has written several works on building with wood. Today, the Valentin firm in Ruvigny (Aube) has 25 employees and continues to welcome young apprentices on the Tour de France.

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Troyes, France
Troyes, France