Monday, July 4, 2016

France 2016, Part 1.

 Traveling in southern France was an eye opener because of the variety of cultures that rose and fell since the times of the Roman Empire.  Most interestingly the old Roman public works are in better shape than those built during the Middle Ages. France hosted the European Soccer Championships this year and as a result it was busy with a high state of security and expensive hotel rooms. I will post various blogs covering this trip in the order of the places visited.

Cluny Abbey

At one time this Abbey was the largest Catholic Church building in the world until the Vatican Basilica was built.  It was founded by the Benedictine Order in the IXth Century and owned large landholdings that were run by the lay population.  The monks at Cluny were dedicated to continuous prayer so they hired workers to do the field and other physical work such as cooking, etc.  The monks at Cluny despite their vows of poverty ate well and drank wines produced from their lands.  There were also gold and silver church ornaments and religious vestments made of linen and silk.  It had one of the largest collections of manuscripts during the Middle Ages.  Decline started in the XVIth century with the beginning of the religious wars and all came to an end during the French Revolution when it was abandoned and used as a quarry and the stones used for construction material so very little is left; and most of what is there today was reconstructed.  Rebuilding and archaeological work is an ongoing process.  Below are a few images, the building with the double set of stairs in the front was a barn; it has an intricate ceiling that looks like the reversed hull of a wooden ship.  This is one of several stone faces inside the cathedral. The last image shows the leftovers from a night of partying of the ghosts that now frolic around the ruins.

 Macon is an ancient river port in the Saone River going back to the Iron Age.  In the Middle Ages it was part of the French Religious Wars and Huguenots influences.  One of the rewards of travel is running into not just contemporary interesting characters but also into historical figures of which I had no knowledge.  Alphonse de Lamartine born in Macon was a poet and politician, a member of the Legion of Honor and of the French Academy.  He wrote poetry, but also history and literature.  Look him up in Google - an interesting historical figure.  The wooden house below was built around 1610 and is considered the oldest house in Macon.  One can see above the second floor (first floor if you are in France) window a carved strip with grotesque figure of animals and humans.  The latter are not depicted in their best behavior; details in the second image below.

Still in Macon,  a photo of the former Ursuline Convent, now a museum and below St. Vincent Church,  also a museum; it was the church serving the Ursuline Convent during its better days.  Next one of the many doors that I photographed during the trip and finally, a block of buildings facing the riverfront.

The Hospice of Beaune was a hospital for the poor built in the 1450’s with a unique pattern made of ceramic tiles.  One of the halls holds the hospital proper which is lined with rows of beds for the patients. There is a space between the rows of beds and the walls that allowed access to the patients by the nuns from both sides of the bed.  At that time the beds were shared by more than one patient. 

 The famous Beaune Altarpiece is found here and is composed of six hinged panels that when closed show figures of Saint Sebastian and Anthony plus those of the donors. The photo shows the open polyptych with paintings representing the last judgement.  A polyptych is composed of painted panels usually attached to a central panel and depending on the number of panels (tych), it can be a dip, trip, quadri …depending in the number of panels attached.  So I count 9 panels in the Beaune Altarpiece, so it is a nonatych.  The last image is that of the Collegiale Notre-Dame de Beaune.  For the mundane, the Chevrolet brothers who were in the automobile business, lived in Beaune before emigrating to Canada and eventually to the USA. The business became part of General Motors and that is why you may have driven a Chevy during your lifetime

In Chalon I was surprised to see the statue of Niecephore Niepce, considered the inventor of photography; I had no idea that the inventor of my hobby was born here.  There is the Niepce museum where a copy of the original first photo and the wooden camera he used are on display.  He also delved into other projects such as the bicycle below.

Below is the Chalon cathedral with a magnificent organ and a stone burial cover carved with 3 figures; wonder if this was a case of mass burial.

Perouges is a preserved medieval walled town that in its heydays was a textile center. It is frequently the site for French films but there is really not much here other than lots of narrow streets.  Notice the gorgeous roses and the hanging corn in the main plaza. 

There is like a tunnel connecting 2 streets; the image of the door below is inside the tunnel to the right side.  I ran into the most grotesque carving what looks like a midget with his fingers stuck in their mouth.

1 comment:

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

France is fascinating when you look at the history and buildings.

WOW! A wooden house from 1610? They sure knew how to build them in those days.

Very interesting Jose. Love the pictures and the information. Look forward to seeing the rest of the articles.