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Posts Tagged ‘France’

Bordeaux,France

January 24, 2010

Bordeaux, France, Wine Region

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En route to the city of Bordeaux from Bergerac, France, where Belingard is located, is the impeccably preserved medieval town of St. Emilion. Its winding, cobblestone streets are lined with expensive wine shops, all tout­ing “worldwideshipping” in English and Japanese. Here you can descend into the cramped hermitage where the monk, Emilion, received pilgrims in the 8th century. The disciples who followed Emilion herewere the ones who started a wine trade in earnest. 

At Chateau Franc Mayne, a nearby vineyard, it’s possible to tour the former limestone quarries whose pale ochre innards were used to build the town. The quarries beneath this and many other St. Emilion chateaux are now wine caves-happily, they possess the perfect conditions for aging wine in oak barrels. A tour guide points out a skylight punched into the roof of Franc Mayne’s cave. It shows the cross­-section of limestone that gives St. Emilion’s mostly merlot and cabernet franc grapes their character, along with the stories of Roman poets and monks and queens, of course. 

In Bordeaux, the busy Place de la Comedie is the city’s social center. Mayor Alain Juppe launched an ag­gressive clean-up and modernization initiative when he was elected in 1995, and today the city is an obvious “after.” A sleek tram makes it easy to get around, and the bulk of 8th ­century facades have been sandblasted to remove centuries of built-up dust and grime from the porous yellow limestone. The broad avenues gleam, and the tiny squares at the ends of the St. Pierre quarter’s narrow streets are packed with students, young couples and families, caffeinating, kissing and splashing in fountains. 

On the banks of the Garonne River, many plaques adver­tise the offices of negociants, or wine merchants. Negociants have been trading from this port since the mid-r2th century, when Eleanor of Aquitaine married Henryof Plantagenet, the future Henry II of England, which led to many trade exchanges between Bordeaux and England and the golden age of claret. 

That tidbit is imparted duringatwo-day course called “Bordeaux Wine Tasting, from A to Z” at L’Ecole du Vin de Bordeaux, a few blocks from the Regent Grand Hotel. After this crash course in a classroom with white-slab countertops and chrome spit-sinks, it’s practically required to apply the new knowledge downstairs at the posh Le Bar a Vin. More than go wines by the glass are available, and little foldout maps on each table pinpoint where each wine originat­ed. The servers are well equipped to steer people toward clarity when the breadth of choices becomes overwhelming.


France,Paris

December 8, 2009

Saint-Chapelle, The Chapels

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Sainte-Chapelle

A gem of High Gothic architecture

In the centre of the Ile-de-la-Cite

The Palais de la Cite was the residence and seat of royal power from the 10th to the 14th centuries in Paris, and housed the Conciergerie and Sainte Chapelle which are now part of the Palace of justice, the new function of the building. I The Sainte-Chapelle was built between 1242 and 1248, in accordance with the wishes of Louis IX (king from 1226 to 1270 and the future Saint Louis) to house the relics of the Passion of Christ. The most famous of these relics was the Crown of Thorns, acquired in 1239 for a sum that greatly exceeded the cost of building the Chapel itself.    

Religious and political influence

The Holy Relics had belonged to the emperors of Constantinople since the 4thcentury. In purchasing them, Louis IX added to the prestige of both France and Paris which, in the eyes of medieval Europe, became a “New Jerusalem”, and hence the second capital of Christianity. Throughout the revolutionary period, the Sainte-Chapelle, which was a symbol of royalty by divine right, suffered a great deal of damage, although the stained glass windows remained intact. From 1846 onwards, a huge wave of restoration work was carried out on the building, giving it its current appearance.

The Ile-de-la-Cite

The seat of royal power

In the 1st century BC, the Parisii, a Gallic tribe, settled on an island in the middle of the River Seine, later known as the I1e-de-la-Cite, and founded the town of Lutetia, which in the 5th century took the name of Paris. In the 6th century Clovis, the first French King, made the Palais de la Cite his royal residence. His son Childebert had Paris’s first cathedral built.

At the end of the l Oth century, Nugues Caper, the first Capetian king, established his royal council and government in the palace, which thus became the seat of royal power.

A palace deserted by its kings

In 1248, when Louis IX signed the deed foun­ding the Sainte-Chapelle, the nearby Cathedral of Notre-Dame already had its current facade. In 1358, the advisors to King john II (The Good) were assassinated before the eyes of the Dauphin, the future Charles V, who once he became king decided to move to better protected premises, firstly the Hotel Saint-Pol, one of his Paris residences (no longer standing), then to the Louvre and Vincennes. The royal government, Parliament, Chancery and the Chamber of Accounts remained in the Capetian palace for a while, but as the centuries passed only the law courts and prison stayed on.

Nowadays, the Sainte-Chapelle and the Conciergerie are the only visible remains of the oldest palace of the kings of France.

Two sanctuaries, one on top of the other

From the beginning, the relics were displayed and worshipped in the upper chapel. Only the king, his close friends and family, and the canons leading the services entered it via the outdoor terrace, which at the time was connected to the Palace. The lower chapel was the place of worship for the palace staff.

The basilica-type layout with a semi-circular apse was very simple. It was to be used as a model for other Holy Chapels, including those of Vincennes and Chateaudun.

The lower chapel

Visitors are greeted by a statue of the Virgin Mary, the sanctuary’s patron saint, at the portal. Inside, the polychrome decoration, like the carved decoration in the porch, dates back to the 19th­century restoration work. In the apse on the left, above the door to the former sacristy, is a 13th­century fresco depicting the Annunciation. This is the oldest wall painting in Paris.

The low vault is held up by openwork struts linking the aisle columns to the lateral walls. These walls are decorated with blind trefoil arcatures and 12 medallions featuring the apostles. The vaults’ fleur-de-lvson an azure background are also found on the columns, alternating with the towers on a purple background which were the arms of Queen Blanche of Castile, Louis IX’s mother.

The Upper Chapel

This is a truly monumental and sumptuously decorated reliquary. Sculptures and windows combine harmoniously to glorify the Passion of Christ and create a feeling of entry into the Heavenly jerusalem, bathed in light and colour. The Sainre-Chapelle owes much of even its early fame to its stained glass windows.

The 1,113 scenes depicted in the 15 stained glass windows tell the story of mankind from Genesis through to Christ’s resurrection. Fourteen of the windows, depicting episodes from the bible, should be read from left to right, from the bottom upwards.

I The window telling the story of the relics of the Passion is the only one to he read houstro­phedonicall. In the lower part of the lights, it illustrates the tale of the relics, from their discovery bv Saint Helen in Jerusalem to their arrival in the kingdom of France.

2 The Statue of Saint Peter is the original, as are 5 other apostle statues. He is holding the keys to heaven. The statues of the 12 apostles, the “pillars of the Church” are symbolically arranged in the nave on the ribbed vault’s springing line. Thev typify the harmony and idealised faces of Parisian sculpture in the years between 1240 and 1260.

3 The great shrine containing the 22 relics” of the Passion of Christ, including the fragment of the Holy Cross and the Crown of Thorns, used to be displayed on the gallery but was melted down during the Revolution. The remaining relics are now kept in the treasury of the Cathedral of Notre-Darne de Paris.

4 The western rose illustrates the prophetic Apocalypse of St John, symbolically represented opposite the Passion of Christ in the choir’s central stained glass window. In the centre of the rose, Christ returns in glory at the end of Time to judge the dead and the living.

The 100 foliage-decorated capitals along the lateral walls are all different. The angels on the corner pieces of the arcatures echo the 42 martyr scenes featured in the quatrefoils.


France,Paris

November 28, 2009

Conciergerie – Palace and Prison, The Medieval and Revolutionary Halls

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The medieval halls

The lower parts, the only ones still standing today, were reserved for the Royal Guard and the numerous staff – clerks, officers and servants – who worked for the king and his family (about 2,000 people in all). The floor of the medieval halls is still at its 14th-century level. The creation of embankments in the 19th century raised the level of the rest of the Ile-de-la-Cite and its other buildings.

The Hall of Men-at-Arms, built from 1302 onwards under Philippe le Bel, is one of the finest examples in Europe of Gothic secular architecture. Consisting of four rib vaulted “naves”, the hall was generously lit by twin windows, traces of which can be seen on the left wall. This huge refectory was heated by four large fireplaces. On the left hand wall, there is still a fragment of the black marble table used during the sumptuous receptions held by the Capetian monarchy in the Palace’s Great Ceremonial Hall, on the upper floor. The latter, which has now disappeared, used to be served by spiral staircases, an example of which can still be seen on the right hand side of the hall.

2 The kitchen outbuilding, built during the reign of John the Good and of which only the lower level remains, was built slightly later and used by the king’ staff. Foodstuffs were delivered there directly by river.

3 The Guardroom was built around the same time as the Hall of Men-at-Arms. The capitals” on the central pillar are thought to portray Heloise and Abelard. This hall was used as an antechamber to the Great Chamber on the upper floor (no longer standing), where the king held meetings with his council and his “lits de justice”. The Revolutionary Tribunal also sat here in 1793.

4 The Rue de Paris which gets its name from that given to the executioner during the Revolution, “Monsieur de Paris”, was used to imprison pailleux”. This area was once an integral part of the Hall of Men-at-Arms, but was separated off and raised in the 15th century.

The revolutionary halls

After the fire of 1776, Louis XVI modernized the Conciergerie prison, later used during the Revolution.

5 The Prisoners’ Gallery was the prison’s main thoroughfare, where prisoners could wander freely.

6 The Girondins’ Chapel stands on the site of the king’s medieval oratory’. The 21 Cirondins  feasted here prior to their execution on 30 October 1793.

7 Marie-Antoinette’s Chapel was built in 1815 on the exact spot where her prison cell stood.

 8 The Women’s Courtyard surrounded by two floors of prisoners’ cells, still has the fountain where they washed their clothes and one of the stone tables at which they ate, and the “Corner of the Twelve” or “of last goodbyes”. This is where condemned prisoners waited in groups of 12 for the cart that would carry them off to the scaffold.

9 Marie-Antoinette’s cell was reconstituted on part of the actual site of her dungeon. She was permanently guarded by two gendarmes.


France,Paris

November 27, 2009

Conciergerie – Paris Palace and Prison

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About the Conciergerie, Paris

Palace and prison

Residence of the Kings of France

In the 6th century, Clovis, the first French king, established his royal residence on the Ile-de-la­Cite. Five centuries later, Hugues Caper, the first Capetian king, established his council and government in the Palais de la Cite, which thus became the seat of royal power.

Symbol of royal power

In the 14th century, Philippe IV the Fair – continuing the work of his grandfather, Saint Louis – turned the Palace into a prestigious symbol of the monarchy. It became the seat of the Parlement de Paris.

Palace of justice and prison

At the end of the 14th century, Charles V left the royal residence on the Ile-de-la-Cite for the hotel Saint-Pol, since destroyed, following the assassination of his father’s advisors. He appointed a steward, or “concierge”, endowed with legal powers, to run the Palace and prison Numerous prisoners of State were kept here, such as Ravaillac, Henri IV’s assassin. In later times, the Revolutionary Tribunal sat in the Palace and used it increasingly as a prison. The Conciergerie was listed as a historical monument in 1914.

A major centre during the Revolution

The Revolutionary Tribunal

In 1790, the mayor of Paris sealed the doors of the Palace, up until then the seat of the Parlement de Paris”. The Revolutionary Tribunal initiated in March 1793 took over the Grand Chamber. In July, Robespierre joined the Committee for Public Safety with a programme based on virtue and terror. The “Law of Suspects” ordered the arrest of anyone pre-sumed to be an enemy of the Revolution or who confessed to being so.

Over 1793 and 1794, more than 2,700 people appeared before Fouquier-Tinville, the tribunal’s public prosecutor, including Queen Marie-Antoinette and Robespierre. The trials of famous people gave way to collective trials. In 1794, witnesses and defenders were eliminated and tens of people were guillotined each day. After the fall of Robespierre, the Tribunal was dissolved in May 1795.

Everyday life in the prison

The Conciergerie had a reputation for being the toughest of all prisons. During the Reign of Terror”, its cells accommodated several hundred prisoners kept in terribly unhealthy and crowded conditions. Up until 1794, “suspects” were kept together with common law prisoners. On the eve of their court appearance, prisoners were notified that their trial was to begin

and of the charges brought against them by the “evening journal” or bill of indictment. Once the verdict had been given, prisoners sentenced to death were allowed to enjoy a final feast.


Europe,France,Paris

November 19, 2009

Saint-Denis, Ile de France

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The consecration of the new western facade and new choir of the abbey church of Saint-Denis in Paris in 1144 had a Europe-wide impact. On the artistic level to begin with since it was there and around the personality of the Abbot Suger that Gothic art took its first steps. On the facade, the first statue-columns, carved from the same block as the column whose form they blend with; inside, at the far western end of the renovated Carolingian nave, the first ambulatory beneath crossed arches offers a uniform space, unified by a remarkable luminosity. But the impact was also political since, given the close ties between Saint-Denis and French royalty, this event also seemed to consecrate a new European political order in which the kingdoms of France and England gained ascendancy over the German and Byzantine Empires.


France,Lourdes

November 13, 2009

Jubilee Way Pilgrimage in Lourdes – How to Organize

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Whether you have only a few hours or a few days in Lourdes, you can easily organize and follow a pilgrimage program that is appropriate for your length of stay.  Follow the Jubilee Way in one of the following formats:

You only have a few hours

Follow the 3’d part of the Jubilee Way from Saint Michael’s gate to the Grotto.

You have half a day

Follow the 2°d and 3’d part of the Jubilee Way (from the Cachot to the Grotto). Take part in the Eucharist Procession of 5.00 pm or at the Evening Marian Torchlight procession at 9.00 pm: they take place daily from 16’° March to 26′h October 2008

You have one day

Follow the four parts of the Jubilee Way. Take part in any one of the processions.

You have two days

You have time to follow the Jubilee Way at your own pace over one or two days, and to take part every day in one of the two processions. You can watch the video on the message of Lourdes in the Information Forum. You can visit the Rosary Basilica and its recently restored mosaics, and the Basilica of Saint Pius X, an audacious building realised in 1958.

You have three days

To the two-day program you can add the International Mass on Wednesdays and Sundays at 9.30 am, call into one of the Pavilions (information offices for various Church movements), the free visit of the Treasure Museum of the Sanctuary.

You have four days

To the three-day programme, you can add two important places in the life of Bernadette (the Boly Mill and Bartres), the visit to the Museum of Saint Bernadette and the exhibition in the castle, or the films of Jean Delannoy, Bernadette and the Passion of Bernadette at the cinema Bernadette, situated close to Saint Joseph’s Gate.


France,Lourdes

September 28, 2009

Saint Bernadette’s Body in Nevers

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Saint Bernadette’s body reposes in a glass casket in the Chapel of the Sisters in Nevers, France. Travel between Lourdes and Nevers has never been rapid however, and in 1866 Bernadette took three days to make the journey, passing via Bordeaux and Perigueux.

The Sisters were present in Nevers well before Bernadette was born. At the invitation of the Mayor and the Cur6, with the agreement of the Prefect and the bishop, they arrived in Nevers in 1834. The renown of the Congrega­tion reached as far as Lourdes through the gossip of some pious persons.

The Congregation had been founded in 1680 by a Benedictine, Jean-Baptiste Delaveyne, the Cure of a parish in the diocese of Nevers. The Sisters of Charity and Christian instruction of Nevers were devoted principally to children and the sick, and in particular the destitute.

In Lourdes they were therefore called to look after the Hospice and the girls’ school. A special class was opened for the children of families without resources. In was to this class that Bernadette was admitted when she returned from Bartres in January 1858. She could neither read nor write despite her 14 years.

Rumours of the apparitions quickly spread into the school and the Sisters could be no other than severe with this gamine about whom these extraordi­nary stories abounded.

The day after the second apparition, 15th February, is a Monday: a bad day for schoolchildren! It is worse for Bernadette: the Superior says to her: “Have you finished your playacting!”. It must be said that the next day is “Mardi Gras”. Just like the priests of the parish the Sisters are forbidden to go to the Grotto.

Despite these difficult beginnings, Bernadette will never leave the Sisters of Nevers. She will be accepted as a boarder with a double status: that of pupil and a sick destitute. She was sick enough to receive Extreme Unction, as it was called at that time. Destitute, she wished to remain.

The Cure had insisted that Berna­dette should stay at the Hospice to protect her from popular curiosity. This step was only partly successful. The Sisters were now happy to have such an important boarder. All the more so that she retained her disarming simplicity and her gifts manifested themselves much amongst the sick – even the most revolting, as among the children.

What would become of Bernadettc? She was only 14 vears old. She could well be ;een as a Carmelite but her health would not permit it. Various Congregations wcxvld like to have recruited her, but she did not see herself among them. Neither the Chaplain. Abbe Pomian, whom she had confided in from 13″ Februarv 1858, nor the Sisters, exerted any pressure on her.

The decisive meeting took place in September 186s. Mgr Fourcade, bishop of Nevers, on a Visit to Lourdes, wished to meet Bernadette. Would she not con­sider entering the Congregation of Ne­ver? I have no dowry and I don’t know how to do anything. she says. For the dowry, exceptions can be made. So far as knowing nothing: it is not true: I saw you peeling carrots, replied the prelate. Bernadette decided: “I love the poor, I like looking, after the sick. I shall stay with the Sisters of Never ‘s.

One year later Bernadette was received as a postulant whilst still remaining in Lourdes for another two years. In 1866 ,, she arrived in Nevers with two other postulants. Another year passed and she was professed but her health prevented her from going where she would like to have gone in accordance with the charisma of the Congregation: to the sick,  the poor and the children. On that clay the bishop gave her the “work of prayer”.

The Superior and Mistress of Novices were rather severe in their dealings with Bernttdette. It was the practice at the time, and they wished to protect Bernadette against any temptation to vanity; it was a useless exercise given Bernadette’s temperament. The Superior was never convinced of the authenticity of the Ap­paritions, and after Bernadette’s death she blocked all attempts to open the process of beatification.

For thirteen years Bernadette lived the charisma of the Congregation: Deus caritas est. She was an excellent nurse: competent, smiling, comforting, despite her own ailments, more and more severe. With the agreement of her superiors she also became the confidante and support of the younger Sisters, clarifying their vocations, along with all those who came to visit her.

Bernadette died in Nevers on the Wed­nesday after Easter, 16th’ April 1879. Her body stayed in Nevers because she had said, under no circumstances would she return to Lourdes to eclipse the Blessed Virgin.


Europe,France,Lourdes

September 13, 2009

Boly Mill – Childhood Home of Saint Bernadette

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THE HOUSE WHERE BERNADETTE WAS BORN

The Boly Mill (so called after the name of the original owner) was, for a period of 10 years (1844-1854), a place of happiness for Bernadette Soubirous.  Now a Catholic Saint, Bernadette is the saint and visionary of Lourdes, France.  She lived here with her parents, her brothers and sister, and also with her grand­mother, her uncles, aunts and cousins.

THE RECEPTION AREA

The photos on display, depict the people of Lourdes in 1850 ; we see the civil, military and religious society of the time (the upper class), and the poo­rer people, millers, stonemasons, peasants and labourers (the lower class).

Our attention is drawn to two families : the Casterot family, who where mas­ter millers resident in the Boly Mill, and the Soubirous family, who where simple mill workers.

A marriage of love united these two families. Franpois loved Louise, in spite of the age difference between them, and in spite of local custom that deman­ded he marry Bernarde the eldest of the family. His love for Louise and their marriage flourished and endured in spite of all the problems.

It was a Christian family united in prayer, open to others, and full of cha­rity towards those less fortunate than themselves.

HOME AND BIRTHPLACE

On the upper floor :

Here is the room where Bernadette was born on January 7 1844. She was baptised two days later (January 9) the day of her parent’s wedding anniver­sary. There is another room where the memorabilia recall : family life at the Mill, its joys and sorrows, work, meals and prayer.

On the ground floor :

One room was used for everything and served as both kitchen and living room. By day, it was a living room and by evening a place of prayer. This was the Mill as it was known to Bernadette, the Mill whose millstones turned in the flow of the Lapacca river.

Bernadette lived the first ten years of her life in an atmosphere of love and faith. Since their marriage on the 9th January 1843 her parents lived happily together. It was during these years, in this loving atmosphere, that Bernadette began to acquire qualities of personal strength and to develop a balanced temperament. These qualities were later to help her weather the storms of her life. The good times gave way to a period of hard struggle. 1853 saw the beginning of this difficult period.

A number of things combined to make life difficult for the family, The indus­trial revolution with its introduction of steam mills, a time of great drought in the region, the family’s great generosity towards the poor and their reluc­tance to force debtors to settle their accounts, were all factors which ultima­tely endangered the future of the family business.

In the Spring of 1854, the family were unable to pay the rent and were thus forced to move to a cheaper mill.

In 1855, a cholera epidemic swept through Lourdes killing 38 people in five weeks. As a result of this epidemic Bernadette herself was to suffer chro­nic asthma for the rest of her life. This was a painful hardship for one so full of life. The epidemic also forced the family to seek yet a cheaper mill to rent. This time they were forced to leave Lourdes and go to Arcizac.

In 1856 famine struck the area and the government distributed free flour. This meant bankruptcy for the Master Miller Soubirous who now found him­self looking for work and was often unemployed. Bernadette’s mother, although she had four children, two having died very young, was forced to go out and work. Bernadette herself worked as a waitress in a local Inn. It was thus impossible for Bernadette to go to school or to receive any formal religious education.

In 1857, the family were unable to pay any rent at all and were forced to seek accomodation in the Old Jail « The Cachot » (a place you should also visit). On March 27th, Franqois Soubirous was wrongly accused of having stolen a bag of flour and was put in jail for a week. Then in November so as to decrease « the number of mouths to be fed », Bernadette was sent as a housemaid to a farm in Bartres where in the evenings she minded the chil­dren and during the day she tended the sheep. She stayed at Bartres till January 1858 just three weeks before the Apparitions.

Bernadette was able to endure this decline in social standards, and this whole series of setbacks and failures, because she found in the family (father and mother, brothers and sister, godfather and godmother, aunts and cou­sins) a stable environment, a family whose love was stronger than misfortune.