Monastère Saint-Paul-de-Mausole and The Dutchman

 

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I had been most anxious to visit this museum/hospital, for some time. When Rita said she wanted to visit the cave projection show, previous post, the plan for her most recent visit took shape. A quiet intuitive individual, I had a feeling that the walls may talk. They do whisper if one is silent and willing to hear.

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Was it wishful thinking or simply artistic license that Van Gogh applied his brushes to create a much more sumptious version of his true quarters? Patients rooms were not decorated with art work and this special guest had access to another room within the hospital for a studio and much of his work was completed on the hospital grounds. Alas, there is no access to his atelier which leads this visitor to believe there is really no trace of it or that it is in the part of the hospital that is still active as a Psychiatric Hospital. 

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Haunted with thoughts of suicide, Van Gogh chose a voluntary admission to the hospital at Saint Remy on 8 May 1889. He would stay there for a year and during this time would restle with bouts of deep depression. During his stay from May 1889-May 1890, he was most prolific in his work and produced a total of 142 pieces including Starry Night, Sunflowers, Irises, and a self-portrait that says so much about the man. If you have a favorite (that is a tough one) you can check to see if it was painted during his time at the hospital at the following site:   http://vggallery.com/painting/by_period/st_remy.htm

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The view from his window of some of the terraced gardens.

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Our visit took place in late October so instead of the stunning flowers that would appear in Spring, we had the lovely colors of autumn. Van Gogh took his inspiration from nature so saw the beauty in all that it offered. 

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Up the steps and just past the chapel, you will find the entrance to where Van Gogh’s room is. While there are other rooms here that once housed patients, those were not open. However, the salle de bains and the kitchen were housed there and I hope you find those photos as interesting as I do.

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The salle de bains (bathroom) is situated directly across the hallway from the entry door to the chambre de Van Gogh. 

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The kitchen, no longer in use, is maintained as it was during the time of Van Gogh.

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An inner courtyard that still had some blooms.

If you enjoyed this at all, I do hope you will check out the book LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT A MAN I KNEW by Susan Fletcher. She weaves a beautiful story about Van Gogh and some of the people who actually resided at the hospital at that time. 

On one side of the property we discovered an ancient site for both Greek and Roman villages. There was so much to see there, I fear that it may take more than one post to share some of its secrets. Like here, my camera just gets carried away…

Bisous,

Léa

 

LE MOULIN À VENT D’OMER

LE MOULIN À VENT D’OMER
LE MOULIN À VENT D’OMER

Have you ever planned to visit somewhere, and found it closed? Then with a quick twist, the day turns magical! My trip to Cucugnan was the first but certainly not the last.

While the bakery was open, the mill itself was not. The keys were not there so we could not get in. As long as I was there, I stopped in the shop for some photos and bought something and went to sit on one of the benches. I went to the opposite end of a group of picnic tables as there was a large

Inside the bakery
Inside the bakery

group on the other end and I didn’t want to get in their way. They were such a lively and animated group of friends so obviously enjoying each other’s company that I couldn’t resist getting a picture or two. I asked if I might take a photo and they invited me to join them.

Denis explained to me that they are a group of friends who have known each other since they were seven years old. Each year they hold a reunion. While Denis and wife Alix live on the island of Guadeloupe.

They had just finished their meal and shared their wine, offered me the stunning dessert and gave me a café. After exchanging more information including email addresses we ventured on to the small eglise Notre Dame de Cucugnan to view the statue of the pregnant virgin.

La boulangerie
La boulangerie

If that key had been available, you would have seen photos from inside. Instead you will see pictures of some charming people who I would not have met otherwise. The story of such a group of friends who welcomed a stranger is something I shall think on for a very long time.

Most likely, I shall return to see the mill and take photos of it and this beautiful village. There are other places of interest and it is only 30km from where I live.

Bisous,  Léa

Making new friends is what it is all about!
Making new friends is what it is all about!
Virgie
Vierge enciente, vierge gravide statue
From the other end of the table...
From the other end of the table…
...
Vierge enceinte, vierge gravide
Le Moulin À Vent D’Omer
Le Moulin À Vent D’Omer
Desert d'gourmand
Dessert d’gourmand

Château Termes Part I

Château Termes was first mentioned in records in 1061 in reference to Olivier Bernard. The village and castle wasunder the protection of the Lords of Termenés.

Their power over this ancient district in the feudal era emerging at the beginning of the XI century.

Their allegiance was to the Trencavels, Viscounts for Carcassonne-Béziers. Characteristics of the castle were documented in 1163. In an effort to settle a disagreement between brothers, Guillaume and Raymond de Termes, segments of the Château were appropriated to each. This allowed each of the brothers to append the structure of various portions of the wall. Records also mention the construction of the church below the château in the village. This same church is the present village church and that would place its beginning in the second half of the XII century. From the inception of the Cathar Crusade, Château Termes was under siege.  Due to the need of regulating the Christian faith and the foundation of doctrine. Distressed over the spread of the Cathar religion, the church began to eradicate the heretics. Cathars were also known as Bons Hommes (good men) and Bonnes Femmes (good women) but were referred to by Rome as Albigensians. This was part of the effort to mystify the people of the region believed to protect them. The Church was determined not to just stem the growth of Catharism but to eradicate it altogether.

In 1209 the first Holy war in Europe was initiated by Pope Innocent III. The Cathar or Albigensian Crusade was aimed at the nobility of Southern France who were viewed as protectors of the heretics. The battle raged on for twenty years. In 1229 The King of France moved to intervene. His offering of the Count of Toulouse . Despite the horrific slaughter, along the path of the crusaders, the religious Cathars flourished.

Simon de Montford accuses Raymond de Termes of heresy and declares war on the castle. The siege last four months resulting in the imprisonment of Raymond de Termes in Carcassonne and the property returned to the French crown.

Olivier de Termes, son of Raymond, defied the royal armies in 1228 and this siege lasted until 1240 becoming companion-in-arms to King Louis IX. Becoming part of the stronghold guarding the frontier with Aragon. For four centuries, the castle was occupied by a royal garrison.

The castle walls were demolished by a master stone-mason using explosive charges in 1653 and again in 1654 operating under orders by the King.

The site remained abandoned until the XXth century. Now property of the Touring Club of France it became common property with its protective measures. The hill where the castle stood became classified as a site in 1942 with the castle ruins not being listed until 1951 and later classified as a historical monument in 1989.

Bisous,

Léa

Arles

Déjà’-vu is not an uncommon feeling even on ones first visit to Arles. As you meander the winding streets and find yourself at the foot of the colorful houses and enjoy a cafe in the squares, it is as if you have wandered into a painting by Vincent Van Gogh.

This captivating city perched on the Grand Rhône River bears the footprints of previous occupants, During the Bronze Age it was a Celtic settlement before becoming a Greek colony then in 49 BC the Romans settled in and its prosperity and political standing soared when the powers of the day backed Julius Caesar. Caesar had never experience defeat throughout his illustrious career. Marseille had made the error of not supporting Caesar choosing to back Pompey the Great. For this error in judgment, Marseille was seized and pillaged. It cost them the power that is associated with being the region’s major port.

Along with power came growth and within the next century it accumulated both an amphitheatre which would seat 20,000 and a 12,000 seat theatre. The citizens were invited to partake in the entertainment of the day which included chariot races and contests among the gladiators. Amazingly, these two structures are still intact and in use. However, the gruesome sports of the past have been replaced by events such bullfighting (in France, the bull is not killed) and concerts. Regardless of the change in what is offered there is still the air of excitement when the season begins again each spring. The venues are packed with locals and tourists alike.

 While Arles was memorably rendered by one-time resident Vincent van Gogh. Sad to say, not one of the 200-odd canvases Vincent painted here, in just over a year, remains in Arles, but the town has made him a starring attraction nonetheless. From the re-creation of his bedroom to exhibitions in the former hospital where he had his ear stitched up, there’s a whole lot of Vincent to enjoy. Don’t miss the Van Gogh trail, a walking tour of sites where the artist set up his easel to paint canvases such as Starry Night.

Bisous,

Léa

Mont-Saint-Michel

Mont-Saint-Michel
Crowning a dramatic island off the shore of Normandy, in the Gulf of Saint-Malo, is perched the abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel. It sits in a bay, which is assaulted by some of Europe’s uppermost tides. The island is connected to the mainland by a causeway that is known to disappear when the tide returns. The Benedictine abbey is the pinnacle and beneath it are small houses and shops on its lowest levels. The monastic buildings are considered exceptional examples of Gothic architecture. The Romanesque abbey church was founded in the 11th century over a series of crypts the first of the monastery buildings were built against the north wall. The monastery buildings were extended to the south and west in the 12th century. The abbey church crowns the entire islet about 240 feet above sea level.

In the 13th century, the king of France, Philip Augustus, in the wake of his occupation of Normandy, enabled a start to be made on the Gothic section of the two three-storey buildings, crowned by the cloister and the Refectory.

In the 14th century, the Hundred Years War made it essential to safeguard the abbey wrapping around it a series of military buildings, enabling it to hold out against a siege, which lasted 30 years. The Flamboyant Gothic chancel replaced 

In the 15th century, the Romanesque chancel of the abbey church, broken down in 1421. 

With Rome and Saint Jacques de Compostela, this great sacred and academic center, was one of the most important places of pilgrimage for the West in the middle ages. For nearly one thousand years “pilgrims” went there by roads known as “paths to paradise” guided by the promise for the assurance of eternity, given by the Archangel of judgment who was the “Weigher of souls.”

During the French Revolution and Empire, the abbey was turned into a prison so that restoration was required in the late 19th century. In acknowledgment of the monastery’s 1000th anniversary, a sacred community once again took possession of the abbey.

In 1979, UNESCO classified Mont-Saint-Michel a world heritage site. Over three million visitors a year are welcomed to this magnificent example of architecture and history.

Bisous,

Léa

Carcassonne: La Cité- Part2

Carcassonne: La Cité- Part2

La Cité

The Historic Monuments Commission agreed to undertake the restoration of La Cite in 1844. 

Two concentric rings of curtain wall surround the city, the ramparts cover a total of 3km. Parts of the inner wall show remains of Roman times. The second wall is separated from the first and was constructed in the 13th Century.

There is a total of 52 towers surrounding the city and the Chateau Comtal, the heart of the fortifications. Originally palace of the viscounts, it was reinforced and protected by a semi circular barbican and a moat.

The genisis of Carcassonne goes back to pre-Roman time.The Cité’s structure today derives from the 11th and 12th centuries. Throughout this time, Carcassonne was ruled by the Trencavel family. The Trencavel’s were central to the development of the Cathar religion.
The Cathars were generally known as “bons hommes” “bons chrétiens” and “parfaits”, they were regarded as heretics by the Catholic Church, and the ensuing conflict was characterised by unspeakable violence and persecution. In the summer of 1209 forces led by the papal legate Arnaud-Amaury, consisting of “crusaders” and armies of the King of France, laid siege to Carcassonne.

Despite this, in August 1209, Carcassonne fell. The young Vicomte, Raymond-Roger Trencavel, was thrown into his own prison and died there aged 24. Simon de Montfort was installed as the new Viscount.
Today the Trencavels’ Château Comtal is a powerful reminder of the mediaeval need to protect one’s home – a fortified sector within a heavily fortified town. Only one gate was wide enough for carts to pass into the Cité

La Cité is a must for most tourist to this region and children all find something to fascinate them. Money generated by the businesses there, insure that the attraction will be there for future generations.

Bisous,

Léa

Carcassonne: La Cité – Part 1

The origins of Carcassonne are traced back to the 4th C BC.

In the 2nd Century BC it served as a strategic outpost fortified by the Romans, who gave it the name Carcassonne. The Visigoths succeeded the Romans and overran Gaul in the 5th C AD. When they converted to Christianity, it became a diocese. In the 8th Century the fortress fell to the Franks who later defended the city against attacks from the Saracens.

The Emperor Charlemagne besieged the town in 795, and was held by Dame Carcass, a Saracen princess. After a five year siege, the only food left was one little pig and a bag of corn. Dame Carcass gave the bag of corn to the pig and sent it out to the ramparts. Charlemagne raised the siege, since he thought there was enough food even to feed a small pig. Before the Emperor left, Dame Carcass rang out the bells making them sound the word Carcassonne.

In 1209, Crusades from the north came down the Rhone valley to stamp out the heretic Cathars.
The Viscount
Raymond Roger Trencavel publicly offered protection to all those being hounded by the northern invaders.

After sacking Beziers, the crusading army besieged Carcassonne. Despite the leadership of a youngl Trencavel, in his early 20’s, the town was forced to surrender after only two weeks through lack of water.

The Army council appointed Simon de Montfort, Viscount of Carcassonne in place of Trencavel.
River Aude
Within a year Trencavel was found dead in the tower where he was being held prisoner.

In 1240 Trencavel’s son tried in vain to recapture Carcassonne by siege. Although his mines and missile breached the walls, he was forced to retreat by the royal army.

St Louis IX had the small towns around the ramparts razed and the town’s inhabitants paid for their rebellion with seven years in exile. Upon their return they were permitted to build a town on the opposite side of the river Aude- the present Ville Basse. The walled city was repaired and reinforced. When finished, it was so well fortified it was regarded as impregnable.

Successive kings reinforced Carcassonne because of its strategic importance close to the border with Catalonia. However, in 1659, the Treaty of the Pyrenees restored the region of Roussillon to France. The new border was now 200kms away, The city of Perpignan now guarded the frontier. Carcassonne’s military importance dwindled and was eventually abandoned and left to decay.
La Cité
When I first visited France in the spring of 2006, I spent a week in La Cité staying at the hostel and exploring the area. Before arriving, I began reading the book Labyrinth by Kate Mosse. Her descriptions of the area were so vivid and I felt I had stepped into the pages of the book.
Bisous,
Léa