Saturday, 29 April 2017

A visit to nearby Manot and the Viaduc de la Sonnette.

Manot is a small and pretty village with a population of about 600, situated on the west bank of the Vienne river in the Charente department (now part of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region since a recent government reorganisation!)

Manot's well preserved 12th century Saint-Martial Church  was listed in 1985 as an historic monument. The  church is built of local granite in typical plain Gothic style, which architecture originated in France at about the time this church was built, so it could well be one of the first!!

The lighter coloured inset panel over the doorway is made of limestone and is intricately carved with angels, apostles and evangelists. The panel was unfortunately defaced during the religious wars of the 16th century and bears the scars to this day!

The nave, looking down to the altar set in an apse (the hemi-spherical part at the end)

The interior is plain, but the craftsmanship in the stonework and plastering, with its intricate curves and arches, is readily apparent!

Opposite interior view, looking towards the front door, with a viewing gallery above

Spiral staircase to the viewing gallery. Note what I believe to be a stone font at rear left.

The ubiquitous Joan of Arc statue!

Large old townhouse built in  the style of King Louis XIII of France, who lived from 1601 to 1643. The wealthy owners of this house, the Mothe-Fenelon family, included an archbishop in their number.  The family also owned a local chateau  and a further chateau with land in Perigord (in the adjoining department of Dordogne).

Old water pump and well. It probably still works, although I didn't try it! All the pavements around the church have been restored with cobbles.

Interesting veranda with modern garage craftily inserted below. A good vantage point on top, from which to spy on the neighbours!

Viaduc de la Sonnette near the hamlet of Grand Madieu. It was built between the years 1902 and 1905 to carry a single rail track across the Sonnette river valley; many country railway lines, including this one, have been torn up, but the viaduct structure still exists for walkers and cyclists to use and enjoy. Some of its foundations had to be sunk 10 metres (33 feet) below ground to find a firm base in the soft riverine geology.

A more distant view of the 209 metre (700 feet) long viaduct 25 metres (83 feet) high, with its 11 arches. It was one of the last to be built in stone, at a time just before reinforced concrete revolutionised engineering works, thus its historical importance was recognised in 2001 when it was protected. A grand sight it is!

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Rouen - with Satnav it's manageable!

Having bypassed Rouen, because of its difficult signposting, so many times over the past 12 years since we first came to live in France, we decided that it was time to stop and have a look around when on our usual Christmas jaunt to the UK.  At minus 6 degrees, it wasn't the best weather for tourism, but we hope that the photos taken will give you some idea of what we managed to see with a one night stop over.
A street map showing the cathedral area of the old town. The big clock and market halls, which I come to later, are a short walk off to the left side of this map!

The covered market halls, next to the Place du Vieux Marche, offer a good range of deli, fruit and fish for sale. Rouen is of course on the Seine river, so there is a direct route to the open sea for fishing boats and other river traffic.

Plenty of shellfish! They seem to pre-cook all  shellfish in France and it is hard to find them in an uncooked state.

The Place du Vieux Marche (Old market place) has some sinister history. In  1431, Sainte-Jeanne-d'Arc (Joan of Arc) was burned at the stake there and today, a tall  steel mast marks  the exact place where the stake is said to have been  sited. 
This small church dedicated to her, as well as the adjacent market halls, were completed in the late 1970s. The church's bold architecture incorporates these stained-glass windows from the old Saint-Vincent church, which stood nearby, but was destroyed by bombing in 1944. The new church was inaugurated  by Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, French President at the time and is now a registered historic monument. 

Children and adults having fun on the temporary outdoor ice rink on another part of the Place du Vieux Marche.

Next to the ice rink, this is the Wonder Wheel, a Christmas entertainment feature for the local inhabitants! All this under 100 metres from our hotel!

Cobbled streets in the old town. Plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants. The Guinness for sale wasn't half bad!

In the rue du Gros Horloge (big clock!) is the Gros Horloge itself. This is the West side of the clock and the East side is similar. The arch dates back to 1527 and the clock to some time in the 16th century, but the clock mechanism is even older, made in 1389! This makes it one of the oldest in Europe, but since 1920 the clock has relied on electric power, even though the 14th century movement was still working well!

and a closer view, showing the coat of arms of Rouen on the stonework arch - the lamb of God held by two angels.  The head of one angel is wrongly placed - this was done deliberately by discontented stonemasons during construction! The dial is 2.5 metres (just over 8 feet) in diameter and a single hand shows the hour only.

The church dedicated to Saint Maclou. The spire is 93 metres (310 feet) high and the building work started some time after 1435, at a time when the Gothic style of church design was making way for the Renaissance.  However, the decoration inside is said to be macabre, harking back to the devastating effects of the Black Death, almost 100 years previously. Most of the church's impressive internal and external statuary has unfortunately been lost over the ages, principally during the wars of religion in the 16th century and the French revolution of the late18th century. 

At the early hour we were there, it was still locked up, so we did not get to see inside and therefore we are unable to bring you any photos!

Very early morning in Place Barthélémy, with Saint Maclou church on the left showing typical half-timbered buildings from the 16th century.  

Not many steps away from the last picture is the  Cathedral of Notre Dame (see map above), was started in 1145 on the foundations of a 4th century basilica, but was only finished in 1506! The spire you can just see through the mist is from the 19th century, and at 151 metres (500 feet) high, is the highest in France. It replaced a much earlier wooden spire which was destroyed in a lightning strike.

Statues (of which there are about 30 in these blank archways) in the ambulatory inside the cathedral are of apostles and other religious figures. 

The heart of King Richard I of England lies in a tomb here. The rest of his body was buried near Saumur in western France, but he was killed by a weighted arrow in 1199 during the siege of a castle not far from us here in Charente. King Richard, called the LIonheart by the French, reigned as king of England for 10 years, but he spent most of his time in France and the Middle East for the Crusades. He spoke no English (only Occitan - a dialect still spoken today) and rarely went to England!

The lofty nave

A better view of the vaulted ceiling and the oriel window at the far end.

Escalier de la Librairie (Library stair). The first flights were built between 1477 and 1479 and further flights were added  in 1788 to gain access to a new  upper floor level which housed the archives.

Detailed carvings surround the main front entrance doors.

Also see my daily diary HERE

and My Life Before Charente (updated  25 September 2016) I will get back to this eventually! 

My Life in the Charente 1 you can find here if you want to read the past.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Le Mans - it's not all about motor racing!

I am returning to French regional topics for a while, before telling you about our holiday in South Africa and Botswana, which was utterly fabulous!  We passed through Le Mans (in the NW France department of the Sarthe) at Christmastime;  the weather was bitterly cold, minus 5 degrees or so and not time for hanging about outside, but we managed to locate the cathedral in the heart of the city, ringed by busy roads and just across a dual carriageway  from a huge cinema and underground car park complex!
Cathédrale St-Julien du Mans is a Catholic cathedral, dedicated in the 9th century to Saint Julien (Julian in English) of Le Mans; he was an evangelist and the city's first bishop, who established Christianity in the area around the beginning of the 4th century. Julien had his own feast day, which was celebrated in England as well for a time, this because the future King Henry II of England was baptised in Le Mans in 1133!

There were earlier buildings on this site, constructed from the 6th century, but this stone building was started in the 10th century. Building continued, in a variety of styles as centuries passed, but work was eventually halted in 1430 with the building incomplete! The cathedral is however notable for, among other things, its rich collection of stained glass and the spectacular bifurcating flying buttresses at its eastern end.
Those spectacular flying buttresses!

Getting closer. Photo distortion is due to the wide angle lens I was using....

Five towers, four of which were Roman, were at one much earlier time distributed along this part of the enclosure walling.   They are presumed to have been demolished in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The beautiful nave, with its stone roof vaulting
A side aisle, generously proportioned. Cathedrale Saint Julien is one of the largest cathedrals in the country.

A glimpse of high level stained glass windows between the soaring sculptured columns.

A side chapel, with hints of winter sun filtering in!

La mise au tombeau is a late 16th century sculpture which cannot be accurately attributed. It was restored in the 1970's and occupies a prominent position in the St Joan of Arc chapel, with more beautiful stained glass windows behind!
This statue, the Great Sepulchure  by local sculptor Gervais Delabarre, showing the Virgin and Apostles, was originally in another local church.

On 20 October 2013 and with the aid of public subscriptions, Goudji's modern sculpture titled Christ in Glory  was installed in the cathedral, 12 metres above the floor, in front of a very large crowd! Born in Georgia, but long naturalised French, Goudji is a world-renowned artist well experienced in the creation of religious pieces.

The cathedral organ has its beginnings in an instrument built between 1529 and 1535.

Also see my daily diary HERE

and My Life Before Charente (updated  25 September 2016) I will get back to this eventually! 

My Life in the Charente 1 you can find here if you want to read the past.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

A continuation from My Life in the Charente

For the benefit of new readers, please note that my original blog 'My Life in the Charente' has been up and running since 8 February 2010 until today. (8 March 2017).   Due to the fact that the loading of new blogs has been getting slower and slower,  I have now moved to this new blog address and I hope existing followers will continue to follow me.  First new post on the Charente will be following very soon.
La Rochefoucauld Chateau, Charente.