Monday, 26 June 2017

A visit to Busserolles.

Busserolles is  a small and ancient village, occupied since Roman days.  It lies in the Dordogne, just a few kilometres  from the Charente border; five roads meet there, perhaps to help the population get to the local well (of which more later!). The area is quite hilly and difficult to traverse, which no doubt accounts for the  fiendishly twisty and narrow roads surrounding it!  The  population in 2014 was 511, a lot less than in 1962 when there were 941 inhabitants!  The village has changed its name a number of times; the first mention of it was in the 13th century, when it was called Buxerolla in the local Occitan language (of which I have written before).  In the following century, it was known as Buysserola and it remained thus for half a millennium, when the map makers recorded the name as Buxerolles. Back then, people weren't too fussy about spelling, but there could also have been adjustments to make pronunciation easier for French speakers, who had perhaps become more numerous in the countryside.
Our first stop in the village was (of course!) at the local bar and restaurant known as Le Vieux Puits (The Old Well).  Set in a tiny square at the point where the five roads meet, it's a good place to stop for some refreshment  and we find that the friendly Dutch owner is also fluent in French and English!

This is the old well in the Place de Puits.  The mastiff, belonging, it seemed, to the bar owner,  was a friendly dog who decided to bomb my photo!

Inside the bar, on one of the walls, is this painting of the town and church as it must have been in past ages.

This is my photo of the same scene with a narrower lens, showing how accurate the painting is. The church of Saint-Martial was built in the 12th century, although it was substantially rebuilt in the 15th century.  It was registered as a historical monument in 1958.

It was difficult to take photos of the church facades, because I couldn't get far enough back in the narrow streets! The small main entrance is a bit unusual in that you have to go down four stairs to enter the church. I am guessing that the building of the street's hard surfacing happened much later in time and the ground levels didn't work out!

There were two naves...

separated by large stone columns...

holding up a vaulted ceiling. The masonry techniques are quite impressive for such a modest and unrefined place of worship.

At the back was the beautiful old stone font and the ubiquitous confessional booth!

Colourful stained glass windows, that above in a modern style, but that below of a  more ornate design reflecting a much greater age....

threw interesting lighting into the church.

A bit further down the street, I loved this old house with a mansard roof of traditional design, and especially the decorative art work on the chimneys, which possibly also serve as reinforcement to the brickwork.

The doorway of the above house in more detail. As with the church, one has to wonder why the building and street levels are so different! Maybe the basement had an influence. Nonetheless, it's an attractive and imposing feature, designed to impress. Perhaps a merchant's house or that of a local landowner.

Another attractive, and no doubt costly doorway with ornate balcony above. Strange to see these  incongruous displays of wealth cheek by jowl with labourers' housing which you can see below.

One of the main streets through the village. I guess all the people who live here  have small cars!

The war memorial.  For a small  place like this, it must have suffered badly in WW1.  There are at least 100 names on the 3 plaques, and in some instances 4 have the same family name!! Those  hundred men could have been 10% of the village at that time and a big proportion of the manpower - what a great sacrifice!

Also see my daily diary HERE

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

Monday, 12 June 2017

Talmont-sur-Gironde and the Gallo-Roman site of Le Fa.

Talmont-sur-Gironde is a small commune in the department of Charente-Maritime in southwestern France, on the eastern side of the mouth of the wide Gironde estuary.

The enclosed and fortified village, situated on a peninsula, was founded around a church in 1284, according to orders issued by  Edward I of England, who  controlled that part of France at that time. The church (of which more later), then about 200 years old, was the only building  standing in that isolated spot. The village became a focus for pilgrims journeying from the north of France to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. It survived the long wars of the Middle Ages, but in 1652, it was destroyed by the Spanish and had to be rebuilt!

An aerial shot of Talmont as it is today, photo copied from a post card, as I don't have a drone!! The ancient church and its cemetery can be see on the cliff edge, to the right.

A photo of the lovely B and B where we stayed, taken from the other side of a watery inlet.

One of the narrow traffic-free streets of the village, which is on the list of the most beautiful in France. It's a real tourist destination in summer and many of the little houses have been converted into shops and cafes.

I was fascinated by this magical water tap!

The Mairie (Mayor's office), a focus in every French village.

An interesting doorway, formed with old dressed stones no doubt "liberated" from older, grander, residences which haven't survived!

An old religious artefact recovered from a grander building and thoughtfully incorporated into a restored wall  of one of the village houses.

The church dedicated to Sainte Radegonde, a 6th century religious figure, was built in 1094.

Simple stonework inside the church.

An ancient arch or doorway. Moving on, we arrive at Le Fa..........

What some scholars think might be the town of Novioregum, or Le Fa as the French now call it in the absence of complete proof as to its identity, is in the present day commune of Barzan, very close to Talmont. The extensive archaelogical excavations started in 1975 have revealed a small town, considered to be one of the most important Gallo-Roman trading ports on the Atlantic coast. The Roman stone walling at the base in this photo formed the foundations of an ancient Roman temple called the Sanctuary.

The ruins of a windmill built on the old Roman base. The whole town seems to have been razed to the ground some time in the 4th or 5th centuries A.D., the remains being buried in sand dunes and lost to memory.

Excavations revealing walls forming the rooms of the thermal baths. More excavations are in progress with the hope of uncovering relics which might identify the mystery town.

A reconstructed hypocaust - Roman underfloor heating! Hot air from a nearby fireplace, stoked with wood by slaves, was channelled through the underfloor cavity, warming the stone floor slabs on its way.

An oven used in the manufacture of ceramics, partly restored.

Reproduction of an original mosaic found in the the Roman villa at Séviac, further south in  France.