On one sunny day last month, we decided to go for a drive - we do not seem to have had many of those days in the recent weeks!! We hope that you enjoy this virtual trip as much as we did doing the real thing.
Firstly we drove through the small town of Mezieres sur Issoire, 20 or so miles north of Limoges, in the canton of Haute-Vienne. We had passed through it by chance a few years ago, following a car navigation route which was avoiding toll roads, and we promised ourselves a return trip!! It is known throughout France for its sheep fairs...
There are loads of concrete sheep throughout the town to remind one of the important role these animals play in the local farming community.
We then drove on to nearby Mortemart which is labelled as (another!) one of those "most beautiful villages in France". Mortemart is the name of a celebrated French family, whose distinguished military and political history goes back 1000 years and is famous for the beauty of its ladies. One such was a favourite of the Sun King, Louis XIV! We stopped for a look around.
Above is the covered market in the village centre, erected in the 17th century and restored in 2013. The timber structure is oak, but the boarding supporting the tiles is chestnut, these being the timbers traditionally used for the job. Same in our house! Weekly and monthly fairs were established in 1681 with approval from the Duke of Mortemart and these fairs continue today.
The post office, with not the easiest of accesses for the less agile!
Le chateau des Ducs - the front elevation, with windows of the 15th century. The chateau was built in the 10th century, was dismantled on the orders of Cardinal Richelieu, sold as government property after the Revolution in 1789, but bought back by the family 100 years ago and restored to its present state. It's not open to visitors, but the commentary outside states that inside, there is a granite "spiral" staircase in the 5-sided tower.
The rear view of the chateau, with this grassy slope leading down to a small lake, which is all that remains of a moat which encircled the chateau!
Eglise Saint Hilaire is the ancient chapel of the Augustine convent and became the parish church in the 18th century. The bell tower was added at this time and the church contains a number of treasured features....
The altar inside
These beautiful carved oak choir stalls are from the 15th century. The carvings are all different and represent animals, vegetables and local personages (the order I have put them in is from the original French!).
The recently restored gilded lutrin was made in the 17th century and is topped by the eagle of Saint Jean the Evangelist.
We then drove on to the neighbouring village of Montrol-Sénard. A portion of the buildings in the village have been turned, by the local council, into an agricultural heritage museum, in a bid not only to preserve the way of life, but to attract visitors! Between April and October, the present villagers seem to get on with life in a working museum and tourist venue!
The old school house
Inside, the desks and benches have the appearance of the 1920's or 1930's, but we missed the guided tour which no doubt would have provided more information! You can see that rudimentary central heating was supplied!
The lavoir. Building work was obviously going on at the time and this would account for the colour of the water!
Old farm equipment laid out everywhere and several of the village buildings were opened up as part of the museum effect.
The old forge, almost as if the farrier has just departed for lunch!!
Grandma's (herb) garden with a good selection of culinary and medicinal plants.
Historic photos and information displayed in yet another building. The enormous detail was a bit overwhelming, but it was satisfying to see that a detailed record of an old way of life had been preserved!
The village church -dedicated to Saint-Julien-de-Brioude with stonework from the 12th century. Most of the building budget in those days was spent on the front! Saint Julien was a Christian soldier in the 14th century, beheaded by his enemies in another part of France but martyred and his head buried in Vienne . He was a popular saint, with about 800 churches in the country dedicated to him!
A view of the altar. Note the exquisitely crafted timber slat vaulted ceiling and the very simple but beautifully restored stone walls!
The ancient carved stone font bearing someone's coat of arms!
To conclude our tour, one of the stained glass windows - impressive!
Also see my daily diary HERE
and My Life Before Charente (updated 25 September 2016) I will get back to this eventually!