As many of you know, I was on vacation for the last couple of weeks in the Loire region. I took so many photos that it will take weeks to finish naming and editing them. Still, I will attempt to make a blog posting for my readers to enjoy. The first stop on my trip was the city of Le Mans, born on a rocky spur near the confluence of the Huisne and Sarthe rivers. As early as the prehistoric era, the area was considered sacred. Between 4,000 and 5,000 BC, a prehistoric people raised, within the fortified town, a standing stone or menhir. It is the oldest historical vestige in the city. It was considered for a long time by the inhabitants as the “bellybutton” of Le Mans. Some saw it as the center of the universe, while others believed it to be a symbol of fertility because of its phallic shape. A pagan symbol, it was saved from destruction by Saint-Julien, who came to Le Mans in the 4th century to convert the local population to Christianity. The stone, standing outdoors at the western end of the 11th century Romanesque nave of Cathédrale Saint-Julien, bears testimony to the 7,000 years of the city’s history. The church was, first of all, dedicated to the Virgin and to the Milanese Saints Gervais and Protais. In the 9th century, it was dedicated to Saint-Julien, the first evangelist of Le Mans, and whose relics are housed in the sanctuary. The current cathedral was built between the 11th and 15th centuries. These five centuries have given it a diversity of styles that strike a harmony with the combination of the local roussard stone, limestone and glass. It is one of the largest cathedrals in France, measuring 134 meters in length and covering a surface area of 5,000 m². The chevet or eastern end of the cathedral, with its inverted Y-shaped flying buttresses, represents a culminating point in Gothic art. Its thirteen radiating chapels, double ambulatory, and its choir that rises 34meters under the vaults, forms an elegant ascending pyramid. The nave, renovated and vaulted by the Plantagenets, is Romanesque. It was used in the 12th century as a place to celebrate major events hosted by the family. In 1128, Geoffrey “the Handsome,” married Matilda, heiress to the English throne. Five years later, the first of their three sons, the future Henry II, was baptized here. The funeral of Richard-the-Lionhearted’s widow, Queen Berengaria, also took place in the cathedral. Saint-Julien Cathedral possesses, with Notre-Dame in Chartres, the most beautiful collection of medieval windows. The Ascension window, located in the left side aisle of the nave, is one of the oldest existing stained glass windows (11th century) still in place in a religious building. The one hundred and eight windows (13th century) in the choir filter light into the church and contribute to its reputation as the “Cathedral of Light.” The royal entrance, overlooking the charming Place St-Michel has a superb 12th century doorway beneath its portal. The tympanum presents a scene of the Apocalypse. Christ in majesty is there surrounded by an ox, an eagle, a winged lion and an angel, symbols of the four evangelists, Luke, John, Mark and Matthew. The choir, the chapels, the vaults of Saint-Julien were in the medieval era, completely covered with a painted decoration. Painted in the classical era, the walls of the cathedral were stripped in the 19th century. Gontier de Baigneux, bishop of Le Mans from 1367 to 1385, had the vaults of the Virgin’s Chapel painted. Recently restored, this mural is contemporary with those produced for the Palace of the Popes in Avignon and very close to the Apocalypse hangings in Angers. Forty-seven musician angels radiate with colors, light and harmony. They use 24 different instruments including a mysterious “échiquier” also represented on the great rose window of the transept. The cathedral of Le Mans therefore proves to be a point of reference for specialists in the manufacture of musical instruments in the Middle Ages. The 13th century stained glass windows depict the story of Adam and Eve and the Tree of Jesse. The custom of burying bishops and great figures within the cathedral was established in the 9th century. Geoffrey Plantagenet, the princes of Luxembourg and of Bourbon, the du Bellays, were interred here. Only two burial places, today in the Baptismal Fonts Chapel, were spared by the Protestants in 1562. Erected in 1472, the tomb of Charles I, count of Maine is the work of the Italian sculptor Francesco Laurana. The tomb of Guillaume du Bellay, erected in 1546, is attributed to Pierre Bontemps, made famous by his work on the tomb of Francis I. Also located within the Baptismal Fonts Chapel is the Cénotaphe de Saint-Julien. The 17th century saw the birth and patrons of the arts and propagators of Italian art in Maine of earthenware art, whose modelling quality is illustrated by the statuary of the Le Mans cathedral. Initially intended for the church of the Cordeliers of Le Mans, the Great Sepulchre, by Gervais Delabarre, expresses the Virgin and the Apostles. Signed by Charles Hoyau, the earthenware statue of Sainte-Cécile was recently restored. Commissioned in 1633 to accompany the creation of a great annual contest of musical composition, it displays all the artistic and religious sensitivity of the 17th century. At the end of the Middle Ages, no less than around forty altars filled the choir and the transepts. During the 17th century and up until the middle of the 18th century, the adjustments made due to the Catholic Reformation drastically changed the inside of the cathedral. Monseigneur André de Grimaldi had the high altar demolished between 1768 and 1771. He replaced it with a large altar in white marble which has today disappeared. The original choir stalls from 1576 were also taken out and made into panels and then moved into the sacristy which features spectacular carvings from the life of Jesus. The side chapels, on each side of the choir, house a series of small enamelled altars, created according to medieval taste fashionable in the 19th century, by a Parisian workshop.
After lunch, our AVF group went across the street to the stud farm known as Le Haras National de Saint-Lô. Many of the buildings date between 1806 and 1884 although many of them were destroyed during the bombings of 1944. Today, the buildings gave been rebuilt according to the original designs. The red brick and stone buildings are laid out in an oval pattern with huge rose bushes planted between each window. The centrepiece of the haras is the small château in the center of the property that opens up to the well-manicured courtyard and garden. The Saint-Lô stud farm, the most important of the 23 national stud farms, specializes in breeds such as Norman cobs, trotters and French saddle-horses. The eight stables surrounding the main courtyard, house over 100 stallions of seven different breeds: thoroughbreds, Anglo-Arabs, French trotters, French saddle-horses, French and Norman cobs, Pecherons, New-Forest and Connemara ponies. Our tour guide was very kind and knowledgeable. She took us through the most important places on the property including the clinic where artificial insemination is done, the dressage quarters, exercise buildings and introduced us to several horses in their stalls. This one is named Othello de Cauville. The white one is Ideal du Perche. The ancestry of each horse is well documented so that horse owners from all over the world can choose which horses they would like to breed with their mares. Although I am not keen on horses, I was very pleased with our tour of the property. Inside the main building, is a museum devoted to horse-drawn carriages and the history of the stud farming in France. Here's a picture of me wearing a funny cap. It was part of a military uniform that belonged to a worker at the farm many years ago.
On Saturday, I went with a group of 24 people from AVF on a tour of the Chocolaterie du Drakkar in Bayeux. The chocolaterie not only has its own boutique for selling goods but a large, informative museum upstairs concerning the history of chocolate and how the tasty sweets are prepared in their own factory. Some of the displays had interesting facts including this one that says cacao butter was once used in the preparation of suppositories. The Spanish explorers were so enamored with the flavor of chocolate that they took it back to Spain where it became the official drink of Kings throughout Europe. Around the end of the 18th century (1780 - 1800), Europeans started preparing chocolate with milk and sugar to create what we know today as hot chocolate. In fact the drink became so popular many of the leading European porcelain manufactures such as Limoges in France began making specialized pots and cups just to serve chocolate. There was a huge display of these chocolate pots and cups from all over the world. After watching some short videos about chocolate preparation and seeing all of the old machines and moulds used to make French chocolate, we were able to purchase items from the boutique downstairs. I bought a box of their specialty Mousse Pralines and Meringue. Created in 1960 this praline-flavoured meringue is specially named “Le Drakkar” in memory of the Vikings who had conquered Normandy. I also got a box of chocolate covered candies filled with Calvados liqueur called “Le Duc Guillaume.” Of course, it is easy to go crazy in a chocolate store and I ended up purchasing over 83 Euros worth of chocolates and nougat—and I’m not even a huge fan of chocolate. I’d much prefer peanut butter on a spoon any day ! After our morning at the chocolaterie, we then drove to L’Ambiance Restaurant in St-Lô where we had our lunch. Some people had ham as their main course while others, like myself, had the roasted chicken with green beans and potatoes. For dessert I had the chocolate mousse while my friends Dianna and Martine had tarte aux pomme and vanilla ice cream. Thanks to everyone at AVF for making this trip possible especially Jinette who was our driver. I had a wonderful day. My article about Les Haras nationaux à St-Lô – the national stud farm for horses (where we visited after lunch), will be posted later in the week.
A Gallic necropolis, dating back a century before Christ, was recently discovered by a team of archaeologists at the foot of the beach in Urville-Nacqueville. So far, about 30 graves have been uncovered. Funeral urns containing ashes, and skeletons of children and animals also have been identified. The funerary urns, particularly well preserved, were found at a depth of two meters. The person in charge of the excavations is archaeologist Anthony Lefort from the University of Bourgogne. According to him, this discovery demonstrates that trade already existed with our British neighbors and that the region around Urville-Nacqueville was a large, important port village. The people who once lived here were of ancient Gaul and known as Unelli. There are very few examples of Gallic necropolises in existence in western France. An earlier dig in 2010 in Urville-Nacqueville uncovered Roman amphorae filled with Italian wine, as well as the workshop of a Unelli craftsman who made bracelets. In order to access the graves and prevent the sea from eroding their discoveries, the archaeological team built a 30-meter dam of sand around the site. Archaeologists must regularly evacuate seawater that seeps into the site so that skeletons can be examined before being sent to the laboratory at the University of Bordeaux. Rising tides and the influx of summer tourists will mean that excavations must stop by May 13th. More reportage can be found by watching the FRANCE 3 VIDEO. Additional information for this article was translated from the original source documents which can be found here :
23 AVRIL 2011
MESSE DE LA RÉSURRECTION ET EUCHARISTIE
Feu de son Esprit,
Notre délivrance !
Vous les anges du Seigneur, Bénissez le Seigneur !
A lui louange pour toujours, Bénissez le Seigneur !
Vous les cieux, Bénissez le Seigneur !
Vous toutes les puissances du Seigneur. Bénissez le Seigneur !
Vous les enfants des hommes, Bénissez le Seigneur !
Les esprits et les âmes des justes, Bénissez le Seigneur !
Les saints et les humbles de cœur. Bénissez le Seigneur !
Peuple de Dieu, marche joyeux,
Car le Seigneur est avec toi.
Au commencement, Dieu créa le ciel et la terre. La terre était informe et vide, les ténèbres étaient au-dessus de l'abîme et le souffle de Dieu planait au-dessus des eaux. Dieu dit : « Que la lumière soit. » Et la lumière fut. Dieu vit que la lumière était bonne, et Dieu sépara la lumière des ténèbres. Dieu appela la lumière « jour », il appela les ténèbres « nuit ». Il y eut un soir, il y eut un matin : ce fut le premier jour.
Moïse étendit le bras contre la mer. Au point du jour, la mer reprit sa place ; dans leur fuite, les Égyptiens s'y heurtèrent, et le Seigneur les précipita au milieu de la mer. Les eaux refluèrent et recouvrirent toute l'armée de Pharaon, ses chars et ses guerriers, qui avaient pénétré dans la mer à la poursuite d'Israël. Il n'en resta pas un seul. Mais les fils d'Israël avaient marché à pied sec au milieu de la mer, les eaux formant une muraille à leur droite et à leur gauche.
Vous tous qui avez soif, venez, voici de l'eau ! Même si vous n'avez pas d'argent, venez acheter et consommer, venez acheter du vin et du lait sans argent et sans rien payer. Pourquoi dépenser votre argent pour ce qui ne nourrit pas, vous fatiguer pour ce qui ne rassasie pas ? Écoutez-moi donc : mangez de bonnes choses, régalez-vous de viandes savoureuses ! Prêtez l'oreille ! Venez à moi ! Écoutez, et vous vivrez. Je ferai avec vous une Alliance éternelle, qui confirmera ma bienveillance envers David. Ce jour-là, le Seigneur sauva Israël de la main de l'Égypte, et Israël vit sur le bord de la mer les cadavres des Égyptiens.
Voici le Dieu qui me sauve :
J’ai confiance, je n’ai plus de crainte.
Jubilez, criez de joie,
Car Dieu est grand au milieu de vous !
Paix sur la terre aux hommes qu’il aime !
Gloire à Dieu, au plus haut des cieux,
Paix sur la terre, joie de l’univers !
Qui jamais ne finit,
Comme un père, tu nous aimes.
Tu nous donnes la vie
Qui jamais ne finit
Le signe du baptême.
Car nous sommes plongés
Dans l’amour infini.
Heureux les nouveaux baptisés,
Ils renaissent de l’eau.
Comme un parfum précieux,
La présence de Dieu.
Heureux ceux qui ont accueilli
Une force nouvelle.
Agneau que nous avions rejeté,
Agneau devenu notre Berger,
Prends de nous : conduis-nous vers la Père.
Prends pitié de nous : donne-nous la paix.
Nous n’avons qu’un cœur et qu’une âme
Fortifiés par l’amour du Christ,
Nous pouvons aimer comme il aime.
Le Christ est ressuscité, Alléluia, Alléluia !
24 AVRIL 2011
Quand Pierre arriva de Césarée chez un centurion de l'armée romaine, il prit la parole : « Vous savez ce qui s'est passé à travers tout le pays des Juifs, depuis les débuts en Galilée, après le baptême proclamé par Jean : Jésus de Nazareth, Dieu l'a consacré par l'Esprit Saint et rempli de sa force. Là où il passait, il faisait le bien, et il guérissait tous ceux qui étaient sous le pouvoir du démon. Car Dieu était avec lui. Et nous, les Apôtres, nous sommes témoins de tout ce qu'il a fait dans le pays des Juifs et à Jérusalem. Ils l'ont fait mourir en le pendant au bois du supplice. Et voici que Dieu l'a ressuscité le troisième jour. Il lui a donné de se montrer, non pas à tout le peuple, mais seulement aux témoins que Dieu avait choisis d'avance, à nous qui avons mangé et bu avec lui après sa résurrection d'entre les morts. Il nous a chargés d'annoncer au peuple et de témoigner que Dieu l'a choisi comme Juge des vivants et des morts. C'est à lui que tous les prophètes rendent ce témoignage : Tout homme qui croit en lui reçoit par lui le pardon de ses péchés. »
Frères, vous êtes ressuscités avec le Christ. Recherchez donc les réalités d’en haut : c’est là qu’est le Christ, assis à la droite de Dieu. Tendez vers les réalités d'en haut, et non pas vers celles de la terre. En effet, vous êtes morts avec le Christ, et votre vie reste cachée avec lui en Dieu. Quand paraîtra le Christ, votre vie, alors vous aussi, vous paraîtrez avec lui en pleine gloire.
The Manoir de Grosmont is located in the countryside of La Hague along rue des Marettes just outside of Urville-Nacqueville. The building is typical of the Cotentin region and dates from the early 17th century. The current owners are involved with cattle breeding and dairy farming as well as agriculture and hunting services. In fact, in 2008 they were ranked number 48 on the list of the best farms for raising Holsteins in France.