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  • De captivants à banals, les articles et photographies de “The Baguette” sont une tentative de publier un journal de ma vie dans la Manche et de proposer un forum de discussion pour tout ce qui touche à la Normandie.
  • De captivants à banals, les articles et photographies de “The Baguette” sont une tentative de publier un journal de ma vie dans la Manche et de proposer un forum de discussion pour tout ce qui touche à la Normandie.

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July 22 2014 3 22 /07 /July /2014 08:00

136 Église Saint-Pair de Gerville-la-Forêt

I’ve not much to say about the Église Saint-Pair in Gerville-la-Forêt except that it is from the 17th century and was closed on the day I visited. It’s the little church I came across while looking for the chapel in Vesly. The church gets its name from Saint-Paternus (or Saint-Pair) of Avranches who is said to have been born in Poitiers, become a monk at the Abbey of Marnes in France and retreated with his fellow monk, Saint Scubilion to the forest of Seicy in the diocese of Coutances before the Bishop of Coutances made him a priest in 512. The town itself is now part of Vesly but its name derives from the name of the old lords of the land, les Gervilles and the addition of la forêt which is a reference to the nearby forest of Lessay. You learn something new every day.

137 Église Saint-Pair de Gerville-la-Forêt

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July 19 2014 7 19 /07 /July /2014 14:22

090 Église Saint-Pierre de Vesly

Église Saint-Pierre de Vesly is a large and beautiful 13th century Gothic church located in the town of Vesly. It was built on the site of a Merovingian necropolis. 098 Église Saint-Pierre de VeslyThe reconstruction of the church after World War II led to the discovery of many sarcophagi underneath the foundations which show that Vesly was an important town with many influential people during the Merovingian and Carolingian times. Another cemetery of several sarcophagi is the necropolis that existed around the chapel of the Virgin located 300 meters north of the church. The church is cruciform with two side aisles but no ambulatory. 093 Église Saint-Pierre de VeslyThe transept however is very prominent and is marked with a triumphal arch above which is mounted an 18th century crucifix. 103 Église Saint-Pierre de VeslyTo the right of the arch is the wooden pulpit which dates from the 1720s. 104 Église Saint-Pierre de Vesly094 Église Saint-Pierre de Vesly095 Église Saint-Pierre de VeslyThe nave and transept are 13th century as is the lower part of the bell tower.  Be sure to check out the decorative heads along the nave.  It is thought that these were once part of some vaulting that is now missing.  117 Église Saint-Pierre de VeslyOutside, along the bell tower are some interesting corbels too that display some grotesque faces. 116 Église Saint-Pierre de VeslyIn 1472 the western porch was added and above the door is the following inscription: "The year of our Lord one thousand four hundred seventy-two this portal was made by and donated by nobleman Pierre Le Poupet. In his lifetime Lord of Besneville. God grant him paradise. Amen.” 096 Église Saint-Pierre de VeslyThe west facade is illuminated by two, arched lancet windows topped by an oculus. These lancets are the oldest element of the church and date from the early 13th century. The oculus however is from the 15th. 100 Église Saint-Pierre de VeslyOn the left of the main portal is the baptismal font made from limestone from Valognes as well as a Gothic style lectern. 097 Ste-Walburge, Église Saint-Pierre de VeslyTo the right of the main portal is the 16th century statue of Sainte-Walburge. This saint was widely venerated in the region and was invoked especially by mothers of sick children as well as sailors or those suffering from hydrophobia. 101 Église Saint-Pierre de VeslyThe arcades of five bays of the nave are supported by squat cylindrical columns that rest on square bases. 102 Église Saint-Pierre de VeslySome of them have Latin inscriptions from the 1600s. 105 David, Église Saint-Pierre de Vesly107a Église Saint-Pierre de Vesly107 Église Saint-Pierre de VeslyIn the choir are six Renaissance style corbels which represent the four evangelists as well as the prophet Isaiah and King David. 108 St-Nicolas, Église Saint-Pierre de Vesly109 St-Sebastien, Église Saint-Pierre de VeslyOn either side of the main altar are two 18th century statues in polychrome wood of Saint-Nicolas and Saint-Sébastien. 111 Église Saint-Pierre de Vesly112 Église Saint-Pierre de VeslyThe stained glass was placed in the church during restorations after World War II and were designed by master glassmaker Hubert de Sainte-Marie. There is a small tower along the southern wall which makes up part of the transept. 114 Église Saint-Pierre de VeslyI can’t find any information about it but I’m pretty sure it is very old too. 092 Église Saint-Pierre de VeslyIt even has some writing (which I can't make out) above one of the small lancet windows.

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July 13 2014 1 13 /07 /July /2014 13:42

097 Église Saint-Grégoire, Sauxemesnil

After doing the hike around Ruffosses I drove to the Église Saint-Grégoire just outside of Sauxemesnil to eat my lunch. It’s amazing how often you come across something so interesting and want to know more but can’t find the information anywhere. Such is the case with this particular church. 096 Église Saint-Grégoire, Sauxemesnil124 Église Saint-Grégoire, SauxemesnilJust in front of the church is a large house that looks as if it could be an old manor house or possibly the church presbytery. I couldn’t find any information anywhere. I guess we’ll never know for sure of its exact purpose but it is quite a lovely building and although it seems uninhabited, it is in a relatively good state of repair. The church of Saint Gregory is dedicated to Pope Gregory I and was built after the Battle of Hastings in the Romanesque style. Over the course of time it has maintained its Latin cross shape, its triumphal arch, capitals and decorated corbels. It was rebuilt and enlarged during the 14th and 15th centuries and during the 18th century a sacristy was added. Unfortunately, there was a lot of damage to the church during the war—all of which has been restored. 122 Église Saint-Grégoire, Sauxemesnil117 Église Saint-Grégoire, Sauxemesnil115 Église Saint-Grégoire, Sauxemesnil116 Église Saint-Grégoire, SauxemesnilThe interior consists of a nave of five bays and a choir of three bays with vaulted arches resting on columns decorated with bases representing different faces. 101 Église Saint-Grégoire, Sauxemesnil102 Église Saint-Grégoire, SauxemesnilThe choir loft, the stairs and the confessional appear to be very old but are in fact made of plaster. 105 Église Saint-Grégoire, Sauxemesnil106 Église Saint-Grégoire, SauxemesnilHowever, there are some very old pieces of unique liturgical furniture inside the church including a carved pulpit and lectern. Other pieces include several statues which are classified as historical monuments: 111 Église Saint-Grégoire, SauxemesnilThe Madonna and Child from the 16th century. 107a Église Saint-Grégoire, SauxemesnilA representation of the Trinity from the 15th century. 109 Église Saint-Grégoire, SauxemesnilA small statue of Saint-Laurent from the 17th century. 093 Église Saint-Grégoire, Sauxemesnil090 Église Saint-Grégoire, SauxemesnilAlong an exterior wall are several old funeral plaques that are very difficult to read. 091 Église Saint-Grégoire, SauxemesnilIn a niche outside the church is a 15th century limestone statue of Saint-Gregory. 120 Église Saint-Grégoire, SauxemesnilOn the other side of the church is the typical Normandy bell tower adorned with an old sundial. 094 Église Saint-Grégoire, SauxemesnilUnder the eaves of the roof are many corbels with grotesque faces.

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July 13 2014 1 13 /07 /July /2014 12:09

016 Ruffosses

Once again, we’ve been having really nice weather in la Manche. When it’s like this, you can’t help but go outside and do something—head to the beach, ride your bike or take a nice long walk. Fortunately for me, I’ve been able to do all these things in abundance. Yesterday, I did the “Promenade et Randonnée Autour de Rochemont” which takes you through some very pretty woodlands around the village of Ruffosses, a community belonging to the small town of Saussemesnil (sometimes spelled, Sauxemesnil). 087 Boulangerie Pâtisserie Leterrier, Ruffosses086 Boulangerie Pâtisserie Leterrier, RuffossesThe hike begins from a parking lot near the Boulangerie Pâtisserie Leterrier and takes you first past the Église Notre-Dame-des-Anges. 010 L'église Notre-Dame-des-Anges de RuffossesThere is a sign posted at the entrance that says, “By order of the mayor, the doors of this church must remain open every day.” They were closed and I was unable to go inside. An elderly man with a thick Norman accent, attending to some graves, said that it was probably too early and that it should be open later. It wasn’t. I came back after the hike and it was still locked. Oh well. As with more than a thousand churches in Normandy, the church in Ruffosses is devoted to the Virgin Mary. Before the mid-nineteenth century, the oldest religious building of Ruffosses was the Chapel of Our Lady of Deliverance which was erected by sailors in the 17th century. It was used as a place of pilgrimage for sailors until 1851, abandoned and condemned by 1853 and eventually sold. 014 L'église Notre-Dame-des-Anges de RuffossesIn 1854, Mme Féline de Montdésir, née Sivard de Beaulieu donated money to have a new church completed on the site. It was surrounded by a cemetery and meditation garden of exotic plants, rhododendrons and bamboo which still exist to this day. The church was bombed in 1944 and the vault collapsed in 1947 but was restored in the neo-Gothic style during the 1950s. 012 L'église Notre-Dame-des-Anges de RuffossesBefore you leave, don’t forget to see this small chapel on the grounds devoted to Saint Anthony. 019 Circuit de Rochemont, RuffossesThe hiking path is quite flat and very easy to follow if you keep to the marked trail which follows several small farm roads and some overgrown paths covered so thickly with trees, it appears that you’re walking through a dimly lit cave at times. 085 Circuit de Rochemont, RuffossesThere are also several nice houses to see along the way including this one just to the left of the church. 017 rue la Fosse Lonlay, RuffossesAlong one street called la Fosse Lonlay you come across this beautiful house with a thatched roof. 023 Ferme de la Chaussée024 Ferme de la ChausséeLater on, past some apple orchards you come to a place called Ferme de la Chaussée with a rundown farm which is in need of repair. I don’t think that will be a problem since most “Norman peasant” farms are being quickly bought up by the rich and turned into holiday cottages. 022 Voie gallo-romaine, La ChausséeEven though this dirt road looks like any other dirt road in Normandy, it is actually the remains of the old Roman Way or Voie gallo-romaine. Le bois de l'Etot Rouge belongs to one of the most beautiful sets of woods in the Cotentin. 027 Bois de l'Étot Rouge (Sauxemesnil)It was formerly part of the great forest of Brix, which occupied more than 7,000 hectares in the 17th century. 029 Les Planques, Saussemesnil028 Les Planques, Saussemesnil030 Les Planques, Saussemesnil031 Les Planques, SaussemesnilAlong another small road called Les Planques I came across a man harvesting cherries from his trees. His house was surrounded by hydrangeas of every color. There is only one stream that you cross along the course of the hike and that takes you over the Rivire de Gloire. 042 Gué à pierres plates sur la rivière de Gloire, Saussemesnil038 Gué à pierres plates sur la rivière de Gloire, SaussemesnilIt is crossed by a ford of flat stones called Gué à pierres plates. 044 Circuit de Rochemont, Ruffosses047 Circuit de Rochemont, Ruffosses049 Circuit de Rochemont, Ruffosses053 La Banque, Saussemesnil054 La Banque, SaussemesnilPast fields planted with corn, through country lanes lined with tall trees and through thick underbrush you'll eventually come back to this waterway again which joins les étangs de Roudoux (a series of two large ponds) within a beautiful valley. 056 Etangs de Roudoux, Sauxemesnil059 Etangs de Roudoux, Sauxemesnil063 Etangs de Roudoux, SauxemesnilThe two ponds are located on private property and until recently they were open to visitors for water recreation activities. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case as the sign posted on the gate reads:057 Etangs de Roudoux, Sauxemesnil 064 Etangs de Roudoux, Sauxemesnil065 Etangs de Roudoux, SauxemesnilThe smaller of the two lakes is still open to the public and has two large swans to entertain you. The last stretch of the hike takes you past the farm and the Château de Rochemont from whence this hike gets its name. 073 Château de Rochemont, SauxemesnilIt was built in the late 18th century by ancestors of the De Mondesir family, who managed to hold onto their property despite the French Revolution due to their support for it. 078 Ferme de Rochemont, Sauxemesnil076 Ferme de Rochemont, Sauxemesnil077 Ferme de Rochemont, SauxemesnilThe outbuildings and nearby farm house are lined with more hydrangeas in nearly every shade of blue you can think of. 083 Ferme de Rochemont, SauxemesnilThere are a number of lovely houses along the route as well including this charming little cottage with its appealing gardens. Are you interested in owning your own little castle or manor house ? 008 Circuit de RochemontThis one is located just beside the church and is currently for sale.

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July 2 2014 4 02 /07 /July /2014 12:05

153 L'église Sainte-Colombe de Crasville

The Église Sainte-Colombe de Crasville is very old and can be dated as far back as the 12th century when it was consecrated by Richard de Bohon, Bishop of Coutances in 1154 under the patronage of the Abbey of Montebourg. It is composed of a choir and nave and lacks a transept. In its present form, it dates from the 17th and 18th century—the only medieval element remaining is the triumphal arch between the chancel and the nave. The bell tower was rebuilt in 1674 and rebuilt again in 1920. The sacristy can be dated to exactly 1722. 139 L'église Sainte-Colombe de Crasville140 L'église Sainte-Colombe de CrasvilleThe value of this church is not its architecture, but by its rich furnishings, a nearly perfect homogeneous grouping of altarpieces, doorways to the sacristy, a rood screen, pulpit, lectern, stools, benches and confessionals. 141 L'église Sainte-Colombe de Crasville142 L'église Sainte-Colombe de Crasville143 L'église Sainte-Colombe de CrasvilleSome pieces are dated with precision: the stalls and the seat for the celebrant date from 1766, the crucifix from 1767 and the confessionals from 1769. What is more fascinating is that all of this liturgical furniture owes its existence to the savings of a small country priest as well as the disinterestedness of a carpenter, Guillaume Godefroy who worked for years at prices far below normal for the time. 148 L'église Sainte-Colombe de CrasvilleThe central panel of the altarpiece represents the Adoration of the Magi. 145 L'église Sainte-Colombe de CrasvilleLocal flavor is given by the terracotta statues from Sauxemesnil of Sainte-Colombe and Saint-Gregory placed in niches on either side of the altar. Another statue of clay, that of Ste-Catherine, adorns the altar of the small altar to the left. The only medieval church statue is a limestone Madonna and Child from the 14th century located in the southern side altar. 149 L'église Sainte-Colombe de CrasvilleIt is said that during the Revolution, officials ordered some men to remove the furniture. They wanted to remove the crucifix of the great rood screen in the nave but found it very difficult. Robert Pilet, faithless man, said, "Wait, let me do it my way." Whereupon he threw a rope over the head of Christ and pulled with all his strength. A man of faith named Nicolas Lequertier, came over to him and intervened saying, "Get away from there or I’ll cut your neck with my own axe!” The Christ remained. 152 L'église Sainte-Colombe de Crasville151 L'église Sainte-Colombe de CrasvilleThe exterior of the church is covered with a coating dated 1770 above the northern portal. This type of coating is meant to protect the walls from moisture which is not uncommon with churches in the area. The coating, moreover, is decorated with naive drawings created by masons. 150 L'église Sainte-Colombe de Crasville155 L'église Sainte-Colombe de CrasvilleIn some cases, it is easy to recognize, among others, a cross or a human figure and a bit to the right, an animal resembling a deer. Along the walls are several old tombstones and even one tomb belonging to a former military officer and friend to the poor of Crasville, Felix François Dursus (1746 – 1811).

138 L'église Sainte-Colombe de Crasville

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June 30 2014 2 30 /06 /June /2014 09:19

Another beautiful weekend in La Manche ! Lots of sunshine and warm temperatures. On Saturday, I went for another short hike around the town of Lestre. 021 LestreThis particular hike was called Randonnée le circuit du Bouillon which roughly translates as the walk around the boiling rapids--an interesting name since there are no rapids to be seen along the streams you have to cross and they are certainly not boiling. 003 Église Saint-Martin, Lestre004 Église Saint-Martin, LestreThe hike begins in Lestre at the foot of the church of St-Martin, with a typical Normandy saddleback bell tower and doorways that date from the 13th century. 019 Église Saint-Martin, Lestre011 Église Saint-Martin, LestreInside is a triple aisle nave with two side chapels. 010 Église Saint-Martin, LestreI thought the baptismal font was one of the most interesting pieces since it was intricately carved and adorned with quotes from the Bible. 014 Église Saint-Martin, LestreAbove the choir is a “pouter de gloire” or rood screen which separates the main altar from the rest of the church. 015 Église Saint-Martin, LestreAbove the main altar is a wonderful oil painting of the Three Wise Men at the Nativity. On either side are statues of Saint-Martin and Saint John the Baptist. 012 Église Saint-Martin, Lestre017 Église Saint-Martin, LestreI couldn’t find any more information about the church but as you can see, it has several nice chapels: one dedicated to the Virgin and another to Saint-Martin. 018 Église Saint-Martin, LestreThere is also a stained glass window from 1927 created in the workshops of Charles Lorin from Chartes. 006 Lestre020 LestreAcross the street is the hôtel de ville with its newly restored arches. 023 Lestre024 LestreThe hiking path takes you through farmers’ fields along poorly kept paths lined with wildflowers and weeds. 029 Lestre025 Château de Tourville, Lestre051 Château de Tourville, LestreAt times, one can get a fairly decent view of the Tourville castle, a private residence built in the 18th century by Jean-Louis Avice de Tourville . 071 La motte féodale, Lestre069 La motte féodale, LestreJust 400 meters away along a path marked private property is the most important motte féodale (motte-and-bailey castle) in Normandy. It dates from the 10th century and is in need of some restoration—the roof has collapsed and it is covered with vines. 035 Passerelle sur la Sinope, LestreAt one point, you have to cross a river called la Sinope which empties into the sea at Quinéville. 036 La Sinope, LestreJust beside the passerelle is another stone bridge which was also marked as private property. 041 LestreIt is still too early in the summer to see roadways and country lanes full of foxglove, but there are a few areas where they are starting to bloom. 043 Le Moulin du Rey, Lestre046 Le Moulin du Rey, Lestre057 Lestre058 LestrePassing the Moulin de Rey, there are several old manor houses and stone farm buildings. 061 LestreWhat do you think of my new shirt ? I bought it on Friday at H&M during sales week--got a whole new summer wardrobe for under 90 Euros ! 067 Ruisseau du Bouillon, LestreThe trickiest part of the walk is a 200 meter stretch along the la Sinope where the path is actually just a trek along the riverside through mud and overgrown shrubs. 074 Pont-Bleu, Ruisseau du Bouillon, LestreThis last bridge is called le pont bleu but its name has nothing to do with the color blue. By the time I finished walking, it was almost 2pm and I was getting rather hungry. Fortunately, I packed a lunch with me and decided to drive to the old ruins of the Chapelle St-Michel where I sat and had my lunch. 081 Chapelle St-Michel, LestreThe chapel of Saint-Michel is actually a ruin from the first third of the 12th century. 082 Chapelle St-Michel, LestreThe chapel depended on the abbey of Blanchelande and was first mentioned in writings from 1160. 090 Chapelle St-Michel, Lestre091 Chapelle St-Michel, LestreAfter the French Revolution, it was sold and its remaining stones were looted. 084 Chapelle St-Michel, Lestre085 Chapelle St-Michel, Lestre096 Chapelle St-Michel, Lestre095 Chapelle St-Michel, LestreThe apse decorated with corbels of animal and human faces. 101 Chapelle St-Michel, LestreThese are two of the broken arches that formed the aisle. 086 Chapelle St-Michel, LestreThis is a statue of the Holy Trinity. Within the transept is a Gothic chapel with several statues including those of St-Côme and St-Damien as well as a recumbent effigy along one of the walls. 088 Chapelle St-Michel, Lestre087 Chapelle St-Michel, LestreOther statues are only fragments such as this one of St-Jacques. 102 Chapelle St-Michel, Lestre104 Chapelle St-Michel, LestreThrough a small window in the apse, one has a good view of the sea. This same window is formed with stones laid out in a pattern called arête-de-poisson, or fish bones.

092 Chapelle St-Michel, Lestre

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June 29 2014 1 29 /06 /June /2014 17:07

After a day of hiking and then a visit to the German gun batteries, I then drove to Montebourg to visit the Abbaye Sainte-Marie. Strangely enough I've never been there even though it's so close to Cherbourg. 202203199The origins of the abbey can be traced back to William the Conqueror in the second half of the 11th century but its legendary beginnings are a lot more interesting, albeit a lot more far-fetched (read it for yourself... I don't think it would be a miracle if someone came ashore in a boat one morning, would you ?) Anyway, the legend, written down in the 15th century, tells of two monks from the Savoie who spent the night on a Normandy beach. One of them (no name given) decided to sleep in a boat that had washed up on the shore; the second, Roger, preferred to sleep on the beach. 204177178The tide carried the boat and its occupant all the way to the English coast where he was elected bishop by the people who were stunned by this "miracle". In Normandy the next morning, Roger went in search of his companion who disappeared. Tired, he stopped one night at the foot of a hill in Montebourg. He fell asleep and dreamt that a star had fallen on top of the hill. The Virgin appeared to him and told him that he must build a chapel there in her honor. Upon hearing of these events, Duke William gave Roger land, materials and various rights in the forests of the Cotentin in order for Roger to build his monastery. The abbaye de Montebourg was consecrated only in 1152, in the presence of the Archbishop of Rouen Hugh of Amiens, the bishops of Coutances and Evreux, and local lords, including Guillaume de Vernon, patron and protector of the abbey. The buildings were destroyed during and after the French Revolution, but the church was rebuilt in neo-Romanesque style between 1892 and 1933. Today, the abbey buildings are occupied by a private agricultural junior high and high school.  182180184185The interior is very clean and bathed in light from the stained glass installed in the 1950s.  189197190198There were so many splashes of color along the floors and walls.  It isn't very often you see such a rainbow.  186187193191Along the norhtern wall is the chapel devoted to Notre-Dame de l'Étoile (Our Lady of the Star) where worshipers come to pray for world peace.  After visiting the abbey and the grounds, I drove into the town to visit l'église Saint-Jacques.  It was partially destroyed during World War II and there are still some bullet impacts along the exterior walls. 205Its construction was decided upon by the Abbé de Montebourg at the beginning of the 15th century and it was consecrated on September 2, 1329 by the Bishop of Coutances, Guillaume de Thieuville. It is rather dark inside and there are a few things of interest to see. 208For starters, there is the baptismal font which is actually an old column capital adorned with animal faces and an intricate interlace pattern. It dates from the 11th century. 212Behind the rather uninspired main altar is the original high altar adorned in bas-reliefs and backlit with a large stained glass window. 214There is also a statue of St-Jacques in the choir from the 14th century. 206Another 14th century statue of St-Jacques stands outside above the portal to the church. 216In July, there is a solemnity to the town's patron saint and the parishoners crown the statue with roses. To finish the day, I wanted to find a place that served ice cream but could only find a chocolate maker, Territoires Chocolats where everything could be tasted before buying. Wouldn't you know it, as I was driving out of town, I saw a sign for ice cream just outside of a resturant near the chocolatier--just another example of my luck (or lack of) in life.

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June 27 2014 6 27 /06 /June /2014 09:05

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The Azeville German Coastal Battery is just north of Sainte-Mère-Eglise near the small town of Azeville about 10 km from Utah Beach. It is one of the first constructions of the Atlantic Wall in France by the Todt Organization of the Third Reich. 137Built in 1941, it established the presence of the German army along the coast of La Manche. It used a camouflage painted stone to blend in with village houses. 123134135It included two bunkers of type H650 and another two with type H671, each housing a French Schneider 105 mm gun from the First World War. These guns were powerful but had less of a range than those of the neighboring battery at Crisbecq. 081082086Over 300 meters of underground galleries linked the various shelters, bunkers and defense posts. Located so far inland that it did not have a direct view of the sea, it had to rely on shooting directions from the battery at Crisbecq. 089090093092A garrison of 170 men served and defended this battery commanded by Commander Treiber and Captain Kattnig. The majority of men bivouacked near the battery, while the officers were accommodated in the village. In 1943 the guns received a prominent visitor when Erwin Rommel inspected the building site. After his visit work began to expand the installation and the guns that were previously placed in open positions were now built into concrete pillboxes, even though the Germans did not believe that the coast in front of the battery was under threat of invasion. 091095106Because the calibre of the four guns was only 105 mm, when the Allies landed on the nearby Utah Beach on 6th June 1944 (D-day) they were firing at maximum range and accuracy was therefore not optimal. Despite this, the Germans managed to keep the Americans on Utah under fire for two days, preventing further advances. 107116On 9th June the 170 soldiers at the Crisbecq battery surrendered and a massive bombardment of Azeville by Allied warships started. Eventually the battery was attacked by U.S. troops equipped with flame throwers. 117122The garrison surrendered and the fight for Azeville was over. 111Standing inside one of the gun casemates, where the gun is long gone, you can look out of the narrow opening towards the coast. 110At the back wall, down at floor level, is a sizable hole in the concrete wall. 112115Walking through the door, into the ammunition room behind, the hole on the other size is a bit bigger and there is a large gouge in the concrete floor. Apparently this is one of the rounds that came from the SS Nevada. 150153157Nearby is the Crisbecq Battery, the largest coastal artillery battery on Utah-Beach, with its 21 pillboxes linked by over a kilometre of trenches covering a total area of 4 hectares. 159161164I didn’t pay to visit the entire site but maybe I’ll go back some other day. Meanwhile, there is a plethora of information about it at this site along with some very interesting photos.

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June 22 2014 1 22 /06 /June /2014 09:15

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Yesterday was such a beautiful day that I decided to go hiking. Looked online for a destination and decided on a short ramble in and around the small town of Fresville. 002My first stop was the Eglise Saint-Martin with its 12th century Romanesque nave. The choir and transept are gothic and date from the 14th and 15th centuries. The bell tower was built in the 14th century. 026003Outside, along the apsidal wall is a bas-relief entitled La Charité de Saint-Martin. 008Upon entering, one first sees the baptismal font to the right and then, looking up, admires the beautiful wood ceiling and its crossbeams. 009010Just above the modern main altar is a “poutre de gloire” or rood beam from the 18th century with a 17th century crucifixion. 012The secondary chapel to the left is dedicated to Saint-Sebastien. 014The high altar from the 18th century has four columns separating the two statues of Saint-Sulpice and Saint-John the Baptist from a niche which holds a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. 017To the right is another transept chapel dedicated to the Virgin. The aisle has two beautiful stained glass windows from the glassmakers at La Maison Bazin-Latteux de Mesnil-Saint-Firmin in the Oise. 019018These date from 1877 and were donated to the church by members of the parish. In the Middle Ages, most abbeys and bishoprics had not one church but many associated sanctuaries, serving distinct purposes. In the Cotentin, this phenomenon is well illustrated by two religious buildings barely ten meters apart in Fresville. 004Just next to the church of Saint-Martin is the Chapelle Sainte-Sulpice from the 16th century. It was not open when I was there so I have no idea what it looks like inside. 030031The area around Fresville is dotted with several old manor houses and large stone farm buildings—many of which have been restored and are privately owned or rented out as bed and breakfasts or holiday getaways. 034037This one is a private residence called the Manoir de Tamerville. 041Across the street is another beautiful home called Le Hesnay. 047Perhaps the grandest of them all is the Manoir de Grainville which is now a chambre d’hôtes. The walk takes you through fields of corn, grain and grasses as well as many cow pastures all located within the low-lying marshlands known as the marais. 052053Also along the road is a small memorial to the men of the 505th US Parachute Infantry Regiment who were gunned down by Nazi soldiers during the D-Day landings. The ashes of one of the soldiers, William H. Tucker are placed here. He passed away in 2008.  063055These trees make up the allée des saules which is a dirt road lined with old willows. 058060A short distance off the path lays the river Merderet which winds through the countryside. 057The hiking details don't tell you about some of the other things to see in the area.  For example, it was by chance that I could see the Manoir de Vauville while hiking--unfortunately, the path does not take you near it.  075076073So I decided to visit using my car.  It too is a bed and breakfast catering to people visiting Utah Beach or Sainte-Mère-Église.  The hiking tour eventually brings you back into the town. You can find details HERE.

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These are just some more photos of the lovely stone houses in and around Fresville. Many of them were adorned with US and French flags--just a way of showing you how much French people respect the sacrifice of the American soldiers who fought in Normandy.

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April 15 2014 3 15 /04 /April /2014 07:56

116 Mont Castre

Staying caught up with this blog is more difficult than you think. I’ve got so many photos of places I’ve visited recently that it is difficult to post everything. Still, I’m trying. A few weeks ago we had some wonderful weather and I took a short hiking trip near Lithaire along the path which winds around Mont Castre. During the 19th century, this place was the site of a stone quarry. Those mining operations ceased after the Second World War and all that remains is this large body of water in the middle of the rock. While walking, there are several panels which explain the history of the area as well as providing information about the local flora and fauna. 117 Mont Castre 119 Mont CastreAt the top of Mont Castre there are stunning views over the countryside including the town of Lithaire which saw a lot of fighting in June 1944 during the battle of the hedgerows. Also near the top of the hill are the remains of a megalithic site that has been dated to be around 5000 years old. 124 Mont Castre128 Mont Castre127 Mont CastreThe site is actually a gallery grave in the form of a megalithic tomb. Two parallel walls of stone slabs were erected to form a corridor and covered with a line of capstones. The rectangular tomb was covered with a barrow or a cairn. 133 Mont Castre134 Mont Castre136 Mont Castre141 Mont Castre142 Mont CastreNearby are the remains of a more interesting ruin called the “Vieux Château.” In 56 BC, during the Gallic war against the Romans, the Gallic people, ruled by the warrior Viridorix, were beaten by the legions of Julius Caesar led by Quintus Sabinus Titurius. 145 Mont CastreThe area has maintained its name as "Caesar's camp." Farther down the hill are the remains of the old 11th century church known as Église St-Thomas after Thomas Becket.

147 Église en ruines Saint-Thomas de Lithaire149 Église en ruines Saint-Thomas de Lithaire

150 Église en ruines Saint-Thomas de Lithaire

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