Sunday, 27 April 2014

Gone crazy ? Here’s how to solve your problems.

X marks the spot..
On one of our Romanesque church hunts, we came across an unusual feature in the church of St Germain en Brionnais. We found a débeurdinoir.

So what is one of these things anyway?

Well I’ll be honest, this is not our first visit to this church. The first time we saw the notice announcing the débeurdinoir, we didn’t know what to make of it. The second visit we went searching for the blooming thing and couldn’t find it and on this, our nth visit (where n is greater than or equal to 4) I gave it a go.

The débeurdinoir
The story of the débeurdinoir dates back to the legend of Saint Menoux. He was a chappy who fell ill and died, but what happened after his body was put into a sarcophagus is what created this wonderful contraption. His servant was a bit loopy and decided to cut a hole in the side of the sarcophagus to see his master one last time. He put his head into the hole and he was cured of his craziness.

All of this happened not so far from here in a village called Saint Menoux - named after the aforementioned saint. His followers set up a priory in St Germain en Brionnais and brought the idea with them. They built a stone sarcophagus-like structure and put a hole in its side to cure the locals of their madnesses. The local patois for beast or demon is beurdin, hence the name of the contraption being a débeurdinoir a de-demoner.

I'm cured!!
So there we were, one sunny morning and I decided to give it a go. I put my head inside the débeurdinoir and I am now officially sane.

If you want to be cured too, beware, there are only two of these devices in the whole world and one of them is near our gîtes, so book early for your insanity cure!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Easter in Taizé

Well it’s that time of year again when Taizé fills up to over capacity. For the 9,000 young people who will officially be staying in Taizé over the two weeks of Easter, there have been some interesting things going on. The Holy week started with an unusual Palm Sunday service down at Saint Stephen’s spring. With the congregation holding their sprigs of green surrounding the brothers, it had an air of the druids’ spring solstice even though the message was clearly Christian.

Holy week culminated this morning with the Easter Eucharist. The size of the crowd for this service frightens me, the church is packed to over capacity and the brothers tip-toe through the crowds parading the huge lit Paschal candle, so I stayed at home and imagined the scene from the safety of my garden.

This year the crowds were so large I could hear the singing while I was outside hanging up the washing and then the bells rang out and I could hear, in my mind, the shouts and cheers as “Christ is risen” would have been spoken in too many languages to count. A joyous day on this beautifully sunny Easter morning.

Happy Easter to everyone!

Monday, 14 April 2014

Fame and fortune

Monday evening we were invited to the opening of a photo exhibition of Romanesque churches and the first exhibition of the season at Buxy Office de Tourisme. We had a look at the lovely photos and generally chatted to those there, waiting for the speeches and the obligatory glass of wine and nibbles to celebrate the event. But on this occasion, we were not just there for the free glass of wine, we came to see the launching of a book.

This particular book give architectural details of the 19 Romanesque churches in and around Buxy. “But why is this such an important book?” you might ask. Well I’ll tell you.

A few months ago Cees received an email asking if he would be willing to allow some of his photos to be published in a tourist guide. He was of course thrilled to agree and sent off all the relevant photos that he had. The problem that the writer was having, was that one of the churches to be in the book was under internal restoration and so photos could not be taken. But snap-happy Cees had of course captured the relevant church in enormous detail before the scaffolding went up and so he saved the day!

Cees' name in print
One of the perks of this inaugural evening was to receive a copy of the aforementioned book, with Cees’ name in it. So when you go an buy your copy at Buxy Tourist Information Office, flip to Saint Martin du Tartre and admire the internal church photos taken by our resident photographer. Sadly he is not receiving any royalties, just the honour and prestige of seeing his name in print, but if you would like any commissions done, just drop us an email, his rates are very reasonable.

For holiday accommodation near Buxy and some wonderful churches click here.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Picnic Weather

Picnic in the woods
We have had such beautiful weather these last few weeks, what else can you do than to go out for endless picnics? And while your on a picnic mission, why not visit a few Romanesque churches on your way? Our latest picnic turned out to be a voyage of discovery.

The source St Thibault
We had heard that there was a chapel near a source called St Thibault, not far from a village called La Chapel-au-Mans. The internet revealed no more information and no pictures, so we were on our own. First we headed for the village in the hope that someone might know where the chapel was. No one in sight.

Up the hill to the chapel
What is it about French villages, they are relatively well inhabited (you can tell that by the open shutters and locally registered cars) but you rarely see anyone, even at the weekend. After scouring the notice boards at the church in case there was a clue there, we were just heading out of town and we saw a notice board with information on local walks and low and behold there was our chapel. It was several kilometres away and we had a long day ahead of us, combined with the “fact” that navigator said he knew what road it was on, so we headed off by car.

Romanesque cheapel, worth the search
Many kilometres further and a random left hand turn landed us in a housing estate (thanks navigator) but at least we saw a person! I zipped out quickly to ask where this chapel might be to be greeted with the reply “Oh goodness, that’s nowhere near here”. I’d figured that one out for myself, but I smiled and asked if she could give me instructions. She seemed hesitant but then she started at speed. It seemed to go like this, you go right here, and keep turning right. The road goes up and down, then you go right again, then the road goes up and down, then you turn right at the house with the well, then the road goes up and down, then you get to the end by a lake and it’s on your right. With all the right hand turns and the ups and downs, I wasn’t at all confident that she either knew where it was or that we would find it. Off we went, turning right and going up and down through some lovely countryside for many kilometres and just when I was about to give up and knock on a farmhouse door, there it was!

Well worth the detour. The climb and the picnic were worth it too.
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