Galen Broeker: The Love Song of the Archives Departmentales de Puy-de-Dome

Let us go then, you and I, 
When the evening is spread out against the sky 
Like a parchment spread upon a table; 
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets, 
The muttering retreats 
Of restless nights in volcanic mountains 
And tumbled monasteries with scallop-shells: 
Streets that follow like a Roman road 
Of insidious intent 
To lead you to an overwhelming question. . .                               
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?” 
Let us go and make our visit.

To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, that is.  I spent my morning in the Archives Departmentales de Puy-de-Dome (henceforth ADPdD), and WOW is it a different experience than the Bibliotheque Nationale.  First of all, it took less than fifteen minutes to drive to from the hotel, despite some GPS mishaps.  Secondly, despite it’s incredibly modern appearance:

it is an absolutely inviting place filled with many more medieval manuscripts than I expected.  And thirdly, and most importantly, the staff was incredibly eager to help out a poor American doctoral candidate who just wanted to see their oldest documents.

Now, I will admit, that barring seeing a couple of manuscripts at a semi-distance, I did not get to play with ancient documents in their physical form today–that’s tomorrow morning.  What I did get to do was browse through a helpfully organize CD of high-quality, recent, digital photographs of some of their oldest documents, working my way through them slowly and doing some transcription along the way.  When, by the time I had arranged to leave, I had not finished looking through the files I had at hand, the archivist offered to make me a copy of the CD, with 52 primary documents in high-quality photo on it, for 8 euros.  8 EUROS.  I can’t buy a sandwich and coffee at a tolerable cafe most places for 8 euros, but I can have 52 9th-11th century documents in high-res copy for that much.  Have I mentioned I love the archives?

Tomorrow I’ll be going back to look at a document from Urban II promising protection for the churches of Auvergne and to keep trolling the archives for more gems.  My life is hard.

I have an awful lot more I could post about, with massive numbers of pictures from this afternoon, but you’re going to have to wait until the weekend for me to catch up, intrepid readers.  Uploading the pictures to my netbook, let alone sorting through them, is taking too long, and I have another full itinerary tomorrow.  However, let me give you some links to get you going.  This afternoon I hit:

Saint-Eutropius of Clermont-Ferrand

Chamalieres

Royat

Brioude

La Chaise-Dieu

Sauxillanges

…with some tiny villages in between.

I’ll get pictures up from today…Friday, when I’m back in Paris.  Until then, all of you should come up with good reasons to come live, work and study in Auvergne.  It’s absolutely amazing here.

Thomas Lecaque

Thomas Lecaque

Thomas W. Lecaque (History) is a PhD student in Medieval Europe. His research interests include the Crusades and Crusader States, Occitanian literature, music and history, the cult of saints, the Peace of God, vernacular literature, and Latin-Greek-Syriac Christian relations. His current research focuses on the Toulousain experience in the First and Second Crusades and the socioreligious background to the founding of the County of Tripoli.

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