There is an awful lot I could be posting about tonight, but I’ve discovered that my internet connection here comes with a total data used limit, and I’m getting precariously close. As a result, let’s return to yesterday, when I went to La Chaise Dieu.
Robert of Turlande, founder of La Chaise Dieu, was born in 1001 to a noble family. He was a canon of Saint-Julien of Brioude for most of his early life, rising to the post of treasurer of the abbey sometime before the 1040s. It was then that he got very sick, and went on pilgrimage to Rome and Monte Cassino to pray for his health. His health restored miraculously, he decided that he needed to found his own monastery out in the wilderness of the Livradois:
The original tiny hermitage quickly became this beast of a monastery, as early as 1050, and by 1057 Robert was able to found a daughter-house at Lavaudieu, which ,by the way, was the Abbey of St. Andre-le-Comps–not that I’m particular to anything in southeastern France dealing with the same saint who guided Peter Bartholomew, an Auvergnois, to the Holy Lance, of course.
The church itself is magnificent, and magnificent especially within it’s relative isolation. I’m going to do a little bit of a photodump here, and I hope you don’t mind too much:
Pope Clement VI, as it happens, was a monk of La Chaise-Dieu before he became pope, and was a grreat patron of the church. When he died, he was buried in it:
I only have two more pictures to post. The first has, as a physical object, relatively little meaning, being significantly (18th c?) later than the item in mind, But when Raymond of Saint Gilles was on his death-bed in the Levant, his final charter was a request that (I believe) a chalice he had been given of Saint Robert’s from La Chaise Dieu be returned there. This is from Rohricht‘s Regesta Regni Heirosolmitani, I believe. So I give you a chalice of La Chaise-Dieu:
And finally, before I go to my rest in preparation for another glorious day in the archives tomorrow (have I not mentioned that I handled a parchment from Urban II to the church of Auvergne from 1097 today? because it’s amazing), let me say that like all historians, I write about southeastern France because I became enamored with not just a place and a history but with the people who I study. And for me, Raymond of Saint-Gilles is very much my protagonist, and following in his footsteps, however removed is an amazing thing. He very much did come to La Chaise-Dieu before setting out on the First Crusade, and Saint Robert of Turlande’s tomb has not moved from its position at the doorstep of the abbey since his death, so when I went to that place I was, quite literally, in the footsteps of my hero. And that is an incredibly powerful thing. And I may be a skeptic and religiously ambiguous, but there was something very powerful in that moment for me. So here’s a picture of it, because that’s how the modern era memorializes powerful moments:
I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring.
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:
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.
I left Paris this morning with my parents stuffed into the rental car along with my camera, far too many books and enough clothes for a longer voyage. The drive down was rainy the whole way, obscuring the myriad medieval castles and churches that litter the landscape of northern France. Once we passed the sign officially welcoming us to the Auvergne, however, the rain slowly started to fade and the hilly, forested landscape opened up. We had a pretty light itinerary today, in order to accommodate the driving, checking into hotel and shopping for supplies. Thus, only four medieval churches and a castle.
First, we stopped in Thuret, to see Notre Dame/Saint Martin de Thuret, a lovely little church in the middle of nowhere. One of the saddest sights I’ve ever seen awaited inside: today was Pentecost, one of the few Christian holidays I recognize, and the priest of the town was inside, performing mass. Alone. I know the French are proud of their secular society, but there is something lost in discarding Catholicism so entirely. And I say this as someone well outside of the faith.
That aside, the church is fascinating. Yesterday, I linked John Tchalenko‘s article of the earliest wild-men in monumental art in Europe. Today, I went to the site of half of the article, and saw the wild-man in person:
Tchalenko’s article does a pretty good job of showing how this column works with the other columns to instill fear of sin into the populace; that being said, given my child-like fascination with dragons and monsters and what-not in the Middle Ages, I love that there are woodwose being used as part of a clerical program of communication with the populi. The church itself was lovely:
It had a number of other features I thought were worth noting, and thus photographed–the church itself is 11th-12th century, right within the time period I’m interested in. My dad, a medieval art historian (as I’ve mentioned), said that this was the first time he’d seen a rooster displayed prominently on the capitols of the entryway to a church:
The church also has a Black Virgin, the first one I’ve seen (as far as I remember–in a complete side note, one of my parents recurring jokes so far has been how much crap I gave them as a kid for taking me to apparently many of the sites of this itinerary. Apparently my common refrain was “Not another 11th century church!” What a little @#$% I was):
We had lunch at an absolutely fantastic restaurant half-way down the block from the church, which I highly recommend if you are anywhere within an hours drive of Thuret. Seriously. The restaurant is called La Marmite, and the chef apparently worked in Paris for 20-some years before getting sick of it, moving south and opening up a beautiful, tiny, perfect little place. The food was exquisite. Probably my new favorite restaurant in France, finally pushing Sud-Ouest et Cie in Paris down the list. Even more importantly for an academic blog, the hostess helped us find the second church of the day, Saint-Andre-le-Coq, which wasn’t appearing on GPS or any of our maps. The church itself was closed, unfortunately, despite it being Pentecost:
We’ll have to go back; it’s an eleventh-century church, though the community was first recorded in 909 in the hands of the monks of Mozac. It’s one of only two 11th century sites named for Saint Andrew in Puy-de-Dome, so I’m eager to see the inside. From Saint-Andre-le-Coq we drove to Riom, once the seat of the Counts of Auvergne. The center of the city is still very clearly a medieval town, and the main basilica in the center, Saint Amable, was originally founded under the name Saint-Beningne by Saint Amable in the 5th century, became an abbey in 1072, and in the twelfth century was torn down to build the current structure:
Inside, the relics of Saint Amable still sit in the back in a place of honor:
The basilica is mostly 12th-13th century, so later than the period I work on, but I have to say the inside was spectacular. The stained glass in particular was beautiful, featuring the apostles along the sides but particularly Auvergnois saints at the back:
Almost done with this entry, I know I’m throwing up a lot of pictures. After St. Amable de Riom, we went to the Abbey of Mozac, a Merovingian foundation that was eventually associated with the Cluniac Order and was a favorite of the Counts of Auvergne:
In the interest of time and space, let me just say, rather than show, that the Mozac bestiary, on the capitols inside, is INCREDIBLE. It also includes a monkey and his trainer, which, according to Tchalenko, is part of the same sort of narrative that the woodwose was used in. The resurrection of Jesus column sitting at the back of the church was particular interesting for its depiction of Roman soldiers:
It also has dual reliquaries of St. Calminius and St. Austremonius, though the reliquary of St. Calminius is currently undergoing repairs and was not visible, and Austremonius was, once again, behind a protective grate:
I bought a little pamphlet on the history and art of the abbey that should make fruitful reading in the future. Finally, we went to my lone castle of the day, and managed to get there after it closed. The place is called Chateau d’Opme, and despite being closed it was in the most charming tiny, narrow-roaded commune I’ve seen in a long time. The place was 11th century, owned by the Counts of Auvergne and looked over the road from Clermont to Le Puy. I think it is fitting that I leave you with the view from outside the castle walls:
I am pleased to say that all images here are my own.