Saturday, 19 November 2011

Pilgrims (lengthy) Progress!

If you read Jim's blog, loirevalleyexperiences you may have seen that we met up with Jim and Pauline and their friends yesterday afternoon to join a party visiting the Abbaye Royale Saint-Michel de Bois Aubry.

The other party were sixteen members of a local history society in L'Ile Bouchard and, true to French form, they were 'fashionably late' for the three o'clock meeting.

Our guide was the owner of the Abbaye, which has been in private hands since 2006. His knowledge and enthusiasm were faultless. As the visit was conducted in french a high level of concentration was required. This was fine at first but nearly three and a half hours later we were all finding it very difficult to keep up - not least because it had gone dark by this time!

Nothing daunted, Monsieur continued his description of every stone, nook and cranny by torchlight (thanks to one or two resourceful members of the party who chanced to be carrying torches!) We studied gargoyles, columns and carvings.

We imagined the monks of bygone times welcoming pilgrims on their way to Saint-Jaques de Compostelle. We considered the custom of washing the feet of these souls and providing food and herbal medicine for the poor and sick.

We climbed the tower, all 150 steps, with complete disregard to health and safety.


We edged past unfenced stairwells (in the dark) leading down to the crypt and we stood in buildings propped up with huge timber structures.


We followed in crocodile fashion across a field to visit the cemetery (possibly more of this from Jim at some point!)

And finally we limped back to our cars in the darkness, wiser (yes, I think so) but frozen to the bone and dying for a cup of tea! We had certainly had our money's worth and I for one am very glad we went.

I went to write a comment in the visitors book but the pen had run out..... I think it was trying to tell us something!

During the visit were given three reasons why the steeple is offset, my favourite of these was that when Christ was on the cross his head was to one side and hence offset.


Susan said...

The Christ's lolling head theory is generally applied to offset apses. Historians have recently gone off this theory, anyway. I don't think I've ever seen an offset steeple before.

Colin and Elizabeth said...

Thanks for your comments, Susan. You need to take this up with the owner of the Abbey when you visit.

Loire Valley experiences said...

Haven't gotten round to my contribution - will get there over the next couple of days once we've recovered (and thawed out) Pauline looks as if she is looking for the exit in you group pic.!

Colin and Elizabeth said...

Jim, yes! See what you mean!

Incidentally, you are captured on a number of photos...... A facial study, depicting the concept "losing the will to live"!

GaynorB said...

I left a comment on Jim's blog saying that I'd add this to our list of visits.

Having read this ..... I'm not so sure!! :0)

Colin and Elizabeth said...

Don't be put off Gaynor.... despite the penetrating cold, the darkness, the limited language skills and the hazards I thoroughly enjoyed the experience!!