Showing posts with label villages. Show all posts
Showing posts with label villages. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Dodgy bridge

I cross the Isère several times a week by means of this bridge, between Choranche and St-Marcellin, which dates from around 1953.

The bridge is located alongside a small and ancient village named La Sône (derived from the Latin expression for "sonorous water"), which I mentioned in my blog post of 30 June 2009 entitled Weaving machines [display]. Here's another view of the bridge, photographed from the café in the middle of La Sône.

A week or so ago, the bridge was closed for vehicular traffic, for an unspecified period of time. The red and white barrier that you can see in the above photo indicates the place at which an unexpected engineering mishap occurred. Look closely at the following photo, and compare the levels of the road on either side of the concrete pylon.

There's a difference in levels of about a dozen centimeters due to a curious collapse of the main span at that point.

The following closeup photo zooms in on the precise spot where a corner of the span appears to have suddenly dropped.

This incident must have scared shit out of the first driver who hit the bump. I wonder if he stopped to see what had happened, or whether he put his foot down on the accelerator to get the hell off the bridge for fear it might fall into the river. If ever his encounter with the bump had left him with a split second for philosophizing, he might have realized that he was face-to-face with what you could call an existential decision.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ancient house for sale

In the region where I live, one of the most interesting places is the charming medieval village of Saint-Antoine l'Abbaye.

In the Middle Ages, a knight returned here with a treasure from Constantinople: the relics of the 4th-century Egyptian hermit Saint Anthony, who is generally considered as the inventor of monasticism. The bones of a major saint, in those days, were immensely valuable, since their presence in a place could attract hordes of pilgrims: a permanent source of prosperity. In the village that now bears the saint's name, a great church was erected to house the relics.

Recently, I was contacted by a female friend of a friend who asked me whether I would be prepared to build a website aimed at selling her ancient house in this village, whose façade is seen here:

I believe that the kind of individuals interested in purchasing such an exceptional place (maybe from outside France) would necessarily be enthusiasts of history and ancient buildings. So, I put a certain accent on that aspect of the situation in the website that I've just completed... which you can visit by clicking on the above image.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Village festival

A month ago, I wrote a post about the pagan Plowmen's Festival in the nearby village of St-Jean-en-Royans. [Click here to see this post.] Last weekend, in the neighboring village of St-Laurent-en-Royans, there was a similar annual event known as the Reinage. Few French people understand this curious term. It sounds like the French word reine, which means "queen". So, people imagine that the word reinage simply designates a village festival during which a queen is elected... much like the annual Jacaranda Queen in my native Grafton. This is almost true, but not quite. In fact, the origin of reinage is the Latin term regalis (royal). It's not a purely feminine affair. In pagan times, both a "king" and a "queen", surrounded by "acolytes", were elevated to a brief state of glory in the village. It's not very clear why these fleeting honors were bestowed upon certain adolescents in the community, but it probably had something to do with the celebrated concepts of youth, fertility and (to call a spade a spade) sex, if not debauchery.

In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, when the Roman Church got around to edulcorating such pagan rites, the reinage concept was dealt with in a typically efficient religious style. The youthful "king", "queen" and their "court" were named either through merit, or because their parents had paid the Church for this privilege, much like present-day members of the aristocracy financing the coming-out of their daughters at balls for débutantes. Then these charming adolescents were expected to parade around the village collecting money, in the style of today's kids who participate in fund-raising days for charities. Normally, it was planned that this money should find its way up into the coffers of the Church, where it would be used for all kinds of noble purposes. But that's where things often got screwed up. The randy kids, with their hot grubby hands full of filthy lucre, would often redirect a tiny portion of their wealth to the purchase of liquor, just to cool off and sooth themselves after all their regal collecting efforts. And it could happen that things would get out of hand, and the reinage could be transformed into its archaic debauchery.

Be that as it may, at St-Laurent-en-Royans last Sunday, everything was sedate and ecclesiastically correct. The above float was manned by inmates from a local mental asylum. Initially, I thought that the two personages were Caesar and Cleopatra, but I wouldn't swear to that. It's a fact that the gentleman in the male role would often rise from his throne, while I was trying to photograph him, and hurl out "Ave Caesar!" As for his female companion, she was simply thrilled to realize that an unknown guy with a Nikon was intent upon photographing her. Incidentally, my former neighbor Bob, who works in this institution, was dressed for the Reinage parade as a Roman centurion. This was fine, since Bob, in real life, is a massive former rugby champion.

My daughter (who knows much more about France than I do, primarily because she's French) informed me that, nowadays, French youth don't actually give a screw about the cultural references I've brought into the present article (pagan rituals, Christianization, etc). Manya says they were brought up on three cultural pillars, which happen to be comic-strip characters: Astérix and Obélix, Lucky Luke and Tintin. Really, somebody should make me a king or a crazy emperor for a weekend, so that I can catch up on culture...