Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Sainte Clothilde in the Cold...


The Cathedral Notre-Dame naturally dominates the urban landscape of Reims and its imposing form can still be seen from the distance much as it has since its construction in the 13th century, despite the intrusion of modern buildings. Another contender here is the relatively 'recent' edifice of  Basilica of Saint Clothilde (Basilique Sainte-Clothilde), built at the very end of the 19th century.


Unfortunately, most of the dramatic views of Sainte Clothilde are to be seen from the motorway so I have to content myself with photos from a far greater proximity. These look stark and imposing during the winter months; the summer hides everything behind leafy trees. The day I visited, the skies were dark and damp, the temperatures freezing and the doors firmly locked so I never managed to see the interior of the basilica.


What I like the most is the slightly oriental 'feel' that emerges from the mass, from certain angles. In fact, that was indeed intentional on the part of the architect resposible for its design.


Sainte Clothilde was conceived in 1896 as a commemorative church to mark the forteenth centenary of the baptism of Clovis, the great historical figure as first Christian king of the Franc kingdom. His conversion to Christianity is said to be due to the influence of his wife, Clothilde, hence the name of the basilica we see today.


It was also designed to house a reliquary offering an impressive collection of items of religious significance, 'les reliques', in the crypt. These I have yet to see, though this will be more out of curiosity than any religious feeling on my part. There are some two thousand Relics!


Cardinal Langénieux, archibishop of Reims, ordered the construction of an edifice that would be dedicated to the saints of France; Sainte Clothilde.



The Rémois, Alphonse Gosset (1835-1914) took on the task of designing Sainte Clothilde. Gosset was a well- established  architect, with the creation of the Grand Théâtre de Reims, the grounds of the champagne house Pommery and the workers' districts of the city  to his name.


The neo-byzantine style was employed and the basilica is based on the form of a Greek cross. The stature is imposing.


Drawing inspiration from his research work published in 1877, Les Coupoles d'Oriént et d'Occident, Gosset makes references to Hagia Sophia of Constantinople, the Basilica of Saint Peter in Rome and the church of Saint Augustin in Paris.


The rather detailed brick structure looks very sober from a distance and the angular forms of the towers are set off by the rounded forms of the domed roofs. At dusk, the skyline is quite magical! In the summer, the atmosphere is lively and the open-air Sunday market of Quartier Sainte Anne held around the basilica brings another feel to the site all year round.


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Upside and Downside of Crochet


While you'd usually make a vague effort to tackle the less appealing parts of crochet as you go along on your W.I.P (Work In Progress), when not sure where the work is going, or taking you, these get put off to a later date... This has its upside - overall speed and ease of 'frogging' ie ripping out when there is an aesthetic/technical problem. The downside of this delay tactic probably speaks for itself - and brings a whole host of other aesthetic/technical problems...


Monday, May 29, 2017

Poppies to remember by....



Over the past week, pockets of poppies have appeared everywhere, from the edges of fields and vineyards, to the scrappiest of building sites and scruffiest of wasteland. Whatever the location, the image of these flowers always seems to have the same visual impact.


I saw these near the fast lane of a dual carriage way, just in front of the ugly concrete mass of a bridge which has nevertheless been decorated with the head of the Smiling Angel (L'Ange au Sourire). The original sculpture became a symbol of the suffering of France during the Great War, when the cathedral of Reims was victim to the violence of war. During the bombing of the city, the angel was decapitated, the head duly fell from the façade of the edifice and shattered, thus marking "French culture destroyed by barbarity". Despite this, the angel was pieced together and just as the cathedral itself, emerged again, in phoenix fashion, from the flames and destruction, its enigmatic smile intact.


There was very little to smile about this week as yet another terrorist attack was carried out, managing to surpass others in sheer brutality by targeting the youngest civilians. Lives lost before they have even been lived. This was Manchester, but it could have been any other worn-torn country, for whatever the land it falls on, blood is still blood. Tears are still tears. And so the little poppies that emerged over the past few days seem all the more symbolic this time, ever more the image of those fallen. Here, however, the victims, as civilians, never signed up for this war, nor were they conscripted.


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Pretty Feline in Pink....




Another month racing by; time-management failing dismally, punctuated by the weirdest extremes of temperature! However, here's one feline looking suitably pretty-in-pink, yet snooty/snaky, curled up in the sunshine on a shawl that I brought back from the Witches' Market (El Mercado de las Brujas) in La Paz, Bolivia - a long time ago now.


Strange to think of the origins of objects - preferably old and/or second-hand - that end up becoming part of the fabric of our everyday lives, and rather sad when we no longer notice them as we should...


Here are some of the flowers I pass by, on my usual way to work. I always keep an eye out for the changing plants in these beds, set next to the tram stop, and try not to just take them for granted as I race on. These looked all the more delicate today, with their ruffled petals and raindrops.


With their bold pink colour, the rosebushes along the canal have likewise come into flower, so much so that it is hard to remember the biting cold period when we actually had to break the ice on the canal when rowing!


Sunday, April 30, 2017

A Blessing of Unicorns...


The month has run out on me, so no time to write anything to accompany these beautiful, beguiling beasts - the mythical unicorn - symbol of purity, incarnation of Christ. Or so the legends go.
This fine specimen is in the Palais du Tau in Reims, the Palace of the Archbishop, in which the kings of France resided before their coronation in the cathedral Notre-Dame de Reims.


In fact, the sculpture dates from the 19th century, part of Eugène Viollet-le-Duc's restoration project of Medieval buildings and is set alongside the customary lion figure. The relationship between these two noble creatures has been highlighted in many myths, the most famous of which is surely the Lady and the Unicorn in the Musée de Cluny (Paris). The unicorn here in the Palais du Tau no longer has its spiralling horn but assumes the standard 'begging-dog' position. As for the regal lion, he seemed more mealy-mouthed than majestic, but nevermind!


The vast tapestries that cover the walls of the Palais du Tau are from the 16th century. These are full of intricate detail with symbolic meaning that is largely lost on us today, but are well worth discovering. Although we probably cannot really relate to the piety of the menfolk, the quirky expressions of even the humblest of the animals displayed are still revelant today. None of us have had the privilege of actually seeing a 'blessing' of unicorns, but how magical is that term of venery? That led me to look up other, equally unusual terms for animal groupings and I was not disappointed:

A pitying of turtle doves, a phalanx of storks, a parliament of rooks, a wisdom of wombats, a scream of swifts, a scurry of squirrels, a scourge of mosquitoes, a cackle of hyenas, a convocation of eagles, a crash of rhinoceroses, a charm of magpies, a kit of pigeons, a lamentation of swans, a scold of jays, a skulk of foxes, a shrewdness of apes, a flight of swallows, a flamboyance of flamingoes, an army of frogs, a murmuration of starlings, a sloth of bears, a mess of iguanas, an unkindness of ravens, a gaze of raccoons, a bellowing of bullfinches, a bouquet of pheasants, a barrel of monkeys, a labour of moles, an ostentation of peacocks, a pandemonium of parrots, a puddling of mallards, a pounce of cats, a fluther of jellyfish, a bloat of hippopotamuses, a business of ferrets....
and the list goes on....

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Election Day....


Screaming point here - Election Day in France. It's anybody's bet who will win this first race, but I think that whichever two do ride home, there will be a lot of losers too and not necessarily the also-ran candidates. As many people keep their cards very, very close to their chest, despite talking politics non-stop, there is no real way of knowing how things will turn out until the results are announced. That moment might well prove to be explosive and so everyone will lose out as the notions of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité are put to the test, now and then for the final round in May.

Right, I'm off to vote!


The day after. Mixed opinions all around, but rather somber all in all...


Floral Starry Night....

Night Sky Petunia
True wilderness is short on the ground in a city, even more so when you live on the fifth floor of a block of flats. Nevertheless, glimpses of the weird and wonderful of Nature are still to be found, even if not strictly speaking very 'natural'.


Cue in the many cultivars that I love to gaze at in the local garden centre and the latest find that really took my breath away.... The Night Sky Petunia. The paint-splash petals truly resemble the stars up in the firmament above and underline how nature is able to replicate itself, albeit with a little help in this case.


I was not the only one to be amazed by the Night Sky; when I returned, they had all gone!


However, the other flowering plants were still there to be admired, revealing their often subtle magic.


All those veined petals, feathery leaves, tiny hairs and downy layers - often barely visisble at a distance.


Some the beauty is pure, obvious elegance....


Some is just plain simplicity...


Or just bright and jaunty...


Well, as a tenuous (and rather depressing) link to starry skies, here's Don McLean's Vincent.


But then, back to these beauties...


I just can't take my eyes off these! I might well have to go back to the garden centre and actually buy a pot this time...