Many of my experiences in France teeter on the insane if not singularly absurd, which is reason enough why I wouldn’t live anywhere else. I’m not sure if these events would happen in any other place than France – perhaps, but I like to imagine that it doesn’t.
The meeting I had last week was one of those strange but entertaining days where what would appear to be a boring hour or two, was instead, filled with some appeal. The actual content of the meeting was not interesting at all, but if not for the office’s medieval armor and weapon collection, which took up a good half of the office, I would’ve zoned out like I’d do in my high school history class. (Not history’s fault, the teacher’s!)
The medieval collection of armour, weapons and war paraphenalia was authentic, the real deal that a medieval soldier supposedly sported as he battled it out with medieval enemies. There’s a mace resting on the shelf of the radiator but I was hoping there’d be a different kind of mace; you know, the club with a spiked ball on a chain! (I know, I’m complaining!) In any case, the display was unexpected, weird and cool, just like my France.
Some 33 years after the last head rolled in France, the guillotine is back—as a cutting-edge display item in a Paris museum exhibit about crime and punishment. The former instrument of death was displayed at the request of Robert Badinter, the politician who ended the death penalty in France, who was thrilled to see his “old enemy” reduced to a museum object.
But with France currently facing overcrowded prisons and high rates of recidivism, not everyone shares Badinter’s view. “I think it’s a shame this stops at 1981,” one museum visitor told the Guardian. The 14-foot device had a long tradition in France, from the rolling heads of 18th-century revolutionaries to the final guillotine execution, in 1977, of convicted murderer-rapist Hamida Djandoubi in Marseille.
The 15th-century alabaster statues – considered treasures of medieval Europe – have never before left the city of Dijon, where they march perpetually around the base of the tomb of John the Fearless and his wife Margaret of Bavaria.
Now they can be seen walking two-by-two down a plain catwalk in the heart of the Met in the exhibition The Mourners: Medieval Tomb Sculptures from the Court of Burgundy.
Carved over a 25-year-period by Jean de la Huerta and Antoine le Moiturier, each statue represents a mourner – mostly ecclesiastical figures such as a bishop, a choirboy and rows of monks from the Carthusian order.
In their normal setting in Dijon they are only partially seen, as they are positioned between miniature Gothic arches lacing the base of the wealthy and powerful couple’s black marble tomb…
The medieval village of Cluny (in the Burgundy region of France) was declared a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1979 and remains a legendary and awe-inspiring point of interest for millions of visitors who come to France every year. Its focus is the Romanesque abbey, founded in 910 by William the Pious (the Duke of Aquitaine) when Cluny was the center of religious reform and efforts were made to restore monastic life. It was the largest church in the world until the construction of Saint Peter’s in Rome. During the French Revolution, the Wars of Religion and its aftermath, the abbey was sold, looted and operated as a quarry. Most of it was demolished and systematically dismantled until 1823. Despite this terrible turn of events, one transept of the church survived and remains standing, as well as 18th-century convent buildings and 15th-century abbots’ residences.
A recent installment has been placed near the transept. It’s a movable screen to create the illusion showcasing the rest of the church, sections that are actually no longer there but were re-created in 3D using augmented reality technology. It’s pretty cool. I took a short video of it (below):
Guided and non-guided tours also include a 10-minute, 3D film Maior Ecclesia, which inculcates a sense of the majesty and purpose of what was once the Christian world’s largest church.
More Visitor Information
Abbaye de Cluny
Palais Jean de Bourbon,
71250 Cluny France
Telephone Number: +33 (0)3 85 59 15 93
For more information:
Websites: National Monuments of France, Cluny Office of Tourism
General Admission Fee: 7 € / Free admission for children under 18 (except for groups) Open: May 2 to August 31 from 9.30 am to 6.30 pm; September 1 to April 30 from 9.30 am to noon and from 1.30 pm to 5 pm. Closed: January 1, May 1, November 1, November 11,
“1693: Champagne is said to have been invented on this day by Dom Pierre Pérignon, a French monk. It almost certainly isn’t true.
Because Dom Pérignon lived at the Benedictine abbey in Hautvillers at the time of his “invention,” the village in France’s Champagne region, not far from Èpernay, is generally regarded as the birthplace of the bubbly.
But like many historical claims, the night they invented champagne appears more …”