Friday, 29 March 2013

Floor art

The church at Rivière, not content with having a very colourful interior, also had some interesting floor art.

Fortified tower
Many of the stone slabs were carved or studded with nails to form images. Some slabs had Greek inscriptions, others in Latin. In the photo above you can just make out "Turris Fortis..." [strong or fortified tower] under a simple carving of a crenellated tower. 

A 'doggy' looking oliphant with howdah
Towers, hearts, chalices and mitres are all images connected with the church. A strong fortress, for example was often a metaphor for staunch faith. However, there was also a slightly bemused looking eagle and, even better, a super little "oliphant" or elephant with a howdah on top, which was our absolute favourite.

Slightly round-eyed looking eagle
We're guessing they are 16th or 17th century, mostly based upon the representation of the elephant. However, we have found no information whatsoever; barring one brief comment that Rivière was a small river port and sailors used to use the church and that they carved the slabs. It would be lovely to find out more.

Saturday, 23 March 2013


On the southern bank of the river Vienne about 4kms from Chinon is the small village of Rivière. Driving along towards Chinon you'd ignore it as all you mostly see are new-build houses on their little plots. The original village lies slightly further away from the road, right on the edge of the river.
Follow the labyrinth!
If you turn right and follow the familiar 'Monument Historique' sign you'll end up dead-ending at the river's edge. However, if you look to your right you'll see a small parking area surrounded by buildings and facing you is a building with a 3 bayed porch:- the entrance to the ancient church of Notre Dame. It too is completely enclosed by other buildings and if you want to get a glimpse of some of its external Romanesque architecural features you need to follow the signs along the river path and round the back.

It's been here a long, long time, as a shrine to the Virgin Mary was established on this site in the 3rd century. According to the literature it is the oldest in France. In the 4th century  St Martin of Tours, whom we've written about before, established a church here. The current building is much more recent, it "only" dates from the 10/11th century!
A neatly wrapped Lazarus
When you enter the porch the first thing you notice high up on the right-hand side wall is a wall painting dating from the 11/12th century depicting the resurrection of Lazarus. On the right side, he's all neatly bundled up in his shroud with cross-straps more like a swaddled child than a body. It has recently been restored with the help of grants; something we hope will also prove possible for the Chapelle de Tous-les-Saints in Preuilly-sur-Claise with its Danse Macabre wall paintings.

A riot of colour!

Inside the first thing that hits you is the cacophony of colours, they 'shout' at you from all sides. In 1864 one Count Galembert had the church interior re-painted in what people imagined, at the time, a medieval church would have looked like.
Barrel vaulted ceiling, 19th century painting
The ancient crypt, underneath the raised choir is made of 3 naves. Mostly white-washed it is more austere than the rest of the church although there is still some faded 19th century blue paint on the ceilings of the left-hand and right-hand side naves. Off the right-hand side nave, in a chapel lies the tomb with [rather damaged] effigies of the Seigneur de Basché, his wife and child.
Crypt with the tomb & effigy of the Seigneur de Basché
A faded hand-written notice tells the story of the Seigneurs de Basché. The were a prominant local family who were Huguenots [Calvinists] and they found that when the countryside was being ravaged by plague their minister was so terrified he fled. With no one to give the vicitims of the plague a proper burial the Seigneur turned to the near-by Catholic priest of Notre Dame and asked him for help. He agreed. The Seigneur de Basché, says the text " saw the error of his ways" and re-converted to Catholicism. He asked for his tomb to be built in the church and gifted Notre Dame with an annuity in thanks. The effigies date from 1583.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Gourmet scrounger

Yesterday morning we found that our packet of choccie biscuits had been 'attacked'. Two had been pulled out of the open packet and oh so carefully stripped of their milk chocolate covering!!

A well fed wood mouse [photo Wikimedia commons]
The chocolate biscuits [SuperU own brand, in case you were wondering] live in a deep drawer along with the bread for toast, breakfast cereal, and Mars bars [Niall's favourite, I don't like them] and some other things potentially attractive to a rodent, should one have the cheek to visit!

This visitor had a penchant for chocolate. It had had a go at the packaging of the 3-pack of Mars bars but had given up which, with an open packet of chocolate biscuits to hand, was a rather sensible move. Nothing else was nibbled or explored, just the 2 chocolate biscuits which it had pulled out of the packet. The visitor had, oh so carefully, scraped off the chocolate leaving the biscuit base pretty much intact. In fact it looked just like it would have done had one of us taken a knife and scraped it off ourselves.
Our visitor before going back to the woods
We phoned our friends Tim & Pauline at Aigronne Valley Wildlife and described the damage. They are pretty knowledgeable about wildlife. We thought it odd that only the chocolate had been eaten and wondered if a particular type of wee beastie had a weakness for chocolate [we know dogs love it and it is poisonous to them]. 

'No specific species' came the reply, but they kindly offered to lend us a humane trap so that we could remove our visitor to a more appropriate place -- outside, well away from the house! They recently blogged about a rat with a taste for their potatoes! We certainly do get wildlife with odd tastes along the Aigronne Valley! Yesterday afternoon I duly popped over to borrow the trap and Tim had a look at the evidence and found tiny teeth marks on the underside of the biscuits where the visitor had dragged them out of the open packet.

This morning we found the trap inhabited and two large eyes peering up at us and all the chocolate biscuit used to bait the trap consumed. As far as we can tell, our visitor looks to be a wood mouse it turns out to be a yellow-necked mouse [thank you Tim for identifying it]. He/she is now back in the woods where he/she belongs. The humane trap has been re-set just to make sure Mr or Mrs Mouse didn't tell a friend!

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Spring - but not as we know it!

It's cold and there's a north wind. Just checked the thermometer outside the kitchen door and it read 3C! In general March treats us better. However, having seen the arctic scenes in Normandie and the Pas-de-Calais on the TF1 news last night we aren't complaining!
Sweet violet
We didn't get any snow, bar the odd flurry, but it did drop down to -5C last night. When I put more bird food out this morning the feathery thug-lets more or less swooped on it while I was still standing there. The daffodils and cowslips were all drooping this morning as a result of the frost. Now, by the afternoon, they have recovered somewhat, but the yellow crocuses near the bird feeders have given up the ghost. They were past their very best and I suppose the frost delivered the killer blow.
Japanese quince
Some things are a bit more pig-headed and have decided to go ahead; very much in the spirit of "we darned well will flower"!! The tiny sweet violets [viola odorata] which pop up every year on the south side of the house have appeared, though there's too much wind right now to catch their delicate perfume. The Japanese quince [Chaenomeles, no idea which one] is beginning to flower too.
Flowering Japanese quince against a [cold!] blue sky
We've got the blue skies and the sunshine. Now all we need is some milder temperatures!

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Ruins on a ridge

Tucked away on a ridge not far from Avon-les-Roches is a lieu-dit called Les Roches Tranchelion. Not that we knew this at the time.

We were on the D21 coming from Chinon and heading towards the very pretty village of Crissay-sur-Manse when we spotted, away in the distance, what looked like the tip of a ruin on a ridge. On a whim we took the next wee road which branched off to the left and which seemed to head in the right direction. With a few meanders it duly took us to the brow of a hill which produced the following panorama:
Les Roches Tranchelion
There were not one but two ruins on the ridge, and it turned out both ruins had interesting stories to tell! On the right is the collegiate church of Sainte-Marie-des-Roches-Tranchelion and on the left - harder to see- is what little remans of the Chateau des Roches. The vista reminded us of the way you can almost "trip over" ruined abbeys such as Rievaulx in Yorkshire.

We dropped down into the little valley below the ruins and apart from a sign telling us that this was Les Roches Tranchelion and a small wooden randonnée signpost saying 'eglise' there was no information to be had. Back home we did some digging....

The 'Collégiale Sainte-Marie-des-Roches-Tranchelion', to give it its proper name, was built in 1524 for a college of 5 canons by one Lancelot de La Touche, 'Panetier du Roi' or pantler to the King. This was the court officer in charge of the supplies of bread and the pantry, although by this time the office would have probably been largely ceremonial with more menial officials taking on the actual tasks. He was the seigneur of the Chateau des Roches at the time.

Seemingly, the 'collegiale' is one a the few examples which remain in the Touraine of Renaissance religious architecture. Others include la chapelle de Champigny-sur-Veude, Rigny-Ussé and the church at Montrésor, which has some lovely stained glass windows.

Collegiale Sainte-Marie-des-Roches-Tranchelion
The 'collegiale' has huge windows which are typical of the Flamboyant style [a late form of medieval gothic architecture] which, when they were filled with their original glass, would have allowed a kaleidoscope of light and colour to enter the building. The west front also clearly shows elements such as columns and roundels which are typical of the Renaissance.***
The 'collegiale' survived up to the Revolution and, though then empty, remained intact for some time afterwards, but by 1855 the church was in ruins.

According to a 19th century antiquarian source there is a legend associated with the 'collegiale'. History records that in 1559 King Henri II held a jousting tournament in the Place des Vosges, Paris to celebrate the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis. Henri II's opponent in the tournament was Gabriel de Montgomery, captain of his Scottish Guard. Unfortunately during the encounter Gabriel fatally wounded the king. The legend has it that Gabriel de Montgomery, in panic at what had occured, fled to Les Roches Tranchelion.The basis for this legend is the fact that Gabriel was married to Isabeau de La Touche, daughter of the same Lancelot de La Touche who built the 'collegiale'. The legend then goes on to suggest that it was this tragedy of involuntary regicide by his son-in-law that caused Lancelot to sell the chateau later in the same year [1559].
Ruins of Chateau des Roches
The chateau is older. It was built by Guillaume de Tranchelion in 1420. He was the Seigneur de Palluau. Ken, on his blog Living the life in Saint-Aignan has written about Palluau-sur-Indre. Guillaume de Tranchelion was quite a 'big cheese' at court; so much so that two kings, Charles VII and Louis XI, are known to have sojourned at the Chateau des Roches between 1449 and 1461. It was convenient stop on the way to/from Chinon.
King Charles VII by Jean Fouquet - not a pretty boy!
In 1449 King Charles VII [he, whose reign is so linked with Joan of Arc] summoned his 'Conseil du Royaume' [great coucil] to convene at the Chateau des Roches. It was at this council that the decision was taken to re-start the war against the English with the aim of finally driving them out of their remainng French holdings and by 1453 the English had lost all their French territory with the exception of the Pale of Calais. However, despite being such a 'big player' in the second half of the 15th century it seems that the castle had already fallen into a ruinous state by the late 17th, well before the Revolution.

What a lot of history for two relatively little bits of ruin on a ridge!


***If you'd like to see more photos of the 'collegiale' go to the Avon Patrimoine blog [in French] set up by an association of Avon-les-Roches inhabitants.

Monday, 4 March 2013

The well trained plant

Recently we drove down to a village called Chalais not far from Belarbre in the departement next door - Indre. We went to see the church as we'd read it was worth visiting.

A well trained climber!
While in Chalais, a tiny village with a small green round the church, we spotted this simple but effective method of getting your trailing plants to do what you want: tie a rock to the shoot or branch you want to cascade over the wall and let gravity do the rest!
Chalais church
Sadly the church was shut -- recently we've been caught out by this a few times. Our village church is always open, so we've not really got the mind-set that churches might be closed. However, as it has now happened a couple of times we are more aware of the possibility of it occuring. Unfortunately, it can be impossible to find out in advance whether a particular church is open or shut so going on a visit remains a gamble!