Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Limoux Day 2

Today we went off to explore Limoux a little more on foot.

Walking to the Basilica of Our Lady of Marceille a church in Southern Gothic ( XIVth and XV th  centuries) style dedicated to Mary.Registered as a historic monument since 1948.

The occupation of the area is ancient it has tools discovered that are of the Middle Palaeolithic , oven, well preserved, the Vérazien ( Neolithic , III thmillennium BC. ). Also objects of the age Of bronze .

The church appears in the texts in 1011 associated with the villa of Flassian, and more definitely in 1137 . The Black Madonna, wooden statue which is venerated in the sanctuary is dated XI th  century . The construction of the current building was undertaken at the beginning of XIV th  century, its plan has a single nave. Until the 17th  century , the task of welcoming pilgrims was left to hermits. However, François Fouquet , when he was appointed archbishop of Narbonne, thought of entrusting the Doctrinaires with the conduct of a seminary and a house of missionaries; he obtained from the consuls of Limoux to install them at Notre-Dame de Marceille. This change was carried out by his successor, Pierre de Bonzi, in 1674, when he placed two priests of the Christian doctrine in charge of receiving pilgrims and ecclesiastics in spiritual retreat.

This squirrel welcomed us as we walked up the path to the well as we approached the church.

A miraculous spring is located down the path to the side of the church. It is visited by pilgrimages in September. Here the waters are reported to heal especially eye complaints so I stood in the waters which were very cold for a few minutes, may I be blessed with healing of my eyes or blessings on the surgery that I will have.

This statue is in a niche above the waters of the shrine.

Out the front of the church in the grounds this statue can be found with another behind further into the park of Saint Vincent de Paul. 

Just opposite the front door of the church is this statue of Anne and Mary.

The entrance to the building is from the south, in the middle of the nave completed in 1488 (and restored in 1863 ), is a statue of the Mother, child and two angels.

The church was elevated to the rank of minor basilica on 5 February 1905. In October 2007, while the church was under construction, the Black Madonna was decapitated, her head and coat were stolen. She displays some remarkable details. The most striking aspect is Her face, with an enigmatic smile and eyes that are wide open, with dark pupils; they seem to look right at you! According to an old inscription, it stated that he “who sees the statue smiling at him, is certain to obtain the grace which he came to beseech”.

Another mystery about Her is the symbolic layers of meaning, although She is black, the child Jesus is not being white.  One theory is that this difference expresses how the Black Madonna – whose darkness symbolizes the obscure, the underground – was the source of a light, solar child. Darkness gives birth to light. This is a well-known pagan symbol that is found in various places where gods or goddesses were believed to have been born in a cave. Or in megalithic passage tombs, such as Newgrange in Ireland, where the sun penetrates the darkness on the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. With the presence of an ancient megalithic complex on this site, perhaps the light and dark of the two elements of the statue is a subtle hint of that same message. 

The church of Notre-Dame de Marceille is typical of the southern Gothic style: it has only one nave with five bays. Initially covered with a framework resting on diaphragm arches, it was vaulted in 1783 . Two chapels of square planes open in the first bay, the one on the left sheltering the Black Madonna; It also contains a picture painted in 1689, offered in ex voto following the fire that ravaged Limoux in September 1685.

We left the church and walked back into town stopping at the Railway Station Restaurant for lunch and then walking on to see the Eglise de L’Assumption. 

The Eglise de L’Assumption was built in the late 19th century and has a particular style that gives it a different look and charm. The church houses a statue of the Lady of the Rosary dating back more than 750 years. The façade was restored in 2008 during the 19th edition of Toques and Clochers which took place on 15th March and the auction of the Chardonnay oak barrels on 16th March.

There were no remarkable stain glass windows around the walls as in other churches however in the roof over the altar was this amazing window with the most extraordinary woodwork recess to hold the window. The photos do not show just how beautiful this was.

Just a few 100mtrs away was the Musee of Automates, in this museum of such a difference you discover more than one hundred automatons "a mechanical pantomime, in a series of scenes where characters inspired by tales and myths, from the Venetian carnival to the other phantasmagoras" come to life. At the end you can even visit the creative workshop. Such an amazing work now run by the daughter and son in law of the creators. 

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Limoux Day 1

Today Antoine picked us up in Carcassonne for the last time and took us to Mirepoix to see the weekly market and then drive us on to Limoux.

At the heart of Mirepoix is one of the finest surviving arcaded market squares - Les Couverts- in France. The square is bordered by houses dating from the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries painted in pastel shades, admire the woodwork involved in these houses, some have fascinating detail.

The mediaeval Maison des Consuls (council house) has rafter-ends carved with dozens of images of animals and monsters, and caricatures of mediaeval professions and social groups.

On the square is the cathedral of St-Maurice it has the second widest Gothic arch in Europe (after Gerona in Spain). The foundation stone was laid by Jean de Lévis on the 6th May 1298. Construction continued, with interruptions, over the next six centuries. The cathedral was restored in 1858 and 1859 by Prosper Mérimée, and Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. The labyrinth in the crypt is no longer open to visitors – only a wall plaque notes its presence, however look on the floor for labyrinth tiles.

The Chapel Saint Virgin

Chapel of Saint Anne

Chapel of Notre Dame De Lourdes 

Once we were in Limoux we walked into the city centre to have some lunch, and on a Monday here everything is closed. So we found something to eat and walked along the river had an icecream and then went into the Church of St. Martin which dates from the xii th  century but has undergone over the centuries, significant transformations. The porch and the nave are Romanesque, Gothic bell tower ( xvi th  century) was built on the old Romanesque square tower ( xi th  century), the canopy carved ( xviii th  century) and modern stained glass windows give it a Special cachet. The restoration of the 

Organs dates back to 1994. The renovation of the facade was made possible in 1993 thanks to the operation "Toques et Clochers" thanks to the auction of Chardonnay barrels held every year for the weekend Palm by Cave du Sieur d'Arques.

Limoux has very grand churches. St Martin’s church already existed in 982, and in 1263 the nuns of Prouilhe undertook to have it enlarged. When the fortified bridge was built in XIVth century new areas of the church were built, and it was renovated at the end of the XIXth century. 

High on each side wall of the nave (which is 75m long) there are seven Star of David windows, perhaps reminiscent of a Jewish community in the south of France long ago. 

The Chapel of Sainte Lucie

The Chapel of the Virgin

The most intriguing windows are at the end of the nave, where one set of three tall windows tell a story about women.

The middle window shows Jesus and Mary Magdalene crowned and dressed identically, sitting on thrones. Beneath them there are many women with halos, gathering together. The side windows are also populated by women with halos, spiritually advanced women, initiates, wise women. The only men who appear are huddled together whispering, attacking the women, either with spear or with fire. Could this be a story about women being demoted from the equal position in which Jesus recognised them? It ties in well with one legend, of Mary Magdalene and her friends coming to the south of France from Jerusalem, and teaching the same teachings as Jesus. These were not acceptable to the male hierarchy of the church, so over the centuries the heresies that have arisen in this region were fiercely eliminated … for example the Cathars. The Inquisition helped to eliminate any wrong thinking amongst the population. However today many people here in the Languedoc still identify themselves as Cathars. And these curious and hopeful signs and symbols still exist in their churches. 

The Chapel of Sainte Germaine

The Chapel of Sainte Francois Xavier

Chapel of Sainte Catherine D’Älexandrie

Chapel of Notre Dame de Sept Douleurs

Chapel of Sainte Anne