France May 2016 – Fréjus

As well as hanging around at the golf club, we paid a visit to Fréjus. The town was created as a seaside resort by the Romans, but also thrived as a medieval town.

There are various Roman bits and pieces, a couple of nice churches and a cathedral. Well worth a visit if you’re in the area.

This sundial outside the cathedral was nice, however…

…the cloister was beautiful.

Its wooden ceiling is covered with thousands of fantastic beasts…

…and scenes from daily life…

painted between 1350 and 1360.

If that wasn’t fabulous enough, the cathedral also has a 5thC baptistery.

Wandering around the town, there’s lots of lovely…

…door furniture…

…ranging…

…from the Romans…

…to odd.

Smurf flavoured ice-cream, there has to be wrong, surely?

We were reminded of this mournful dog…

…when we met this one at lunchtime. She begrudged us every mouthful!

Canterbury January 2016 – The Cathedral

Saturday found us in Canterbury on a lovely, clear day. The Boy had never been to the cathedral, so we popped in to have a look. You can find lots and lots of amazing snaps online, so here are just a few things that caught my eye.

I’ve always loved this figure of Christ on the gatehouse to the cathedral precinct.

I’m not sure what these creatures are on one of the cathedral doorways, but I like them.

This candle burns on the spot where St Thomas a Becket’s shrine was, until it was destroyed on the orders of Henry VIII., who also ‘unsainted’ him for good measure.

I was rather taken by the altar front…

…and restored painting.

Intrigued by this weekly service...

…and left wondering how many memorials record death by ‘an assassin’?

Milan 2015 – The Duomo

Milan cathedral

…has a very strict dress code…

…and a beautiful floor.

At the moment it’s home to an exhibition by the sculptor Tony Cragg

This is St Bartholomew who was flayed alive. A number of people were taking selfies in front of him…each to their own I guess.

Up on the roof we were able to see this lady…

…this beast and his pal.

The boy fits in quite well!

The stone work is absolutely lovely…

…so delicate…

…and clearly takes a lot of upkeep.

I found these steps rather scary.

The majority of the exhibition was up on the cathedral terraces.

Watching them being installed must be quite something!

It really is quite magical up there.

Burgundy 2014 (Le Retour) – Auxerre

I few year ago we had a lovely day in Auxerre (according to the guidebook you pronounce it ‘Aus-air’. This caused incomprehension in locals. Oh, ‘OX-air they said). I’ve had a yearning to go back every since. Sadly, it was a horrid, grey day, and once it started raining we hightailed back home.

We had a look round the Abbey of Staint-Germain

…which has an amazing organ…

…which looks like it’s about to open fire on the congregation.

The XIth C crypt in the cathedral of St. Étienne houses the remains of the former Romanesque cathedral.

The paintings include is scene of Christ-Horseman…

…the rider ‘Faithful and True’…

…on a white horse (Apoc. 19:11-16).

Despite rushing through the rain, we had time to notice some little details. A wooden carving above a shop…

…the remains of a statue…

…and a very perplexing piece of signage.

Burgundy 2014 (Le Retour) – Bourges

Another new place for us this trip, was to Bourges, out of the Nièvre into the Cher…

…it’s twined with Peterborough, who have the best of it methinks.

I loved this sundial…

…I wasn’t quite sure how to read it.

The cathedral is very impressive…

…it’s the earliest example of High Gothic in the 13th C.

The main phase of construction was contemporaneous with Chartes.

I loved all the intricate details…

…especially this wooden door.

There was vaulting…

nice doorways…

…and lovely, lovely stained glass.

This hell mouth was rather fun…

…and I loved these jaunty devils.

The astronomical clock was restored with funds provided by EDF…

 …when André was on the donations committee.

This is the door to the Sacristy.

Sadly, the Boy wasn’t feeling very well, so we didn’t have much more time in the city. However, we did see this lovely post office.

That’s more like it, isn’t it Virginia?

France 2013(2) – Laon

Rather than just bombing up the motorway back to Calais, we broke our journey in Laon, which was the Carolingian capital of France.

The main part of the town was bombed to bits during WWII…

…but the medieval centre on top of the hill came out mostly unscathed.

The present cathedral dates from 12th and early 13th centuries, and is absolutely stunning.

The stonemasons became so fond of the oxen who carried the stone, that they added them to the tower.

There are also lots of other fun details…

…but the interior is absolutely breathtaking.

The lantern under the tower is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen…

…the stained glass is stunning.

The font dates from the 8th or 9th century…

…and has the  most amazing patterns and heads.

I loved the remains of this painting. Imagine what the cathedral must have looked like when it was all painted.

This panel shows the Visitation, the meeting of Mary and Elizabeth, John the Baptist’s mother when they are both pregnant. When John senses Jesus presence, he leaps in the womb. I’m also very moved by this story.

I really don’t have the words…

…or the pictures…

…to convey how beautiful it is.

What a fantastic name for an eatery!

I’m sure we’ll be back.

France 2013(2) – Paray-le-Monial

Avoiding the rain clouds, via a very strange SatNav route, we made our way to Paray-le-Monial. It’s home to the 12th century basilica. It was a daughter church to the great abbey at Cluny.

The basilica was originally dedicated to the Virgin Mary, but was rededicated to the Sacred Heart.

It’s a HUGE pilgrimage site, but I must admit that I found the church to be over-manicured, and curiously soulless.

Inside the church, things have highly restored, but outside things look a little more weathered…

…and you can get a feel of the character of place. It gives rise to an interesting debate about restoration. I’m sure that the interior is probably very close to how it was when it was built, but if returning it to that state removes its soul?

The exterior reminded me of the basilicas we saw in Ravenna.

There is the lovely St Nicholas tower…

….and the fantastic Hotel-de-Ville.

I rather liked this sturdy warrior ( are those breasts under the breastplate?)…

…and these little critters.

I’d like a little ‘pencil’ tower like this too.

France 2013(2) – Troyes

I have been a fortunate bunny on the holiday front this year, as a couple of weeks ago we headed off to my beloved Burgundy for the second time this year. On the way we spent a night (and a morning) in Troyes, and man I’m glad we did.

It’s a jewel of a place….

…with lots of half-timbered houses…

…wonderful public art (and a FABULOUS modern art museum)…

glorious cathedral

…quite the best municipal planters I’ve ever seen (inspired by Villandry?)…

…and dangerous women.