Thursday, December 13, 2018

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Monday, June 08, 2015

Car-Dan orientation crossing borders. Two trips to France; this one on to Spain.

Orientation. France to Spain this time. The Car-Dan car this time.

I.  Car-Dan, our ersatz duo tour company that exists in our own minds,  began by focusing on one country, one trip.  Now, we cross borders at will. As to France, this post represents the conclusion of our second road trip in France, each finding different destinations.  In navigating here, find our earliest ventures at the first set of posts:  Paris, the Somme, Normandy, the Loire, and Central France to Dijon, and back to Paris.

II.  This trip:  we began in Barcelona, Spain, drove through Catalonia through the Principality of Andorra and out the other side to France:  including and not limited to Cathar country, Montsegur, Carcassonne, Beziers, Aigues Mortes,  Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, Saintes Gilles, Arles, Avignon, Albi, La Couvertoirade, Toulouse, Auch, Pau, Lourdes, and to Saint-Pied-de-Port and back to Spain at Roncesvalles.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Gateway to Roncesvalles, A Route on Way of Saint James. Modern Scallop Shell Marker

Saint Jean Pied de Port. Basque country.  Distinctive deep-red shutters, peaked roofs, white stucco. 

This strategic medieval area has served interests of the military, traders, pilgrims on the way to Santiago de Compostela in Spain (Way of Saint James), invaders and defenders -- Christians and Saracens and others in that centuries-earlier conflict. A cluster settlement or village known as Ugange appears in the 11th Century, more identifiable in the 12th Century. Itdeclined when a new lower town with walls at the river developed in the 13th-14th Centuries, St. Jean Pied de Port. Pied de Port. At the foot of the port?

Most houses angle toward the sun, south; with no windows on the north side, to keep heat in and protect against Atlantic or other winds.  See  The bottom level may still have cart-accommodating doors, as animals and farm equipment were housed there, as well as some of the bedrooms and the kitchen.  Upper stories came later, and offer more bedrooms.  Several generations traditionally lived together.

Basques enjoy a unique history, and language, and DNA --see site.  They have little interest in being absorbed by the larger government around, like Spain or France.   Their flag is red and white with green; this symbolizes their rejection of the French flag colors, red white and blue.

Basque houses like this are usually no older than the 16th century. See the Pyrenees Atlantiques site for regional differences.

St . Jean Pied de Port offers both residences and businesses on the river.

There at center, slightly left, on the road, is a pilgrim, large brimmed hat, staff.  Click to enlarge to X-Large.  This lady has 754 km or some 468 miles to go to Santiago de Compostela.

Squint to see her, little figure with floppy hat, staff, following the scallop shell signs found in many forms over Europe in adjoining countries, and further.

It was located on the sidewalk itself.  The yellow on blue, modern shape scallop shell, represent the European Union.  See  The shell itself represents the scallops covering the body of St. James, after his beheading in 44AD in Jerusalem, and his disciples sending the body by ship to the Iberian peninsula, shipwreck, body recovered so covered, and other explanations, see site.

Roncesvalles or Roncevaux:  the area of battle in 778 AD between the Saracens and the Christian Roland and his army, the rear guard for Charlemagne's forces.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Lourdes. Institutional makeover. The female principle overcome.

Lourdes. Mary, appearing to Bernadette. A tale of competing dogmas, and a child hidden away.

The story of a saint kept from her own healing. Not allowed to heal herself.
Lourdes and Doctrinal Bootstrap. A convenient affirmation of new dogma.

A child put in a convent and hidden away. Why?
Is the institution enacting its own agenda? The angle fits.

1. Background.  To believers, Saint Bernadette's story is roughly this: Mary Mother of Jesus., appeared 18 times in 1858 to one Bernadette Soubirous, a poor and asthmatic child, a miller's daughter, at Massabielle, near Lourdes.  A new doctrine, "Immaculate Conception," had just been established in 1854.  Mary declared to Bernadette to say the Rosary and drink the water, do penance, and stated -- naming the new doctrine -- that she, Mary was the "Immaculate Conception."

Bernadette, an illiterate girl who had no idea what the Immaculate Conception was, lived from 1844-1879. She was hidden away in a convent, but ultimately beatified in 1925, canonized in 1933, although she herself is attributed with no miracles healing others, but in seeing Mary and finding the spring whose waters appeared to be healing others.

1.1  Ask: What is the role of institutional timing, in the dogma itself, in finding this sudden "affirmation," in the life and institutional disposal of Bernadette?

The "Immaculate Conception."  This was only the latest, at the time, of many church doctrinal adoptions, and it had been instituted just a few years before, in 1854.  See it as Doctrine #23 at this Timeline of Roman Catholicism, at

2.1  Does this theory fit:  that the church needed a vehicle for educating about this new and novel doctrine of Immaculate Conception, and so we find it inserted in the Bernadette story.
  • Investigate further. Bernadette, once her "year" was over, and noone else had seen the apparitions, was hidden away in a convent.  She not permitted after being hidden in the convent to drink the water, see twists and turns so that Bernadette is not associated with healing, but with the necessity of suffering, at
Other cultures use people and shape what they say to meet the needs du jour, see the Jessica Lynch story, Iraq military, at

See FN 6.5, Dogma.

3.  Lourdes as illustration: Progression from female-centric back to male-centric Christianity.  The institution won. The male dominates even Lourdes, the place of women.

Watch the progression: Communications emanated fromMary to Bernadette.  But Bernadette was set aside.  Soon came the institutional morph to male-centered dogma and did not stop until little Bernadette was undone.

  • Bernadette herself, took others to the grotto where she had the apparitions, and no-one else saw what she saw.  She cannot be elevated, then, to some higher status than those who did not see, so she was whisked off to a convent -- hidden away, even mistreated, see  See FN 6.1

Although having asthma and other ailments from an early bout with cholera, she herself was not allowed to drink further of the healing water that sprang up where she was told to scratch beneath the rock.  She died of tuberculosis, with, as I understand, no further access allowed to the healing waters of Lourdes, not allowed to speak to people there, no voice at all.

So why the crown and cross?  Jesus was not appearing at Lourdes to anyone, yet see dominant the cross, all gold gilt, riches with a crown, gleams in the sunset.
  • Cross and crown like Templars.  If the cross is set at an angle within the crown, the symbol becomes the freemason, the masonic, the Templar Cross and Crown, see  
  • Is this use of the pairing of the cross and crown here intentional, to invoke the male Catholic Templars over Mary and Bernadette, and literally?

4.  Lourdes is indeed jarring.  View the cross-crown focal point at a distance, from another angle, and even the shining gold cross and crown gets dwarfed by multiple steeples, ganged up, rather frightening and sharply pointed.

  • Shapes of steeples.  No accident. The phallic nature of the steeple shape does not appear in histories of steeples, surprise,  see for example;  including histories that claim steeples and obelisks to be directly (and wrongly, for them) derived from the Sun God Ra, see This site advocates the literal tearing down of all of them, see
  • The crypt and the Rosary Basilica are beneath the upper Basilica. It is easy to forget to go down and around to the cave at all.
UFO.  Step back even further, and the construct on which the cross and crown become a space ship, in the sunset light so it looks on fire.

All of Lourdes: a stage.

4.  The staging continues, and away from the grotto beneath. 

5.   Castle of Lourdes

Castle of Lourdes, unrelated to miracles. Chateau fort de Lourdes

Charlemagne laid siege here in about 778,  and it became the later home of several houses of Counts.

6. Footnotes

6.1   Massabielle as a name derived perhaps from massif vieille,  the old solid place, a grotto, near Lourdes, The Old Rock. It was located on the riverbank of the River Gave.  People disbelieved and scoffed, some, and then a spring appeared from the cave with apparently healing qualities.

 Bernadette, also known as Marie Bernarde Soubirous, was sent to be hidden away in a convent, not happily. 

The grotto was "dirty and obscure" -- see A supplemental version describes Bernadette crossing a stream, feeling a breeze or wind,. See Messages to Bernadette:  penance, drink of the spring, healing.

6.2 .  Napoleon III in that same year, 1858, ordered the unkempt grotto area cleaned up, and a little wood statue of Mary was put in the grotto, with some artificial flowers.

From that housekeeping and memorial, behold the buses, the tours, the hotels, the bustle, the plastic, folding chairs without number available, chapelschapelschapels, and imaginary routes for finger-dipping and -- do a search -- you can get your own bottled Lourdes water, guaranteed from where?

6.3.  There have been vettings of the visions, and who is to vet the vetters. This one says there were indeed miracles, and the last was 1987, see French Doctor First to Vet Lourdes, at /  Miraculous recoveries appear to be attested to frequently.  What source, mechanism triggered, is a matter of faith.

6.4.  Other sites have been disavowed by the Church, but not this one.  Disclosure:  I came to this site with an interested (liberal Christianity with constant vetting of dogma, little adoption of institutional positions) and relieved to find that at Medugorje the miracles had been disavowed.  Nonetheless, the tours continue and the money rolls. See!.

6.5  Dogma.  Immaculate conception is a concept created by the institution over time for dogmatic purposes, see, and which illiterate Bernadette at the time did not understand. Mary, in her representation here, emerges as from herself.  Note the vaginal surround.

Yet the Immaculate Conception itself is suborned to more traditional male-centered dogma, like crosses and crowns.

Even at Lourdes, where the point is woman to woman communication, portrayals of Mary at Lourdes are suborned in size and position, off to the side, secondary to those gigantic images of other dogmatic teaching symbols, such as the cross and crown, that dominate Lourdes.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Chateau de Pau: Royal Birth: Henri IV, the Bourbon King. And the modern Necessary

The Bourbon family came into its own with its first king in this ruling dynasty.  Henri IV was born here, born Catholic, raised Calvinist. It is 1553.   Hurry the mother, one Protestant Jeanne D'Albret, whose father is Henry II of Navarre and whose mother is sister to King Francis I of France.  Hurry her by carriage down winter roads from Paris. She, one of the greatest of Huguenot supporters, of strong will and "keen intellect," and a fighter, see Reformed Royalty: the Strength of Queen Jeanne D'Albret.  Note that she is called "terrible" at a descriptive Pau website, at  She, while pregnant, fought in Picardy against Charles of Spain.  Terrible.

The entry-way dwarfs the mere son of commoners, gawking.  In this courtyard also walked Marie Antoinette, and then Napoleon.

Pass the wee chapel.

Henri's initials adorn columns, walls, ceilings.

Henri straddles Catholic and Calvinist worlds, becoming Catholic again in order to save his life when threatened.  Expedience works.

Architecture: Spend time at the old chateaux, old palaces, castles.  See /  Admire the detail. Figures and faces incorporated everywhere, at all angles. Some cherubic, with wings.

More grandeur!  Details at

II.  Chateau de Pau interior

Enter to find the birth room.  Tapestries, needlework.  On the walls at Pau.  What is the theme?  The child Henri IV, with his parents?

Tapestry dogs.  Look close.   Love those faces.

The child is brought from the birthing room.  His grandfather has touched the babe's lips with garlic and wine. See Henri IV of France: His Reign and Age,by Vincent J. Pitts.  Scroll to preceding pages for details of the birth.

The mother watches. She does not look so terrible.

The queen's birthing bed is carved, opulent, of course.

Is that a satyr nearby?  Did Henri develop a rakish streak? It seems so, but he remained beloved.  See  No, this is not a Roman Satyr because the feet are not cloven.  Earlier Greek satyrs had regular feet, however, see

Henri introduced the fashion of men's earrings and bracelets to the French.  See  The site notes his "appetite for love". 

The royal cradle.  The place of the Bearn baptism, the touching of garlic and wine to the baby's lips?  See  Or was that in the arms of someone? Details matter.

A closer look at the fanfare.  A print shows more detail, at
I. Chateau de Pau exterior

III.  Themes at Chateau de Pau. Birthplace of Henri IV.

A.  Crowds

B.  Details in carving

A close-up of the carving of a chest in the bedroom of the Queen where Henri IV was born.

C.  The good king.

 Here is Henri playing with his children.  He not uncommonly conducted his audiences while doing so.

IV. The electronic modern necessary. Going and coming.

And, in the parking lot nearby, a European "necessary" that puts all of ours to shame.  Enter the great sliding door.

Admire the compact size.

Inside, let the rotating entry-exit door do its thing, note all is automatic except the person's effort, including automatic spray disinfectant as you leave. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Pau, Chateau de Pau, Henri IV, birthplace of Henri IV. History.

 Pau, France. Chateau de Pau. Birthplace of Henri IV

The first fortifications at Pau date from the 11th Century, and the hilltop location was the seat of bishops, counts and viscounts. There were (are) dungeons, and an early legislative body like a house of lords perhaps convened here.

 In 1553, Henry IV was born here.  He was an heir but not established as the sole legitimate heir -- others had claims-- to the throne.  It was an era of wars of religion between Catholics and Protestants that continued to fester, explode, get stoked by king and others alike, fester, explode and reach terrible heights in the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, hunting and killing Huguenots as heretics. Henry II himself had been a Calvinist, then became Catholic; among other affiliations. See
Pau, Chateau. Medallion, Henri IV.  France

The conflicts:  The Huguenot Protestants were set up as the villains in many occurrences, including and blamed for disruptions during his own first wedding festivities, see Placing the claims and conflicts in context is not simple. The older King Henry III of France was King of Poland for the year or more before he became King of France in 1574-1589.  In 1589, he affirmed Henry IV as his true heir. Good King Henry (IV) then became King of Navarre 1572-1610, but as Henri III in the annals there; and King of France (the first Bourbon monarch) 1589-1610 -- and then he was assassinated.

The original castle was surrounded by a town and further fortifications.

Tribute to Henri IV located in his birth room at the chateau.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Auch. D'Artagnan; Cathedral of Saint Mary; World Wars memorial

D'Artagnan, War Dead, and Cathedral

Auch.  How to pronounce a Gascon city name, a regional capital.  It is not ouch as in ET with a hurt, but instead (long-o) Osh. See The appearance of the word is German, but so far we see no connection.

Auch has a splendid history with Basque roots, and Roman, and BCE tribes. A favorite son of Auch is fictitious: D'Artagnan, of Alexandre Dumas' Three Musketeers fame. Enjoy the autonomy of car travel, and go anywhere there is an interest.  We follow books, songs, characters, then see what else there is. A movie can start it all, or a chance conversation. The draw for Auch for us was swash and buckle:  D'Artagnan.

I.  D'Artagnan, favorite son
 Dan Widing and the swashbuckler D'Artagnan, Auch, France

What is a Swashbuckler? A swashbuckler somebody who makes threatening noises hitting his or on someone else's shield. See

Was there a real D'Artagnan?  Yes. There was a Count, Charles de Batz, Comte d'Artagnan, born nearby. The real one apparently was used for the statue. Beating hearts refuse to still at the sight of such a buckler with swash.

II.  Cathedral of Saint Mary, Auch

The Renaissance Cathedral of Saint Mary gets mixed reviews for its stained glass.  It is used as an example of the descent in the stained glass craft to "overdoodling" see  The master glazier was Arnaud de Moles, 1470-1520.

Cathedral of St. Mary, Auch, France

The construction spanned the 15th-17th Centuries. Apparently there is a little door on the side where a custodian may or may not be present to let you in to see the choir. We saw none such, and would have preferred to see the wooden carved stalls than the windows. Next trip.

III.  World War I memorials, Auch

That war rightfully remains immediate in Europe.

Stop to read names.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Toulouse - Battle of Toulouse 1814; Comte de Las Cases; Napoleon

The Battle of Toulouse in 1814 was one of the British Wellington's lesser claims to fame in the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon was already about to abdicate, and Wellington's armies and allies suffered far greater casualties than the French. See

Emmanuel, Comte de Las Cases 1766-1842. He was a fine historian, and great creator of atlases. He admired Napoleon greatly. He recorded Napoleon's last conversations on St. Helena.  Apparently the better practice is not to translate Comte into Count.

In an era of graffiti, noone escapes.

Marquis de Las Cases seems to refer to what is now a winery, or region of wineries.  What is the protest or claim here?