Sunday, April 29, 2007

Reims - Joan of Arc, Statue, Horse with Raised Forefoot

Joan of Arc, Statue, Reims FR

Joan of Arc:  her statue stands  in front of the Cathedral at Reims.

Significance of the horse pose:   The raised forefoot of the horse signifies, to some, that the rider was wounded in battle, even if that wound later caused death.  A rearing horse, two forefeet raised, signifies to some that the rider was killed in battle.  All feet on the ground signifies survival. See

It was in Reims in 1429 where Joan of Arc caused the dauphin, Charles VII, to be crowned. A first introduction to the Dauphin is at Chinon Castle, where Joan of Arc recognized him even in disguise, in the castle, among a large group.  Reims is a World Heritage site. See 

The Cathedral housed an ointment (think annoint) of sacred oil, that, once administered, gives the king a divine quality.  Without that done, the legitimacy of a king is in question.  See

  • The rival to Charles VII, the Dauphin, is the English-Angevin Henry VI, a member of the Plantagenet family, one of seven Plantagenet children who can be claimants to the throne, but Henry was best positioned. If Joan can clear the way for Charles to get to Reims to be annointed, Charles wins, in the minds of the people. The Angevins, Plantagenets:  long history in France, borrow this ebook and read online The Conquering Family, a History of the Plantagenets, by Thomas Costain.

The cathedral is the equivalent of Westminster Abbey in England, in that the kings were crowned there. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. See Scroll down to France, and click on Reims.

The Reims Cathedral sports happy, smiling angels with open wings on the facade. See; and photos at

Reims, in the Champagne Region, was the site for coronations of centuries of French kings. Compare and distinguish Rouen:  the capital of upper Normandy.  Joan of Arc was burned at Rouen in 1431.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Verdun: Gallery, Old Postcard Photographs

Contemporary Postcard Views, Verdun WWI
Verdun was brutal in ways unique in war:  a soldiers' revolt; their bleating as they passed their officers, to a near-certain slaughter, see!/2007/09/verdun-soldiers-mutiny-1917.html

See views of Verdun as it was soon after the battles:

1. Memorial to Unknown Soldiers

2. Cloister view, interior of the Ossuary, Verdun

3. Fort Douaumont, Verdun

There were some 19 forts erected for defensive purposes in the 1890's, to protect Verdun.  Douaumont is the highest. What was it like:  see diary at


The Ossuary -- see  February 21, 1916 to December 1916.  There are 130,000 unidentified French and German bodies, estimates from remains-parts. Bombs:  26,000,000 of them.
5. Fort De Vaux, Verdun
A garrison of 250 French were finally overrun in 1916, their bravery heralded by the Germans.
6. Lion Memorial, Verdun, Chapelle Sainte Fine

I had understood this was the Dying Lion, see; other websites, however, refer to it as wounded; and memorializing the 130th Division, part of the Souville Garrison.  Here, at the Chapel of Sainte Fine area, the Germans had finally been stopped.

For an overview of the Verdun battlefields, see
7. Memorial commissioned by Holland, Rodin Sculpture, Verdun

Download this doc file, for a walking tour 2005 of the battlefield, · DOC file

8. Verdun Military Cemetery, Faubourg-Pave

There are some 5,000 burials here.  There is an area for Muslim burials, all angled in their lines toward Mecca.  See good diary account, tourist, at, Sandra Price 2007.
9. Verdun, Trench of Bayonets
A trench caved in on the soldiers upright, their bayonets have been kept visible; memorial funded by Americans. Covered but outdoors.  Any war carries legends and stories, and this is one of the most moving. Whether gas, concussion, cave-in, not to be known.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Epernay and how to make "champagne" yourself

The town of Epernay boasts an Avenue de Champagne, and many cafes offering the bubbly.  These fine people will tell you how to do it: Making Your Own Champagne by Bernt and Bjarne.  Epernay is in champagne country - the real thing. See Champagne. And, as you sip, Champagne taste, do not expect a bargain. Pick any cafe, sit in the waning sun and just order.

It is easy, amid the peaceful grape arbors, to forget World War I and World War II.  I did not note the exact location of this memorial of several French soldiers killed by Germans in WWII.  Post it anyway.

Battle of Sedan through coins; Translation site. Marseillaise.

The Battle of Sedan, fought in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War, resulted in Napoleon III captured, and the overthrow of the Second Empire.  The defeat culminated prior defeats, and was devastating to France.

Fast forward to September 2, 1970.  Find the history of Sedan told in its coins. Turn up the volume on your computer and visit This site is by a numismatist (read coin specialist) who presents European history through the countries' coins. This portion puts you at Sedan with Napoleon III and there is the battlefield drawn for you, and the faces on the coins.

The site is mostly in Italian, but I found English at the Luxembourg section. Even with Italian, try saying-reading it aloud, and find more understanding than anticipated. Close thedoor, stand up, and elocute.

There is a fine preface on the overall topic of using coins to give voice tol history, and in English, at

Translation site offered by http://www.roth37. Try it - go to

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sedan - near Belgian border. Chateau Fort de Sedan

Sedan Castle, Sedan FR

This 15th century castle had been a refuge for Protestant refugees during the Wars of Religion, built in 1424.

It was last under siege in the Franco-Prussian war: Napoleon III in 1870.  Napoleon III was defeated there by the Germans, and taken prisoner with some 100,000 soldiers.  Boundaries changed. See This German victory facilitated the unification of the country, and was further used to advantage by them in WWI.  In WWI, the Germans occupied it for four months, this location allowing the Germans to circumvent the Maginot Line, and accomplish a further victory in the Battle of France.

A large medieval jousting festival was being set up when we were there - see  

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Vercingetorix and Dijon

Ancient battles; memorial to Vercingetorix; and on to Dijon. 

Vercingetorix, Celtic Leader defeated by Rome at Alesia, France

I.  Alesia:

Here, Vercingetorix, Chief of the Gauls, was defeated finally by the Romans in sieges and over a broad territory beginning about 52 B.C.  The battles were brutal and long, with Roman military catapults and siege towers, as well as trenchworks combined with sharpened stakes.

Finally, Vercingetorix was defeated at Alesia, held for years, displayed and beheaded. See  Ironically, the Gauls had first invited Caesar to bring forces to repel the German tribes, but then Caesar would not leave. The Gauls had sought to cast off Rome, and Vercingetorix set out to ally with other Gallic tribes.  Armies increased. During the long years, neither side saved the villages, women and children caught between the armies from starvation and massacre. See  And, in the end, German tribes joined with Caesar, to a degree, to overcome Gauls.  The specific Battle of Alesia:  sroll down at

As a war tactic, hostage-taking is old.  It is also complex, requiring training, weighing, in order to maximize the change of return of a hostage unharmed.  See  Hostages can help ensure loyalty. 

History of Hostage-Taking:  The Romans had a system of demanding hostages to ensure peace, or fulfillment of obligations. Caesar himself had been held hostage, and took hostages in Britain, see  Vercingetorix followed suit, and took his own hostages, but without the same success.  The Gauls were impulsive, undisciplined, though fierce and persistent, but no match for the Romans encircling Alesia with great traps, see

The face of Vercingetorix on this statue, complete with handlebar mustache, was modeled after Napoleon III who asked for it in order to glorify himself See

This is a fine beefcake statue. Attitude.  What if the Gauls had won? Great gaiters.

Alesia, France. Roman ruins.

There are large areas of Roman ruins at Alesia from the army camp. The field and mountain area are near Dijon.

II.  Dijon:

Visit for mustard. We learned later that Dijon mustard probably stems from mustard seeds brought by the Romans, as they were not native here.  The process uses sour unripe grape juice, or a strong wine-vinegar such as verjus.  and not really to the town itself. See for a history of Dijon mustard. Make your own honey dijon at

We chose to come here instead of to the gilt and parking lots of Versailles.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Tonnerre - and Fosse Dionne, Spring without end. Marguerite Pajot.

Tonnerre, its endless spring; and a look at some who were born here. The Unsung of Tonnerre. The renowned Chevalier de Beaumont, cross-dresser; and Marguerite Pajo, burned as witch.

 Tonnerre, France; Fosse Dionne

Tonnerre is a canalway town in Burgundy. See It is near Chablis, and on the way to Alesia and Dijon. A 13th Century hospital is here, the facility known as a hospice, including a museum; and a spring, the Fosse Dionne. The name apparently stems from a Celtic water goddess, Divona, see Burgundy Rough Guides.  An alternate route would have included Versailles, but we had seen enough gilt and mirrors in the Loire Valley earlier. The bus traffic and excessive time just to get in at Versailles also is a detriment.

Fosse Dionne.  This spring is in the great traditions of watercourses without known source. It was made into a circular lavoir, or place for washing, as in laundry and household, in the early 1700's. Old houses, and shelters for conducting the work, surround. Water without end. Strong bursts, currents of water, endless.

Fosse Dionne, endless spring lavoir, Tonnerre, France

There is a tale that a serpent lives in the depths. Was it a snake killed by a saint, see Burgundy Rough Guides above, or a gateway to hell.

The Romans enjoyed the fosse, or fount, when they established a settlement above this area. See

I. A diplomat of Louis XV who conducted his work dressed as a woman.

I.  Chevalier de Beaumont.

Early cross-dressing diplomat, see Burgundy site.  And accepted. This was Charles-Genevieve-Louis-Auguste-Andre-Timothee D'Eon de Beaumont, also written without hyphens, Charles Genevieve Louis Auguste Andre Timothee Deon de Beaumont, 1728-1810.

He was a historical and well-known (at the time) cross-dresser, see; early trans as to clothing but nothing about how he saw his own identity, and much esteemed as effective in his work.  What was the gender result after his autopsy? Eagerly awaited, asserts the site, but no designation given. If he had been physically female, surely that would have been noted.

He was also a spy, a Freemason, and a soldier.  Chevalier de Beaumont. See transsuccess site.

II.  The unsung of Tonnerre. Marguerite Pajot.

Marguerite Pajot was burned as a witch here in Tonnerre in 1576. See extensive list of Historical Witches and Witch Trials in France at For a Europe-wide list, Executions for Witchcraft, see  The Vatican is in that URL.  Compiler:  W.J. Bethancourt. See also I have tried to find out more of the charges, unsuccessful.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Abbaye de Fontevraud and chimney pots; compare Cistercians and Benedictines.

Abbaye de Fontevraud, southeast of Saumur, France. Chimneypots.

1.  Fontevraud was founded in about 1100, and, after conflict between its ascetic founder and subsequent wealthy benefactors (including Henry II Plantagenet and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, both buried here).  It was modeled along Benedictine lines.  Compare Benedictines and Cistercians.  See FN 1 for examples.

History of the area:  Read online The Conquering Family: A History of the Plantagenets, by Thomas Costain, at

Both nuns and monks resided here, with an Abbess over all.  This was not uncommon, especially among Anglo-Saxon religious, see

2.  Chimney pots

A chimney pot is a multipurpose invention: a topper for a chimney that improves the draft, leading poisonous fumes from coal (other fuel?) burning, away from the people doing the cooking. The bigger the kitchens, the more chimneys and chimney pots. See  e a pot spotter. At this site, look up all the styles through the centuries. See The greening of the culinary arts, and ordinary heating. Some function as rainguards. Know your pot.


FN 1  Benedictines and Cistercians.

Abbaye de Fontenay, Marmagne, Burgundy:  easy, by name, to confuse with Fontevraud

  • Background.  The Abbaye de Fontenay was a Cistercian Monastery, founded by St. Bernard de Clairvaux. Orders of Monks:  Benedictines were already established when the Cistercians took root. See Cistercians are still active today, and are also known as Trappists. There is a modern Cistercian monastery and school in Texas. See It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. See Its history extends back to 1118. See
 Cistercians.  Cistercians created the Templars' "Rule."  St. Bernard of Clairvaux urged the Second Crusade, to avenge God's glory and God's name by the killing of the infidels, see text of sermon, The Strict Observance site as to the Cistercians:  see

3.  Monastic setting.  Monastic traditions:  these began to develop in strength after the Third Century, see; and (western monasticism beginning with celtic hermits, in Gaul, spreading to Ireland; for research:  is Paul mythical?  Hadn't noticed that sentence before).

Franciscan, Cistercian, Benedictine, on and on. At it appears that Cistercians stemmed from Benedictines who became dissatisfied with the greater opulence of the Benedictines, not sufficiently in accord with St. Benedict's thoughts on simplicity.  Is that so?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Loire Valley, Chinon - Joan of Arc finds the Dauphin, and Motivational Statue

Chinon Castle, Loire Valley, view, France

The earliest fortress here dates from the 10th century.  It enjoys a strategic location, where the provinces of Anjou, Poitou and Touraine converge. Henry II Plantagenet built here: he was King of England and Count of Anjou. This is the view from the castle at Chinon, over the river Vienne, see, and, in the Loire Valley, where so many castles are located.

Follow history through the French king Phillippe Augustus in the 13th Century controlling the castle, to the Templars and Grand Master Jacques de Molay being imprisoned here before their executions in Paris, and fast forward to the 15th Century when Joan of Arc affirmed the legitimacy of Charles VII, the Dauphin, by recognizing him in his disguise in a crowded reception room. See  It was in 1429when she identified the Dauphin, heir to the throne, amid courtiers, in the main hall here and asked for and got her army.

Chinon, France. Joan of Arc and the Oriflamme, statue by Jules Rolleau, medieval monarch's battle pennant

Here she is, in a motivational pose.  See Joan of Arc statues with and without the oriflamme at

Chinon Castle, Loire Valley, France: Room where Joan of Arc identified the Dauphin

More history:  Romans, Visigoths, the place of death of Richard the Lionheart.

Some chateaux or castles, like Chinon, are not reconstructed, but are left and cared for as they are, with pathways outside between sections, and informational signs, but mostly in the open air.

The roofed area of this ruined room is the fireplace, its chimney, the holes would hold the floorboards of a large room

Joan of Arc went to this room in the castle (the flooring is gone, but there is the fireplace) in 1429 to find the Dauphin (later on he was Charles VII). The holes in the stone would have held the timbers supporting the floorboars. Find more on Joan, later sainted, at To find out how people get "sainted," see Father McGivney, at this site, provides a more formalized account: see

What is a Dauphin? Not a dolphin, sounds silly but the words are different. The Dauphin is the name for the heir to the French throne, usually the eldest son. See

The Dauphin here, as a test for Joan, had disguised himself among others in a group, and she went to him anyway. She "knew." And, she got the army she asked for. She was an outstanding military commander, says

We followed her from there to Rheims, see her letter to the citizens of Rheims at, and to the cathedral there where the Dauphin was crowned.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Savenay, Loire area: American Sgt. Alexander Wollcott

World War I.
Writers in France.
Short stories.
Nantes area: Wars from Great Anjou to little Savenay
Alexander Wolcott, American.
World War I was a war where poets in trenches framed their lives, and those around them, for the world to see.  They are widely commemorated, still.  See

To the usual poets, add this American storyteller and literary giant, an American soldier, Alexander Wollcott 1887-1943.  His literary career encompassed many genres.  He was a narrative genius.
As a soldier in World War I in France, he wrote his recollections of the community at the little town of Savenay, near Nantes.  He returned to Savenay after the war, and wrote of the people there, especially of one Madame Cocaud. Plays, stories, radio, a broad range of talent.  See his life at Letter of Alexander Wollcott, ebook. 
  • Madame Cocaud: She lost a son in the war, was a widow, and provided for soldiers passing through.  Hers is a generous and courageous way of life.
  • See Alexander Wollcott and many of his works at the anthology site,
  • Wolcott's viewpoint is not romanticized, not saccharin.  The title of one anthology in which his work appears, "Stories for Men," lists many other stories and authors. 
  • Wollcott's Madame Cocaud conveys a poignance, a respect, a sense of reluctance for even the intrusion into memory, in characterizing people and events.  Madame Cocaud, now immortal, in her way.
Woollcott's work also appeared in the American military publication, Stars and Stripes, and is online at The Command is Forward, Tales of the A.E.F. Battlefields.  Were issues clearer then, deployments so much shorter, human connectedness enabled, by being part of a local community as well as a military force.
American Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, in Afghanistan, and some 80-90 years later, had no such luxuries. See

Monday, April 09, 2007

Loire Valley, Blois - Peter of Blois

Blois, in the Loire Valley
An Era, Early Middle Ages, Spanning Moralities
Blois, the Loire Valley.  Fine chateau.  See  Peter of Blois was a churchman, 12th Century, see the Original Catholic Encyclopedia,, with a penchant for poetry lauding his attractions, to women, to men.  As a churchman of the time, this was not forbidden, only considered bad taste.  In 1176, he became Chancellor to the Archbishop of Canterbury, as well as Archdeacon of Bath. He also wrote sermons on morality..
  • Homosexuality was not coined as a descriptive word until the late 19th century, see  It is only an "intermittent" focus of the New Testament, and in the ancient world, practices were acceptable, perhaps unusual in some cultures, but not necessarily "immoral." See site, History. Augustine and others only grudgingly allowed for procreative sex, it appears.  In Justinian's Code, 529 CE, homosexuals were to be executed..
But secular European laws, after the Visigoths rose and the Romans fell, made no proscription until about the 12th Century.  The article notes a rise in "homophilic" literature even among clergy, church officials, and it is in this group that Peter of Blois emerges.  Do read the detailed chronology of events.
  • Here, find some poetry of Peter of Blois. As quoted in Harvard Magazine Jan-Feb 2012 at 51, Mysteries and Masterpieces, by Adam Kirsch:
The heterosexual Peter of Blois:  " I offer my thanks to Venus; by the divine majesty of her favorable smile she has confered on me a welcome and longed-for victory over my girl."
The homosexual, even pedophilic, Peter of Blois:  "When your down has gone and a beard springs up from sunken corners, bristling with stubble that has been cut away, I will be pricked by the spears of stubble and then I will be upset by the kisses I now suck with pleasure.  Thaat you are still pleasing to a few, you owe to razors alpone.  Therefore be mindful of your age."

Find more of his work at  There, his poems are seen as unimportant (I am looking for his online poetry), and his work as secretary to Eleanor of Aquitaine, and exhortations to join the Third Crusade and his correspondence with Thomas a Becket and Henry II (many others) given prominence. 

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Loire Valley - Amboise - Castle and Leonardo da Vinci Residence. Hats of the World

I. The Castle at Amboise; St. Hubert's Chapel where Da Vinci is buried;

II. The Manor House, Clos Luce, home of Da Vinci, in the Town;
III. The Da Vinci Hat and the Afghan Pakol:  Hats of the World

I.  The Castle; St. Hubert's Chapel

Sleep in a little place by the castle walls here, and wake to the brightest array of flags in your face as ever wakened any traveler.  Chateau d'Amboise, with its St. Hubert Chapel. See ://

This is the place where Leonardo da Vinci is buried, at the chapel on the grounds inside, and his house is in the town. That is fitting because St. Hubert is the patron saint of many things, including mathematicians, opticians and metalworkers, see Hubertus at ://

Leonardo -  he is among the greats and the unsung as history's unofficial children,born out of wedlock, see that bit of trivia at Bogomilia, Shadow Children. See the castle at :// And there are the flags. We are still asleep beneath them.


II.  DaVinci Residence, Le Clos Luce, Manoir

Leonardo was invited here in 1516 apparently just for the pleasure of his company, by the King of France. Leonardo was given a pension and lived nearby at Clos Luce Manor House, see :// Find there a splendid little museum of recreated inventions -  all those yellowybrown sketches come to life.  Best in show:  the personal tank. See it at Da Vinci Biography at ://

III. The Leonardo Chapeau.  Fashion.  

Hats of the World

Look back at the sculpture, located on the castle grounds here.   

Focus on Hats Through the Ages. Our modern heads largely flap out there uncovered, except for the baseball bit, or the chapeau du jour in the catalogues for the sun-smitten. Renaissance cap like a pakul, Afghan pakul. Look at its history. Pakul from Nuristan.

But we hardly would pose for a sculpture of ourselves wearing any hat, unless the hat is tied to our Persona, our Reason for Being, like a jockey.  

The Leonardo hat fits flat on top of the head, like a narrower brimmed beret, and hat is highly unstable against the wind. It perches. It does not "fit." 

  • So we see the little flap 2/3 the way around
  • The little flap is not tight so as to crip the coffure or restrict or distract thought; but lightly drapes, a courtesy perhaps, an apology for being, just coming to the top of the ear, but with a purpose.  That little flap gives added stability - 
  • I regret inconveniencing you like this Mr. DaVinci, Dr. DaVinci, says the little flap, but being here holds your cap on better. You won't mind in a little while. Just go about your business. 
Is that a little sticky-up ornament in front, like a jaunty starched ribbon? Or is that part of the tree behind.  Looks more like a pin decoration. See? I did not look closely enough. 

He is frowning. Displeased. Chin jutted and set. And he is set with a pension and a house?  Smile, man, smile!

Hats of the World.  The Afghan Pakol.
1.  Were it not for politics and war, the pakol hat might still be offered in the Peterman Catalogue, from which I once ordered it for an adventurous niece. The pakol has a long social history in Afghanistan, and may well be the world's most flexible, useful, and comfortable hat. It suits many weathers.  Pakul, pakoul, pakol, most commonly worn by men.  Its social history extends back to Alexander the Great and the Macedonians, among other possible source roots.  See

The pakol is not unique to Afghanistan, as cozy headgear is common including during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, before extended brims became fashionable.  Imagine Da Vinci's hat with a snug, deep, deep rim-band that can be rolled to the satisfaction of the wearer about the forehead, then a flat crown supported by an under ring like a facing, that extends maybe 2-3" out from the band all the way around, to  be tilted, perhaps, shoved back on occasion, and all in comfortable, breathable wool. 

When the rim of the pakul is rolled, it can extend out to the same diameter as the crown.

Compare it to the soft hat of DaVinci, here at Amboise Chateau in France.  Extend the ear flap area all around, and fold it and roll it up, and with further tweaks, enjoy the convenience and comfort of the pakol

The wool, like on the bias, stretches. 
Women also can wear it, an embroidered version. Depending on the culture in the area. 
  • The pakol, or pakul, originated in Nuristan, an area of the Hindu Kush populated as early as 4200 BC by the Aryan peoples, Aryan as a term long predating Hitler.  Aryans then split to the Indo-Iranian, moving even into Hungary; and to Iran; then see the pre-Sanskrit languages group.  Is that so?  Or did it originate in Macedonia, moving from there to Nuristan.
  • Then there are eras of sequential displacements. Many, many languages there, not always intelligible one to the other. Respect peoples and their history. The area is of particular interest to scholars, researchers, students of history and humanity. 
2.  Spend time learning another culture.  Turn to an illustrated video lecture by Richard Strand on YouTube at  

Learning about Afghanistan: We listened for the full lecture. Anthropologist, historian, respecter of peoples. Be one. See the pakul - worn by most everyone, apparently.
For the hat and other items, see the Afghan-Web shop at :// See it also at Zarina's, at :// Find also that burqas come in colors.

Then back to France. France as well as everywhere else is now home to people of all cultures. So this bit on Afghanistan is not totally out of place.
Worldwide hats. Search for the Afghan pakol to find its social history, with some resemblances to this hat of DaVinci in the Renaissance in its convenience, ability to address many weathers, roll up. See  Find a cultural overview of parts of Afghanistan at