Tag Archives: medieval

The Medieval Abbey of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives in Normandy

There is no way to miss this impressive abbey from anywhere within the small town of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives. And it is easily visible as you drive across the Calvados countryside, too. It’s quite wonderful to be living a mere ten minutes away from a place like this.

Founded in 1011 by Countess Lesceline, the aunt of William the Conqueror — the abbey has undergone a variety of extensions and renovations over the subsequent centuries and those renovations continue right into the present day. Here’s a small photo essay of this truly gorgeous abbey.

A glimpse of the medieval abbey towers of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives can be seen all throughout the town and from several miles/kilometres away as you drive across the landscape of Calvados in Normandy, France. Founded in 1011 by Lesceline, the aunt of William the Conqueror, the abbey has been enlarged, rebuilt, or renovated several times over the following centuries.

A glimpse of the medieval abbey towers of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives can be seen all throughout the town and from several miles/kilometres away as you drive across the landscape of Calvados in Normandy, France. Founded in 1011 by Lesceline, the aunt of William the Conqueror, the abbey has been enlarged, rebuilt, or renovated several times over the following centuries.

Exterior view of stained glass-filled chapels at the Abbey in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

Exterior view of stained glass-filled chapels at the Abbey in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

Chapel containing the grave of Lesceline, the aunt of William the Conqueror and founder of the abbey in 1011.

Chapel containing the grave of Lesceline, the aunt of William the Conqueror and founder of the abbey in 1011.

The gravestone of Lesceline, the aunt of William the Conqueror and founder of the abbey in 1011.

The gravestone of Lesceline, the aunt of William the Conqueror and founder of the abbey in 1011.

The main altar area of the abbey.

The main altar area of the abbey.

A side aisle in the abbey.

A side aisle in the abbey.

A rather curious set of stairs to nowhere.

A rather curious set of stairs to nowhere.

Abbey interior.

Abbey interior.

Lovely angles and arches.

Lovely angles and arches.

A drawing of the original layout -- much of which on the outer perimeter facing the gardens is being restored at present.

A drawing of the original layout — much of which on the outer perimeter facing the gardens is being restored at present.

These are the buildings along the outer part of the Abbey complex -- the ones that are facing the gardens in the illustration above. The French government sold these buildings off after the Revolution and they have gradually been repurchased. Some of them are in perilous condition and are being properly renovated now.

These are the buildings along the outer part of the Abbey complex — the ones that are facing the gardens in the illustration above. The French government sold these buildings off after the Revolution and they have gradually been repurchased. Some of them are in perilous condition and are being properly renovated now.

Simple chairs against a lovely metalwork enclosure near the main altar.

Simple chairs against a lovely metalwork enclosure near the main altar.

The ever-present candles.

The ever-present candles.

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From AU to the UK to the EU in 5 weeks!

I’m tired just thinking about it — but we have gone from Australia to the UK to France in the very short space of 5 weeks. Seriously — whew!

We don’t bounce back energy-wise as fast as we did 20+ years ago — so we were well into Week 2 in England at Mark’s parents’ house before we started to shed SOME of the jet-lag. But even when we first arrived in France in the 3rd week of November, we were still exhausted.

Once we had the shopping and car insurance and ferry reservations and so forth sorted out, we drove in the wind and rain to Portsmouth to take the night ferry to Caen. I had booked a cabin so we could get some sleep, but the staff hadn’t finished cleaning the rooms when we arrived, so we ended up getting very few hours of shut-eye.

Waiting in a long and very slow line to board the ferry.

Waiting in a long and very slow line to board the ferry.

Waiting for our cabin to be cleaned in the blue-light disco.

Waiting for our cabin to be cleaned in the blue-light disco.

Arriving in France, we drove through persistent rain towards Caen and then south to the town of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives and onward to the nearby village where we will be living for the next several months as Mark does a large renovation project.

The house was built over several centuries — but the oldest section is from the 1400s. And the part we are living in — the red brick section — is from the 1800s. We even have a resident mouser named (badly!) Caramel who SHOULD be named Rocky because he’s such a sturdy bruiser of a cat. However (ahem!) — he has now adopted Mark and he follows him around like a puppy. So much for the cat’s stand-offish reputation!

The Normandy renovation project.

The Normandy renovation project.

Mark inside the renovation project.

Mark inside the renovation project.

Mark's new playmate -- the cat in residence.

Mark’s new playmate — the cat in residence.

The town of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives is quite stunning and given the fact that they were occupied by the German army during World War II — a remarkable amount of truly old and lovely buildings are intact.

Every Monday morning, there is a large local market that takes place both inside the medieval market hall (another post about that coming soon!) and in the nearby street and huge parking lot. The range of fresh produce, cheese, wine, meat, seafood, and more was a wonderful surprise.

The packed Monday market in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

The packed Monday market in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

Inside the historic medieval market hall at Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

Inside the historic medieval market hall at Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

Rooflines show the overlapping time periods of the town.

Rooflines show the overlapping time periods of the town.

Leaning against a wall of the cloister, a statue awaits restoration of the abbey in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

Leaning against a wall of the cloister, a statue awaits restoration of the abbey in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

And finally — a hello from our next door neighbours on ALL sides — the lovely cows of Normandy. I’ll be back with more slices of life-in-France in the next few days. Enjoy!

The pretty cows in the fields next door.

The pretty cows in the fields next door.

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A Frolic Through Foix — Part 2

Resuming the visit to Foix that we began yesterday…

Taking a break from the brilliant sun and heat, we ducked inside the abbey church of St. Volusien. In contrast to the elaborately decorated stone churches with gilded interiors that we have visited in other parts of France, this particular structure was quietly and simply elegant. For this reason, I have chosen to present the photo essay in black and white.
 

St. Volusien abbey church in Foix, Midi-Pyrenees, France


 

Interior of St. Volusien abbey church in Foix, Midi-Pyrenees, France


 

Side chapel in St. Volusien abbey church in Foix, Midi-Pyrenees, France


 

Massive organ perched above the entry to St. Volusien abbey church in Foix, Midi-Pyrenees, France


 

Row of deep windows in the stone walls of St. Volusien abbey church in Foix, Midi-Pyrenees, France


 

War memorial plaque just inside the abbey church of St. Volusien in Foix, Midi-Pyrenees, France


 

Clock on the belltower of St. Volusien abbey church in Foix, Midi-Pyrenees, France


 

The bell tower of the St. Volusien Abbey Church in Foix, Midi-Pyrenees, France


 
One tiny note for people who are ‘sensitive’ to spirit movement, there were a few places inside the church that were quite active. I laughingly thought of calling this post “Spot The Ghost” — so that’s a wee hint for you. Whenever my camera is aimed at a stationary target and nothing visible is moving but it struggles to focus in ample light, I have learned to expect surprises when I see the pictures afterward. These things have happened to me all of my life, so no, outside of the sudden plunge in temperature whilst the spirit moves by, it never rattles me.

After a tasty plat-du-jour lunch in an outdoor cafe, we headed back to St. Girons, vowing to return one afternoon for a visit to the Chateau de Foix itself and museum inside.

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A Frolic Through Foix

A medieval hilltop chateau with ‘fairytale’ towers? Check. Picturesque and twisty cobbled streets? Check. Ancient abbey church? Check.
 

Chateau overlooking the town of Foix in the Midi-Pyrenees in the South of France


 
Welcome to Foix — a beautiful and historic town in the Midi-Pyrenees of France. It’s a small and truly lovely place for a day out and it is easily traversed on foot.
 

Medieval chateau overlooking the town of Foix in the Midi-Pyrenees in the South of France


 
Beseiged repeatedly during the 13th Century, the medieval town of Foix was built in part on the earlier foundations of the hilltop Roman fortifications.
 

Top floor ornamentation flanking windows in a historic building in Foix, Midi-Pyrenees, France


 

Foix building ornamentation close-up


 

Burgundy Citroen parked in the medieval town of Foix in the South of France


 

Views of the Chateau de Foix, looming over the town of Foix in the South of France, can be seen through many of the streets and passageways of the town.


 

In tomorrow’s post, part 2 of A Frolic Through Foix, we pay a visit to the medieval abbey church of St. Volusien.

Hope you have enjoyed this taste of Foix!

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Medieval St. Mary the Virgin in Diss, Norfolk, England

As promised several days ago, here is a small photo essay of the lovely St. Mary the Virgin church in the historic town of DISS in the county of Norfolk, England.
 

Arched passage and exterior of medieval St. Mary The Virgin church in Diss, Norfolk in England


 

Medieval stone St. Mary The Virgin church exterior in Diss, Norfolk in England


 

Sculptured stone face on exterior of medieval St. Mary The Virgin church in Diss, Norfolk in England


 

Stained glass inside medieval stone St. Mary The Virgin church, Diss, Norfolk, England


 

Down the aisle to the altar at medieval St. Mary The Virgin church in Diss, Norfolk, England


 

Front tower of the medieval St. Mary The Virgin church in Diss, Norfolk, England


 

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Back In Britain

We’re back in Britain for a few days and having a lovely time in Norfolk. Mark’s parents live here and we use them as our ‘home base’ whilst travelling across Europe. And my, what a lot of mail had accumulated while we were in France!

Yesterday afternoon we went into Diss which is just a handful of miles from the family home — and we had a nice lunch and then picked up the passport renewal forms that Mark needed and he managed to get an acceptably attractive passport photo taken.

Here I am in front of the post office and that lovely tower behind me is the medieval St. Mary the Virgin church.
 

Deborah on the High Street in Diss, Norfolk, England with St. Mary the Virgin church in background.


 
In the next few days, I’ll try to get some more photos posted of the interior and exterior of St. Mary’s because it is a lovely church with quite harmonious energy.

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Photo Of The Day: Living In The Past

There were no smiles as they passed us and all four of them concentrated deeply on the task at hand. They took themselves quite seriously, these local Frenchmen of a 20-something age.

Garbed in pseudo-medieval clothing, faces dabbed with fake blood, and carrying handmade arrows, they positioned themselves outside of the somber gray walls of the fortified castle in Fougeres in Brittany. Again and again they shot those arrows into the sky and then shouted unintelligible phrases whilst one of their companions filmed it all on a tiny hand-held movie camera.

If you look carefully you can see that the man on the left has just shot a blue-fringed arrow into the air above his head.

 

Archers outside the walls of the fortified medieval chateau at Fougeres in Britanny, northern France

 

They could have been actors or they could have been what they call in the USA re-enactors — well organised groups of enthusiasts of a particular time period who spend large amounts of free time re-enacting past events. Then again, they could have simply been four local lads who longed to live in a time long gone which is easily summoned up by the atmosphere of this fortress-chateau.

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