Monday, March 17, 2008

William le Conquérant, Jeanne D’Arc, Richard Le Coeur de Lion, et Claude Monet

What do all these people have in common? Rouen.

Pictures are:

1. Brave Norman soldiers on their way to conquest.
2. Ethan and new pal Joan.
3. We leave the tower for the Joan of Arc death march.
4. Lunch in Rouen: mmm.... baguettes.

After saying goodbye to the Family Home, we visited the nearby Tapisserie de Bayeux, William the Conqueror’s 70 metre long embroidered comic strip used to explain to the English people he conquered why he was their rightful king. The excellent audioguide that tells the story of the tapestry, panel by panel, never fails to impress me. Last year in SS 8 we discussed William, Edward, Harold, and the Battle of Hastings at length; it was great to see the kids viewing this primary source document up close. We managed to squeeze in a quick tour of the tapestry’s original display place, Notre Dame de Bayeux, a beautiful gothic cathedral, the towers of which were used by Nazi snipers during the Battle of Normandy after D Day. Bayeux was the first major town liberated by the allied forces, and was amazingly unscathed as the Germans fled quickly from their positions. This is in stark contrast to most of the surrounding towns and cities that were flattened during this battle.

One such flattened city was Rouen, the capital of Normandy. Luckily for us, the 50% of the city that was destroyed did not include the historic old town, and walking down the twisted narrow cobblestone streets is a medieval treat. Half-timber buildings, built up high and then progressively wider overhang the pedestrian traffic and conjure up thoughts of the medieval craftspeople who would live in these buildings above their street level workshops. Rouen was the place William the Bastard lived before he moved to England and became William the Conqueror, and it is most famously the place where Joan of Arc spent her final days.
We started our tour at a tower similar to the one Joan was held in, shackled about the neck in an iron cage. After amazing, and some believe divinely inspired success leading French troops into battle against the English during the 100 years war, Joan was captured by a group of treacherous Frenchmen who sold her to the English for 10 000 pounds. She was brought to Rouen, then controlled by the English, convicted of being a witch and a heretic partly because of the angelic voices that guided this teenage girl into the pages of history, and burned at the stake, crying out to her beloved countrymen “Rouen, Rouen, must I die here?” After she was canonized as St. Jeanne D’Arc by the Catholic Church in 1920, a chapel was built in her honour at one end of the Rue Gros Horloge. At the other end is the Notre Dame Cathedral made famous by impressionist Claude Monet, who painted the lacy Gothic structure a couple dozen times. The heart of Richard the Lion Hearted is buried in this cathedral.

The kids had a bit of a shopping excursion here, but thankfully no one over did it at Glup, the big candy store Fundy kids seem to like. We’ve been really healthy this trip – the kids are getting enough sleep and eating well (I think the adults are too). We brought two nurses this year, but they haven’t been busy. We might have to lay them off.

1 comment:

Kaveboy said...

your making me hungry.