Sunday, June 13, 2010

Signs of Life . . .

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On the same afternoon as the flowers were photographed in the below post, several small villages were also visited out in the countryside. I love to go look around churchyards and take in the architectural details of the older churches, which often go back several hundred years or more in this part of the world.
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On the walls of the church shown in this first photo however, I noticed some examples of graffiti carved in the stone, which is not something I've seen alot of in the past on other churches, but then maybe I just hadn't been looking closely enough in the right places.
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The thought that someone stood here over 200 years ago scraping away at these stones just sort of washed me out into the sea of silent wonder. We came from that distant past, and we too will fade into a future we can barely imagine. Will the traces we leave last as long, and age so gracefully ? This blog could disappear with the click of a mouse or the failure of a memory unit somewhere. But it would be hard to carve these pages on a stone. Will any of us be remembered 200 years from now ?
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I so wanted to open this ancient door, I shook it, but it was locked and bolted. I knocked, but no one answered, no one came. Knock, knock, knocking on heaven's door ?
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This first is a little hard to read, but the dates are clear with 1731, 1739, and 1771
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Antoine Sangnie, fils de Flourent, 1754 (son of Flourent)
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1759, someone took some pains to cross this one out, but fortunately did not succeed in effacing these beautifully crafted numbers . . . A true artist carved this, the curves in that number nine are seductively graceful . . .
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For some unfathomable reason, someone decided to carve "1799" in reverse, I can assure you, it is not that the photo is reversed. And I could not help but think of the line in the Crosby, Stills, and Nash song Cathedral, where there is a line which says, "And I'm standing on the grave of a soldier who died in 1799 . . ."
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1913, did anyone have an inkling of the catastrophes to come the following year ?
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1914, but was it carved before or after the start of the Great War ?
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A single, stark, enigmatic word all by itself on the expanse of stone wall, conjuring up images of dreadful suffering, contagion, panic, paralyzing fear . . . Who carved this word ? And why ?
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Walking through Beauvais, a shadow figure watching passersby . . .
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Machine à Traire : Milking Machine, of the Diabolo brand name . . . a diabolic milking machine ! Best to stand well away from it before turning it on . . .
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37 comments:

Laurie said...

Great post, Owen. I love the lettering or should it be figuring . . . The single word CHOLERA sent shivers down my spine like it must have done for the villagers at the time - remarkable. Well done, chum!
Laurie

TechnoBabe said...

The first picture of the church is a great photo. The colors are vibrant and the walkway up to the church door is ready for me to start walking.

Stickup Artist said...

I see you too have been traipsing around looking for and finding the past. The cholera carving is amazing and creepy to be sure. And that church. Oh My. Even the wall on the right is a work of art. Heady thoughts come out of these adventures!

mythopolis said...

Awesome seems standard fare on this site. But, what can I say? America, as we know it, isn't so ancient. Of course, it really is, we just don't care so much about what the indians had to say before we got here. (Even though they lived here for some 10,000 years before us, and really left no dent on the landscape.) All that's left are scrawled images on cave walls and bluffs, and a handful of reservations. Within walking distance of my house is a small family cemetery. But, I was struck by a 4x4 post in the ground with a placard on it. The paint was peeling badly, but it seems it was a tribute to some fallen soldier of the Revolutionary war. He wasn't ever actually buried there, since they never found his body. A simple homage. Some mother's baby, I suppose.

ρομπερτ said...

What would one do without you at ten past four and this magical escapes. Seems as if it has even rained shortly before, which would allow a wonderful smell of the trees and the grass leading towards the church.
Impressive the signs of time and life as well, wondering whether life's problems changed much. Please have a wonderful start into the new week.

Ann said...

a wonderful post...caught up on your previous posts...my words are simple,but from the heart..THANK YOU !

...louciao... said...

Diabolically interesting post, Brother Owen. I have an odd fascination with finding numbers etched/carved/imprinted in cement or stone. Really the only interest in numbers that I do have, and obviously not often enjoyed. I noticed on the 1913 stone that there are also some perpendicular lines with a diagonal line through them, as if someone was keeping track of time...a jail term? the date for their execution? Could this stone once have stood inside a building, giving a prisoner with nothing but time on his hands to leave his mark on the wall? But what would a prisoner be doing with a sharp object? Or maybe they were just hanging around on the street corner, watching all the girls go by, and doing a little carving to pass the time, seeing as video games had not yet been invented. Or maybe it is churchly graffiti as you suggest, by budding Fra Angelicos. So many questions, so few answers.

Excellent match with the tune, Mr. Toad. Startlingly appropos: your turn to astonish me, esp. as I was unfamiliar with the song.
Yes, altogether a good number.

Steve said...

Ah - graffiti; the poetry of the real.

Peter said...

Graffiti... Some people don't appreciate today's graffitis, but I'm sure we are all really pleased to discover these ones, thanks to you!

Thanks for Crosby Stills and Nash! At the Olympia in July! Are you going?

The Pliers said...

For obvious reasons, my favorite shots are of the carvings of names, dates, and diseases in the limestone!

It is a funny coincidence that those particular dates were in evidence because I am reading "The Discovery of France: A Geographical History from the Revolution to the First World War" by Graham Robb and the story overlaps with the stone treasures that you documented so attentively. I'm getting a great education down here in Le Berry.

It will be interesting to see what catches your eye in this corner of the Hexagone one of these days!

French Fancy said...

Those carved numbers make me want to touch them - especially the 9's.

Roxana said...

la premiere image est si belle, si paisible - on voit, on sent la douceur de l'air, comme apres la pluie - non?

i have always been fascinated with wall inscriptions, two summers ago i happened to be in the Carpathians and went to see a forgotton small cave on the top of a mountain - i was afraid to go deeper inside, but in the first room near the entrance all the walls were covered with words and i stood there as long as i could (freezing cold), with my flash lamp, reading everything, pondering those forgotten lives and stories...

Clytie said...

I have to go and think about some of this for a while. I guess reaching 'middle age' has opened the door to a lot of questions about the impact of those who have lived before me, and the impact of my own life ... Sigh.

I really enjoy your forays into the past. so many unanswered questions, things we can only guess at. And so much beauty revealed as well. I love the door knocker, and chuckle at the graffiti dude.

Well done, and well received.

Art said...

Names ad dates carved into grey stone like that reminds me of gravestones...think I'll hold off on carving my name anywhere for a while! Lovely to have a ramble around such old buildings though; they contain a wealth of signs of times past.

Owen said...

Hi Laurie,
The "Cholera" on the church wall there all by itself gave me shivers too, a strange and stark message from the past. Don't know if you might have seen the french film "Le Hussard sur le toit", in which there were some rather frightening depictions of cholera outbreaks. We are fortunate that such events are things of the past where we live...

Owen said...

Hi TechnoB., Walk right in... and if you walk around to the back of the church, you will find the graffiti there. I'm happy to be your virtual tour guide...
:-)

Owen said...

Dear Stickup,
Am frequently to be found out traipsing around, if not traipsing, then galumphing, vagabonding and loitering, and generally being as nosy as public probity will permit... there is so much out there yet to be discovered, or re-discovered. But you know all about that !
:-)
Absolutely adored your latest piece, will be by shortly to comment on it, though I looket at yesterday already at some length...

Owen said...

Mythopolis,
Here you loud and clear about the lack of respect, if not the downright wilful desire to obliterate all that remains of the native north-american peoples. Sites throughout the southwest have been systematically plundered by looters, few traces remained elsewhere. A little bit survives in some museums. One of my favorite photographers ever is Edward Curtis, who spent the last 30 years of his life early in the last century trying to photograph what little was left of Indian culture before it disappeared entirely. A sad, sad story. One that many Americans do not wish to be reminded of.

The memorial marker you mentioned with peeling paint about a Revolutionary War person sounds fascinating... perhaps you could take a picture of it for us ?

Owen said...

Hi Robert,
Well, for one thing, at ten past four in the morning, you could be sleeping...
:-)

But if that is not a possibility for whatever reason, then I fully agree with you, a visit to the Magic Lantern Show is an excellent idea. In fact, it was still raining when I walked around that church, but I'm not one to let a little rain stop me from getting out to look at things...
Take care

Owen said...

Ann,
You are VERY welcome, your visits and kind words here are always appreciated...

Lady Banana said...

Fascinating, looking at things from the past like this and letting the imagination wander, love it..

Owen said...

Mad Lynne,
Ah, but such a wonderful lot of questions you raise ! Guess you are just going to have to take a little trip back over to Europe if you have a midnight craving for carvings on ancient stones, there is no shortage of such visions to be found here...

I don't know if previously used stones, such as from a prison cell, would have been selected for building a church with, but one never knows, and that would be delicious irony if stones from a torn down prison had been used to build a church with. Maybe they even came from the Bastille ?!? The Bastille stones must have been used somewhere after it was demolished. But girl watching judges from the 18th century is a plausible theory also, as that is obviously a timeless activity.

"Cathedral" was on the 1977 Crosby Stills & Nash album titled simply CSN, and which had a few beautiful songs on it, including "Just a Song Before I Go", "Dark Star", and of course "Cathedral", a worthy addition to anyone's collection...

Owen said...

Steve,
Not sure that all graffiti could qualify as poetry, but some of these certainly do, imho...

And most poetry would make better graffiti than the usual visual drivel we often cannot escape.

Owen said...

Hi Peter,
I think many of today's so-called graffiti artists could take some lessons in graphic arts from the folks that carved these figures in stone long ago.

I saw Crosby and Nash together in Paris a few years back, and saw Stephen Stills at the Olympia not all that long ago, but am not sure I'm going to be able to make it to this next one, work is going to be very difficult for me in July and August this year. Maybe next time...

Owen said...

Dear Pliers,
I had your frencher half in mind too while I was lovingly admiring all these carvings in stone, I hope he had a chance to see these photos. I was spellbound while discovering these carvings, and just love their graceful graphic appeal.

I am still trying to figure out why to my eye so much that comes from long ago seems so much more beautiful to me than work done today. When I look at what passes for carvings on recent gravestones compared to carvings done a hundred years ago, there is just no comparison, a hundred years ago there were serious artists at work, today much of what is produced has a shallow feel to it... still trying to figure that out.

Happy reading, and I too will be very curious to see what leaps out at me when I do make it down to your corner of France... Can't wait !

Lulu Sorcière said...

C'est toujours très émouvant ces marques du temps gravées de mémoires d'hommes, de batailles, de rivalités, de haine et d'amour, d'histoires de villages, d'Histoire...
Il y en a aussi plein par ici et j'aime bien voir s'entrechoquer les siècles entre les coeurs adolescents et les traces des siècles passés.
Merci owen pour ce coup d'oeil !
Bises

Owen said...

Hi FF, those nines really did it for me too, I just can't fathom how they got them so perfectly curved like that...

Owen said...

Ah, Roxana,
oui, la douceur de l'air, après la pluie, même pendant la pluie ! J'ai du faire attention à ne pas laisser inonder l'appareil photo sous les gouttes de pluie ce jour-là...

Remind me when I come to Romania one day to bring extra sweaters, some good strong flashlights, and high level of detailed maps so you can point out to me where this cave is with inscriptions in it in the Carpathians... it must be fairly high if it is so cold even in the summer ? Sounds like the sort of place I would just love to see and explore a little... as long as there aren't to many vampire bats in the cave... ?
:-)

Or perhaps you could open, at least temporarily, a Carpathian guide and translating business ?
:-)

Owen said...

Clytie,
Am not sure where "middle age" starts, but just about anytime is a good time to give some thought to where we've been and where we may be going... That rusty old door handle is really something, I love details like that, again, there is something totally timeless in some of these objects which were made a long time ago. A quality which seems to be missing from what we manufacture today, for the most part... Thank you for your kind thoughts here...

Owen said...

Dear Art,
Rambling around very old buildings is one of the parts of living in France I love the most, and there is no shortage of old buildings here.

But you are young, perhaps your initials at least could be carved within a heart somewhere... just not on a tree please...
:-)

Owen said...

MiLady Banana,
Very fertile ground, these ancient stones, to provoke or facilitate daydreams and the wandering of minds...

Which made me think of the lines from that lovely old song :

"I'm fixing a hole where the rain gets in
And stops my mind from wandering
Where will it go
I'm filling the cracks that ran through the door
And kept my mind from wandering
Where will it go"

So is there a story behind the title of "Lady Banana" ? That is quite an honor I think !

Owen said...

Bonjour Lulu, gentille Sorcière,

Oui, effectivement, ici, comme sans doute ailleurs, il y avait un étrange "entrechoc" du très vieux avec le moderne.

La différence c'est que ceux d'aujourd'hui grattent la pierre faiblement avec un outil probablement pas prévu pour cela, ou pire écrivent dessus avec de la craie ou marqueur ou encore pire avec des bombes de peinture aérosole... tandis que autrefois, les outils d'antan étaient faits pour ça, des burins, des ciseaux, et ils savaient laisser une trace gracieuse est refléchie, et non pas les betises banales de nos jours... nous avons perdu quelque chose d'importante entretemps...

Et oui, quand on regarde ton blog on voit rapidement à quel point tu es passionnée par l'Histoire, un pur plaisir de voir et lire les fruits de tes recherches. Merci à toi !

Alistair said...

Hi Found you by random and enjoyed this post. You're right about the artistry and skill of the number carver - the proportions are lovely.

This is clearly an important church. Where is it? Did you ever go back for a look inside?

Well ddone, good work.

regards.....Al.

Catherine said...

Le passé des individus gravé dans la pierre.....On ne peut s'empêcher de les recadrer dans nos références historiques.....

Le graveur de pierre qui a inscrit 1799 avec un effet miroir a réussi son coup, il aura certainement réveillé la curiosité des passants depuis plus de 2 siècles, les futurs passants arrêteront leurs pas également....

James said...

I've been stuck in the house for a while and I'm a bit stir crazy. The thought of wondering around the French countryside sounds wonderful. Excellent post Owen, amazing finds!

Mary Ann said...

Lovely details. I especially like the rusted up door hardware. A little rust can work wonders.

lenightowlinjonzac said...

Ah, the infamous Diabolo machine à traire :)
I love coming across old signs such as this one.
Your blog is a mine of photographs!
I'm glad you overcame your flowers block to visit my poppies :)
A bientôt, Owen!