Bayeux, France

Bayeux, France

Le Castel, a guesthouse where I am staying, is two blocks from Bayeux Cath├ędrale, which is nearly the size of Notre Dame in Paris. From my room, it sounds like there are two bells being rung alternately by hand. I have not had time to find out too much about this.

20120805-203151.jpg

The Aure is bordered by a footpath in the city. Its ancient stone walls make it look more like a canal than a river and there are many access points where stairs and ramps go down to the water.

20120805-203412.jpg

20120805-204046.jpg

This building is so tall it’s difficult to get the whole thing in a photo, both inside and out. The many vaulted areas inside are a feat of stone carving such as I’ve never seen before. The interior is rich in both carved and painted relics, and somehow has managed to survive WWII and the ravages of time. Its gargoyles still spit water.

20120805-203027.jpg

Tonight a local organist gave a free concert on the enormous pipe organ. The concert was sponsored by the Friends of the Cathedral, and consisted of improvisations of historical pieces. The sound filled the cavernous interior, yet, when the organist finished, he spoke to us from high up in the organ loft and could easily be heard throughout the space without amplification.

Just now, the tolling of the evening bells has been joined by a smaller bell ringing something that sounds like a melody, in accompaniment. The bell ringing has gone on now for about ten minutes, punctuated by the sound of a thunder storm. The big bells are tolling slower and slower and more softly. I’ve never heard anything like it. Now a single bell tolls alone. This must be an evening ritual, but I arrived too late last night to hear it.

20120805-203551.jpg

Bayeux is transected by the Rivre Aure, which runs between ancient stone embankments, and looks more like a canal than a river. The current is visible where green plants grow just under the surface. I believe it’s water cress. There are a number of old wooden water wheels which once powered mills, and everywhere in the city center there are brilliant planters, especially of what we call balcon geraniums.

20120805-202729.jpg
It occurred to me as I snapped pictures that our name derives from their use as balcony plants in Europe. These are the most vivid and impressive I have seen on my travels so far.

20120805-202920.jpg

The many stone buildings and different periods of occupation and construction provide an endless feast of architectural detail. I’m wishing I had my telephoto lens here. There are so many carvings, both of stone and ancient wood on timber and stucco houses. I heard today that the timber buildings were originally thought to be temporary. Each member was numbered, so they could be dismantled and moved, and the empty spaces filled with rubble and stuccoed on the surface. Some still stand after centuries.

20120805-203738.jpg

I hear many languages being spoken here on the street. At the famous Tapisserie de Bayeux (William the Conqueror’s propaganda coup on a 70 meter lenght of linen embroidered in wool) I heard a lot of German. This gave me pause to consider that the nearby WWII D Day landing beaches we so often hear about are also an important part of German culture and history.

20120805-202428.jpg
The building that houses the Tapisserie de Bayeux. These huge pink hydrangeas are everywhere in France, and in full bloom right now.

Back to the Tapestry. This is simply an amazing chronicle of the story of how William defeated Harold II and became King of England. Not only is the story well told in graphic embroidered images, but an allegory in animals runs along the bottom and top of the illustrations. I wish I could have taken some photos, but you’ll just have to google it or visit the official site.Ici.

The fact that the original vegetable dyes have held up better than the later replacements, where repairs were made, is a testament that the artisans who created this knew what they were doing. To view the Tapestry, you walk along it in a completely black room with only the fabric lit up, and listen to the narration on an audio device in a choice of many languages.

The panels are stitched together, and are numbered. The narration is easy to follow and pause if you get out of sync. Even though there was a steady line of visitors, there was no sense of crowding or pushing and one could stand back and wait for others to move ahead. I could have spent the day looking at details. There is also and interpretive display and a movie, which is shown at intervals in French and English, separately. I listened to a few minutes of the conclusion of the French version. This is where I heard the Tapestry referred to as propaganda. Perhaps the cinematographers were English.

The Tapisserie de Bayeux is around a thousand years old, and this alone is hard to take in. On my trip so far I have heard various comments regarding it. An English hostess in a B&B where I stayed told me this is the only museum in the world her children wanted to ever return to, and an American in France said it was only an embroidery, not even a tapestry, and that she felt ripped off. She said that she had to leave before viewing the entire thing, because it was so boring.

Comment on this post

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *