This year we are concentrating on a couple of clusters of new churches while also revisiting some old favorites.
We begin in the west at ① Saint-Philibert-de-Grand Lieu (Loire-Atlantique) just south of Nantes. This tenth century church is one of the oldest in France. From there we circle Bretagne ②-③ and then move up to the ④ Contentin peninsula in Manche department of Normandy. There is a group of about 15 churches there that we’ve scheduled and then we move to the Calvados region around Caen. There is a wealth of churches in this area, from Église Saint Vigor in Cerisy-le-Foret to the great abbey churches of Caen itself. Four days in Calvados will not be enough.
One of the highlights of this trip is that my parents are spending four weeks with us. After Normandy, we pick them up in ⑥ Paris and then go to ⑦ Vézelay, our home away from home in France. We stay at the lovely Hotel Crispol just across the valley from the Basilique Sainte Madeleine. I first came here in 1998 and have been happy to return many times with PJ, my family, and other guests. Paule Schori, who owns and runs the hotel, introduced us to the Abbey of La Pierre Qui Vire and subsequently to Angelico Surchamp. It is only fitting that when we leave Vézelay, we go to ⑧ Tournus where we will visit Surchamp once again.
From Tournus we go to the ⑨ Allier where we will photograph a cluster of churches in the neighborhood of Moulins. We intended to go last year but had to change the schedule at the last moment, so we will get the chance this time. After the Allier, we go south to ⑩ Issoire, another of our favorites. We’ll be staying in the neighboring town of Perrier at the Cour Carrée, a glorious little inn with a wonderful restaurant. The Villettes are gracious hosts and we use their hotel as our base of operations in the bounteous Puy de Dôme region.
From Issoire we go to what must be called the personal center of my universe, the Pont de l’Ouysse in Lacave, between Rocamador and Souillac in the Lot. For over twenty-five years this has been the highlight of trips to France. The hotel and the superb restaurant have gotten nothing but better over the years. It doesn’t hurt that there are Romanesque churches throughout the region.
From the Lot we go north and west to the ①② and ①③ Charente-Maritime where we shoot an amazing concentration of Romanesque churches. Included will be some old favorites but most will be new. They have much in common stylistically, including decorated portals on the west facade, rich sculptural ornamentation and a hall church configuration. But there are also a great many column swallowers, one of our favorites.
After a nostalgic night in Poitiers (where we lived as a family in the early 60’s), we go to ①⑤ Angers for three days. There we will shoot the Angevin Cathédrale Saint Maurice and the Abbaye de Saint Aubin. There will be a special post on Saint Aubin later because of its unique combination of sculpture and murals.
From Angers we go to the hamlet of ①⑥ Herbilly near Beaugency where my family lived in 1952. We visit enjoy the company and hospitality of the family that owns the manor where we lived so long ago. From Herbilly we take my parents to Paris for three days, and then they return home to Santa Barbara, California. PJ and I head back to Vézelay for another week of photography and a chance to watch our favorite soccer team, AJ Auxerre (unfortunately relegated to Ligue 2 this year).
We hope to shoot another 85 churches during on this leg of our long pilgrimage, which will give us plenty to post when we come back. We also hope to do a few articles while we are traveling, but there is so much to do that we will inevitably lag behind. One thing different this year is that we will keep a journal. This will help our record-keeping and will also let PJ keep track of her ideas for later posts.
For those who are interested, here are links to the post about our equipment and how we use the lenses. There is also another post that describes our procedures for handling the thousands of photographs that we create each year in France.