Back to the USA (Dennis Aubrey)


Cathédrale Notre Dame de Chartres, Chartres (Eure-et-Loir) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

PJ and I have been remiss in not posting for the last three weeks, but we have been very busy. After shooting in the Chartente-Maritime for a week, we headed for Angers and then Paris. We had little authoritative information on Angers and had scheduled only two churches in three days – the Abbaye Saint-Aubin and the Cathédrale Saint Meurice. But we had the extraordinary luck to receive an introduction to someone very involved in the Patrimoine of the Department of the Maine-et-Loire. This kind and knowledgeable gentleman introduced us to some of the hidden and inaccessible marvels of the city including the Palais du Tau, the Bishop’s palace. We’ll soon be doing a post on this city of medieval prestige and power.

Salle de Justice, Palais du Tau, Angers (Maine-et-Loire) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

After Angers, we visited old friends in Herbilly, a hamlet near Beaugency in the Loire. My family lived on the property in 1952 and the owners have become friends. The are descendents of Maréchal Michel Joseph Maunoury, the French general whose counterattack on the Ourcq River was the first engagement of the Battle of the Marne in World War I. This key battle stopped the advance of the German army that was trying to encircle the French armies in the east of France. From Herbilly, we went to Paris where we had decided to leave the cameras in the cases for all three days. Instead we walked the city as much as we could in the rain and with the limitations of my bad knee, attended a performance of the Comédie Francaise, and had some wonderful meals with my parents. We then put them on a plane back to California and PJ and I resumed our photography – the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Sens, Collégiale Saint-Lazare in Avalon, Sainte Madeleine of Vézelay, and finally two days at Notre Dame de Chartres.

Basilique Sainte Madeleine, Vézelay (Yonne) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

We’ll do a post on Sens and Vézelay at some time, because both shoots were extraordinary in their way. The Basilique Sainte Madeleine in Vézelay is in many ways the apotheosis of Romanesque in France and Sens is a beautiful early Gothic construction, which we found very charming.

South side aisle, Notre Dame de Sens, Sens (Yonne) Photo by PJ McKey

But Chartres will require more – not only is the cathedral currently in the midst of an astonishing restoration, but we had full access again. PJ had some amazing trips to the “parties hautes” of the cathedral, the ancient byways built into the walls that lead to the upper levels of the church. Thanks to the very kind offices of Gilles Fresson, a Professor of History and the secular coordinator at the Cathedral, she saw things that no tourist can ever see and – of course – took photos. She will describe the adventure in a post of her own, I’ll make sure of that. In the meantime, here is a preview, taken from among the organ pipes in the tribunes.

Apse from the tribunes, Cathédrale Notre Dame de Chartres, Chartres (Eure-et-Loir) Photo by PJ McKey

We flew home yesterday, and if we had to leave France, there is no better place for us to return to than Cape Cod. Buzzards Bay is sparkling this morning, there is fall color in the trees, the birds have flocked back to welcome us, the basset hounds are baying, and all is right in the world.

21 responses to “Back to the USA (Dennis Aubrey)

  1. I can’t be in France myself but your blog is the next best thing. This was a sweet taste of what I expect will be some interesting posts coming soon.
    I’m envious of PJ being allowed to go into parts normally out-of-bounds.

    • Trish, I envy PJ as well, but my knees just won’t allow it. But seeing her work is the next best thing to being there. Meanwhile, I spent most of Friday in the newly refurbished apse. I was alone in there (it is also out of bounds to the general public) and got some great views of the cathedral. One thing is sure; the restoration is remarkable. When finished in two years, Chartres will be one of the great sights in the world, as powerful as when built almost a thousand years ago.

    • Dorothy, one of the pleasures of doing this project is downloading pictures every night after a day of shooting and seeing for the first time what PJ has captured. There is a whole story about finding her after she went up to the “parties hautes” but she will tell that. She came down excited and amazed by what she had seen so I was very anxious to see the pictures. This was one of my favorites, despite the fact that it was the only time during the entire day that people were in the apse and they appear in her photo.

  2. Welcome back and thanks for the enticing preview. Looking forward to the rest of this fascinating trip. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Welcome back! You were gone too long! But I cannot wait to see and read more! The shot from among the organ pipes is spectacular! And the palais was a treasure discovered, it appears.

    • The Palais du Tau was amazing. We met the Bishop of Angers, Monseigneur Emmanuel Delmas and the wonderful curé, M. l’Abbé Pierre Pineau who showed us the capitals in the Palais and explained their iconography. More on that later.

  4. As always, I am entralled with the beauty and atmosphere you capture in these magnificent buildings – if I can’t visit them all for real, your photos are the next best things.

    • We ranged from Surgères to Talmont to Marignac, shooting about 18 churches in total. Some very interesting structures, but so much damage from the religious wars and the 100 Years War. We’ll be posting soon, after we finish our Chartres and Angers series.

    • Thanks for your kind words. We had planned to shoot Amiens but changed our schedule. Will probably be there next year. Seeing your shots makes us even more anxious to shoot in that area.

  5. Somehow your last 3 posts in France didn’t arrive in my inbox. I shall have to re-follow. I am grateful, now, to have been transported back through the power of your photography, to so much beauty How lucky you were with the guide in Angers – I know how much research you do for your visits, but there’s nothing like local knowledge.

    I wish I had thought to mention Evry to you – the complete contrast of this cathedral on the outskirts of Paris might have amused you – built in the 1990’s it has its own weird charm, specially the linden trees planted on the roof! http://bernard.lecomte.pagesperso-orange.fr/cathedrale-evry/textes/english.htm

    • Viv, thanks for the link to Evry; we have seen photos of this church as well and are actually interested in shooting it as a side line. Every time we cross below Paris, I think of making the stop.

      • The Seychelles National Choir, of which I was a founder member, visited Evry two years ago and we went to their concerts, a Creole Mass composed by the musical director, and a Gospel free-for-all.

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