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.
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.
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.
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.
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.