Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween 1989, Poitiers, France

On Halloween of 1989, our friend Laurent Bloch invited us to visit Poitiers, his home town. All Souls Day and the previous evening were a very different type of holiday in France. Many families visit cemeteries, maintain or decorate family graves, and go to church services. There is a public holiday when government offices, schools, and many businesses are closed.

Laurent's family are not at all religious, so he took us on a tour. The first photo shows me in a Visigoth grave, acting for Halloween. The Visigoth graves are something of a mystery, if I correctly remember what Laurent told us. Their sarcophagi, pictured here, have been heaved up out of the ground in the ensuing 1500 years.

We visited a number of the beautifully preserved early medieval churches in the area. Some were restored by the famous (or infamous) Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in the nineteenth century. A few may be in more authentic shape -- Viollet-le-Duc is known for his somewhat excessive creativity in making his restorations fit his theories about art and history. We enjoyed all the Romanesque architecture. In the evening, seeing the robed priests silently entering the churches was a very spooky sight.

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