Sunday, 18 May 2014

Jumieges and Rouen

The plan was to see the Abbey of Jumieges and also spend some time in Rouen and surrounds. On our way from Arras we were heading for the Australian memorial at Villers-Bretonneux but we passed several Commonwealth War Graves sites just by the road and stopped at some. It is always sad to see the serried ranks, often with stones to “A soldier of the Great War. Known unto God”. Where the soldier was known, family could add an epitaph to the stone and these were often deeply personal and moving.
Queens Cemetery_edited-1 Quens 2_edited-1
The Villers-Bretonneux Australian memorial was designed by Luytens and is very formal and rather uninspiring with a type of classical Greco-Egyptian feel. It lacked the drama of the Canadian memorial but included multiple headstones of many fallen, not all Australians. It too has an outlook over the French countryside where they fought and the small town of Villers-Bretonneux where Australians will be forever remembered.
Villiers B pana_edited-1
So many graves

VB memorial 2_edited-1
To the memorial tower
Villiers B_edited-1
From the memorial tower
VB memorial_edited-1
Tower and cross
Villiers B WW2 damage_edited-1
Damage from WW2
Our accommodation was a charming small B&B out in the countryside with Madame who spoke only French but was most accommodating in making herself understood. Our room was blessedly accessible from the car and everything easy for luggage and showering (I hate showers over deep baths; I slip getting out. My new trick is a dry handtowel in the bath to stabilise my feet which seems to work well) The B&B was a great base at a very good price.
Jumieges is tiny and famous for “The most beautiful ruin in France”, the abbey. It is indeed rather lovely, all white and ruined among its green fields and trees. Just a short distance away is the Seine, quite a broad river here, very navigable, and as we ate on its banks one night an APT cruise boat passed by. Sitting in the last of the evening sun on the terrace of Auberge du Bac was delightful, though it quickly got chilly later. The warmth of late spring is is still to arrive here in France.
Jumieges dinner1_edited-1
So the next day was set for a tour; Rouen and the cathedral front painted so many times by Monet; echoes of Joan of Arc of course and the medieval buildings of the city, plus a few other churches. Not all went to plan. The facade of the cathedral was under repair, there was an enormous crowd of worshippers for 10.30 mass on Sunday which was still going on well after midday, so the interior photographs were out of the question and the Jean d’Arc church was closed for lunch 12-2pm in very French fashion.
Rouen is a  city with many medieval buildings, so a few photos, plus a market one of course.
Rouen clock_edited-1
The gros horologe
Rouen market_edited-1
Artichokes in the market
Rouen houses_edited-1
Medieval houses
rouen houses 2_edited-1
And on the square
A touch of the outside of the cathedral.
The facade
Rouen rose_edited-1
The tracery of the rose window
So first, several other local churches. The little gem of the  gothic church of St Maclou, clothed in stone tracery outside and bathed in light inside was heavily  damaged in WW2. It was lovingly repaired, and where the glass was lost, replaced beautifully and sensitively; even some very old grisaille glass was replaced in jig-saw fashion to retain what could be saved. The very high crucifixion above the altar and below the lantern was the final repair.
St Maclou_edited-1
The gothic tracery
Rouen St Maclou_edited-1
Lantern, cross and apse
Rouen St M grisaille_edited-1
Jig saw grisaille
Rouen St maclou glass
Rose glass replacements
Then onto the Abbey of St Ouen. A very grim, dirty looking place with falling stones at the facade and no apparent entry. Finally we found one through a gate leading to the transept door. Oh my! An enormous, almost empty space, soaring pillars and light pouring in through huge windows and upper story lights; an altar in a luminous apse; delicate wrought iron railings and gates; just beautiful. They give organ recitals here too and I can imagine the entire place reverberating.
Rouen st ouen apse_edited-1
Nave and apse
Rouen St Ouen nave_edited-1Nave, organ and rose
Rouen St Ouen ceiling_edited-1
The ceiling and upper lights
Rouen St ouen railings
The railings and gates
From here we retraced our steps to the cathedral, but mass was still in progress (we found out later it was Confirmation day) and the Jean d’Arc church was closed for lunch. So we sat in the sun and had a very satisfactory lunch until it opened. The place is very modern with sweeping roof lines intended to reference the flames of Jean’s martyrdom, and beautiful old stained glass rescued from another church. I was rather surprised that a small impressionistic statue of her death was the only internal reference, and my photo is not very good. I liked the flow and lines of the church and the unusual orientation of the congregation to the altar; I am not sure about the diminution of Jean in the iconography.
Rouen Jean d'arc_edited-1
Roof and glass
Rouen Jean_edited-1
The Jean iconography
A gradual return towards Jumieges, with a stop at St Martin de Boscherville, for St Georges, a 13th century Benedictine Abbey with striking Romanesque architecture sitting in lovely green gardens and white roses. Austere, as  Benedictine abbeys are, so that thoughts are directed to God.
St George abbey_edited-1
St George nave
The light filled nave
At last, on to Jumieges and the ruins. Very visited and enjoyed. People sit in the grounds and play with their children as well as admire and photograph the ruins, then lunch or have an afternoon cider in a nearby cafe. A most satisfactory outing on a sunny weekend.
Jumieges front_edited-1 Jumieges nave_edited-1
Jumieges window_edited-1 Jumieges-edited-1
And so, over the Seine by car ferry to Bayeux.

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