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Of Popes and Presidents (chronique du 4 août)
Summer is the best time for outside festivals. One of our most famous has just come to an end at Avignon. There is an unofficial street program and an official calendar that is very dependent upon the weather as part is played in what is known as the Honour Courtyard of the ‘Palais des Papes’. This grandiose Gothic style palace was home to 9 Popes, 7 official and 2 in conflict with the Roman Catholic Church. In the late 13th century, King Philippe le Bel needed money to upkeep his army so he levied a tax on the clergy and subsequently forbade any movement of the Holy Church’s resources outside of the French territory. The ensuing minor conflict and the early demise of Pope Boniface VIII led to a calming of tensions during the short rule of Pope Benoit XI who had managed to smooth the waters. A new Pope was elected outside of Rome’s influence in 1305, Clément V, and hence started the official period of papacy in Avignon which had become geographically, commercially and politically very important. It ended in 1376 with the last elected French Pope of this period, Grégoire XI, dying in Rome in 1378 after repatriating the Roman Catholic Church. The last was the ‘nephew’ or more likely the son of Pierre Roger de Beaufort who was the 4th elected ruling Pontiff of Avignon, Clément VI, and was born in Rosiers d’Egletons in North Corrèze. He decided that the palace was not becoming to his stature and it underwent significant construction and renovation. His work was completed by the next Pope, Innocent VI, who was born Etienne Aubert, at Beyssac-en-Corrèze. Grégoire XI was also born in Rosiers d’Egletons with the name Pierre Roger de Beaufort and clearly the subject of nepotism. So you see the Corrèze is a rich source of rulers of all types. Must be in the water!
Horses for Courses (chronique du 28 juillet)
A wonderful expression that has followed me all my life in both good and bad ways. In our region however it is most applicable. We have one of the foremost national equine centres of France right under our noses at Pompadour. It’s the equivalent of The Kennel Club but for horses. A nationwide network of expertise that brings together siring, training of riders and carers and archiving of the lineage of national domestic horses. Horses have never had the consideration that the dog has had as “man’s best friend” but have probably contributed more to the advancement of the human condition than their canine counterparts. They were the prime mode of transport from as early as 3500 B.C. used virtually exclusively in battles from that time and as late as the First World War. As working beasts they were used for pulling transport of all kinds and agriculturally for plowing. Present in the medical field, they are used for the appeasement of both physically and mentally handicapped people and as a source of drugs. On the down side, particularly in Northern France, horse-meat is still sold in specialised butcher shops, their leather used to manufacture boots, gloves and would you believe, baseballs. Their tail hair is used in bows for stringed instruments such as the violin and their hooves for making glue. Working horses today are used in modern policing for crowd control, by the military primarily for ceremonial circumstances, cattle wrangling and in areas where mechanised vehicles are not adapted. They have constantly been associated with entertainment. Cinema, television and the circus have often paid tribute to our four legged friend and luckily you still have the possibility to go to the dinner shows that are taking place in Pompadour to experience the grace, complicity and ‘whispers’ between a human and his horse.
Holidays…’Ici’ (chronique du 21 juillet)
That’s it! Long weekend over and very soon it’s the sunburnt, pealing nose back to the grindstone. I’m just as tired as I was when I left, but it’s a different kind of fatigue. It’s transferred from cerebral to physical and as the saying goes “a change is as good as a rest”. I travelled to warmer ‘climes’ with pulsing heat caressing my body which I regularly cooled in the easy-to-enter Mediterranean Sea but I probably didn’t have to go so far to fulfil the ‘change’ part. I live in a department that has a varied and large capacity of accommodation from campsites, rental cottages, bed and breakfast, to family hotels and 5 star wonders. Of course, the gastronomical renown of the area has nothing more to prove and you can cook for yourself with local produce found on one of the many regular local farmer markets. For those that are budding archeologists there are Roman ruins, caves with pre-historic paintings and living farm museums showing how we lived in the middle-ages. Throughout the Summer there are a multitude of festivals going from the latest hit music to the more classical, theatre performances inside and out and for the static art lover painting and sculpture exhibitions. As we are part of the ‘old’ region of the Limousin we also have our very own highly-rated bike race which follows up the national one with many of the same teams taking part in a 4 day sporting gala. For the more active you can experience parachute jumping, hang gliding and hot-air ballooning above our stunning countryside; swimming, canoeing, diving or water-skiing on one of our superb lakes or rivers and for those of us that like to keep their feet on solid ground, rock-climbing, hiking and cycling. Sometimes it’s just good to look under our very noses.