The Choir at Azé
There are a series of special events this year for Cluny 2010 which is a celebration of the 1100th anniversary of Cluny Abbey. This evening the local choir performed at a balade chorale (literally choir walk) at Azé, which is the big wine village over the hill to the east of us. Several choirs were invited from different villages. It was a pity that after a week of wall to wall sunshine and warm weather today was cool and cloudy. But luckily there was little rain to dampen the spirits of the singers and their followers.
The event started with the Azé choir singing in the market hall. Then we moved en masse to another location at the edge of the village. A horse and carriage took the children off for a jaunt while the next choir sang. The third venue was the village school yard. We then finished off by returning to the market hall for another rendition from the Azé choir. By that time we were getting cold and hungry and everyone fell on the feast that was spread out on the trestle tables. I don’t think I have ever eaten so well as we have since we came to Burgundy! And if I can’t put two words together tonight it is because of the Azé white wine which must be the best in France.
Some of the things I like best about this part of the world are the food and drink, the glorious countryside and the happy gatherings of friends and neighbours. And of course the lovely weather. I think today has ticked all the boxes.
Today we went on a randonée organised by the Foyer Rural. We all met up looking the part with boots and walking sticks. But before we even set off we went into the hall to partake of coffee and croissants. Then off we went passing through the village and out into the forest then uphill and along the ridge from where there was a fabulous view of the whole Grosne valley. The weather was perfect with a cloudless blue sky and temperatures in the mid twenties.
It was not long before we stopped for the serious business of the day, the Picnic. Everybody had contributed a variety of delicious quiches and flans, all homemade. And a tasty dish like a tortilla but French. Of course as usual the wine flowed freely. Just when I thought we could eat no more the cheese course came out, and after that some cake and apple pie. Then it was time for a little siesta among the cowslips and dandelions.
Setting off again we made our way past La Dame des Roches, the white madonna on the edge of the cliff who gazes over our village, and through the woods where we found wild asparagus and garlic. Both are a tiny version of their domesticated cousins but much tastier.
We walked down into the village of Bray in good time for a concert at the Church given by four girls from the Azé choir, to which some of our neighbours belong. They were so good that the audience demanded that songs be sung again so practically the whole concert was repeated.
The Church at Bray was built in the early 1100ths by the Abbot of Cluny and I would think that little has changed since that time. Sitting in the pews looking up at the original roof beams and romanesque carvings you have the impression that this part of France is timeless.
Chapelle des moines
I have two projects on the go at the moment. One is collecting old street scenes of Cormatin and comparing them to present day photos taken from exactly the same spot as a hundred years ago. I’ll show you the results sometime when things are quiet.
The second project is following the Route of the Romanesque Churches. These were built in the villages around Cluny at the same time as the Abbey was reconstructed but, unlike the Abbey, these have remained intact since the early 12th century. The route loops from Cluny via Cormatin and Malay as far as St Gengoux, then returns by way of Brancion and Berzé. It takes in about thirty villages each with its Romanesque church.
We decided to start at the southernmost point about 10km southeast of Cluny. The road takes you past Berzé-le-Châtel which is a most impressive chateau set high on a rock, a little like Edinburgh Castle. Further down the hill is Berzé-la-Ville where you will find the Chapelle des moines.
The Chapelle des moines is important for its unique Cluny paintings. It was built by Abbot Hugh (1049-1109) who was responsible for overseeing the reconstruction of Cluny Abbey. It was to provide a quiet place for his retirement. Originally the interior walls of Romanesque churches were covered in frescos and it was only much later with the suppression of the monasteries that they were plastered over and the paintings lost. But at Berzé in 1887 well preserved frescos were found under a layer of limewash.
In the chapel the paintings are in three sections. In the middle is a huge painting of Christ and the disciples. He is giving a blessing to Paul, and to Peter he is giving a scroll signifying the law. On the left of this is a scene portraying the martydom of St Blaise, and on the other that of St Vincent. These frescos are important in that they were painted by the same artists that would have decorated the Abbey at Cluny which was largely destroyed at the beginning of the19th century. They show Italo-Byzantine influences and demonstrate the close links that the abbots of Cluny maintained with Rome and Monte Cassino, the source of the Benedictine Order, and thus with the Byzantine Empire.
Anyway, enough history for now. Walk up to the viewing point on the Roche Cloche behind Berzé and you will be able to see miles across to the Roche de Solutré and watch the TGVs like tiny silver beetles speeding north to Paris.
Berzé is well worth a visit. Next time we will continue further along the Route by visiting Sologny and Ste-Cécile which are just south of Cluny.
Marguerite and foal
Just a very quick post to introduce you to our new neighbour born yesterday. He is with his proud mum Marguerite