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September 21, 2014

Lourdon- the unknown Chateau


It’s heritage weekend and Chris had the idea of combining our monthly randonnée with visiting the ruins of the chateau of Lourdon, open to public view for the very first time.

Today's group of walkers

We enjoyed a good walk around Lournand with its pretty houses and wonderful views across the Grosne valley to Varanges and Cortambert. We rested for a while in the ancient chapel of Saint-Laurent at Collonges before heading down to the chateau.

This chateau has never been excavated, having been abandoned after its demolition in 1632. It is on private land and until now the owners have resisted any attempts to investigate it.

But two years ago Castrum lordo, a group of 80 heritage enthusiasts led by Dominique Béruard, in conjunction with the centre de castellologie de Bourgogne, began clearing the site of undergrowth. They do not yet have permission to dig so it is not known what lies underneath the rubble. In one of the ruined towers there seems to be a blocked stairway going down.

Exterior of the jeu de paume hall

The fortified chateau of Lourdon has a very chequered history. It dates from 888, well before Cluny Abbey. In 910 the chateau was part of a donation given to the monks to help found Cluny Abbey and it became a residence for the abbots. It contained their library, records and treasure. In 1470 the chateau was destroyed by Louis XI and later pillaged by Charles le Téméraire. In the 1490s Jean de Bourbon restored the chateau but it was destroyed again by a small group of Protestants in 1574.

The Chateau destroyed

 Twelve years later Claude de Guise rebuilt the chateau. His Lorraine coat of arms with the date 1586  is set in a wall. Claude de Guise also built a hall for jeu de paume, of which the remaining nine pillars still dominate the landscape. Jeu de paume was the forerunner of short tennis.

From inside the jeu de paume

In 1632 Cardinal Richlieu ordered that all fortified chateaux be razed to suppress the feudal nobility and consolidate the power of Louis XIII.  A company from Dijon won the tender and blew up the chateau with explosives. The towers were all demolished but the jeu de paume was largely spared. Perhaps it would not have been much use as defence?

Our guides

So this weekend members of the Castrum lordo took groups for guided tours around the chateau and explained its history. Several were dressed in medieval costume and they had re-enacted an encampment typical of the XIII century. 

A taste of medieval life

They also provided medieval snacks, very welcome as we had been walking all morning.  We became merry on moretum, a drink with blackberry, red wine and marc, and enjoyed the séchottes, a cross between a biscuit and pancake.

Perhaps when Castrum lordo begin their dig and ask for volunteers we will be there with our spades. It would be interesting to unearth what has been hidden for nearly 400 years.


October 2, 2013

A guest blogs…

Filed under: Places,Village Life,Weather — Tags: , , — Mary @ 09:20

I was delighted when D wrote about his experiences while staying at La Maison du Curé in September. It’s so good to get a fresh perspective and some tips about where to eat. The following is reproduced with D’s permission. Unfortunately D&I were here during some unseasonably cold wet weather but they coped with great equanimity.

La Maison du Curé

Sun – Coming to stay in France to enjoy a slice of French life. We tend to walk, sit at cafes and read the paper. And books. House has a v. good selection of books. I needn’t have bought so many. There’s a lot to be said for standing on a balcony, watching the rain, listening and smelling. With a glass of wine in hand. But we do venture out, by train if poss, by bus or in extremis by car.

Mon – Walk up to St Roche, down to the Voie Vert and back to Cormatin. Hot choc at the Café de La Poste. Ate at Les Blés d’Or. OK. Interesting interior


Cafe de la Poste

Tues – Bus to Mâcon. 1€ 50 each. Great ride thro’ interesting rolling countryside. Dinner in creperie. Panache in café on return.

Weds – Walk to the Plan d’Eau. There is more to Cormatin than meets the eye.

Round the Chateau this afternoon and well worth it. English language text books tend to neglect Louis XIII, sandwiched between the Wars of Religion and Henri IV, and Louis XIV. They tend to focus on Mazarin & the Frondes. Poor do?


Cormatin Chateau

Thurs – To Tournus and Brancion. Tournus is manageable, easy to walk round . Excellent plat du jour in the brasserie on your R as you face the Hotel de Ville and statue. Brançion makes a day of it. A first rate small castle, spectacularly sited. Not quite up to some of the Cathar castles in Aude but pretty damn good.


Castle at Brançion

The view from the top of the keep at Brançion, and from the top of the rue de l’Hermitage here, is uplifting. Rolling hills, woods and hedgerows, the pattern of different greens and browns of the fields – enhanced this afternoon by the alternating brilliant blue and jet black of the sky. And then it chucked it down again, drowning poetry. It took 5€ of patisserie to restore equanamity and a bath to bring back the joie de vivre.

 Fri – We took the house bag to carry umbrellas  round part of CO1 and very pleasant was the walk. If there was a market for slugs you’d make a bob or two. Bois Dernier centre is worth a trip. Interpretive boards, rock climbing and a children’s adventure area. On the voie verte 200m towards Chazelle. Dinner at La Place. Pretty good.

Sat – To Cluny market. Coffee at the Brasserie du Nord. Entry to the Abbey was free today so we looked round and had the plat du jour at a busy restaurant. 

Cluny Abbey


Sun – 10h00 Mass at Taizé. Not as dramatic, other than size and youth of congregation, as suspected. Got there early enough to sit on one of the very few benches. The floor is too much for the 70+.  Dinner in Cluny at the Brasserie de la Nation. OK.

Le Journal is by far the best ‘local’ paper I’ve had – compared to those in Indre, Aude, Nievre etc. There’s French and a little international news as well as that from the communes Maconnais. You can get the Times here a day late but I’m happy to ignore England while in France.

Deep in the Guide Vert this afternoon, thinking of 2014. We like Burgundy. This gite – village- area combination satisfies all our requirements, so has spoiled us rather. The village shop has most of the things we need. I’m getting used to the shop owner. Large, in a tiny space, loud, very brisk AND understanding, pleasant and pronounced the cents clearly. Otherwise it can often come out in a jumble that would have me proffering a 20€ note and accumulating a whole load of cents. He’s better than that.

Probably the best boulangerie in the region


Celebrated with a patisserie from first boulangerie. The croissants from the further on are to be preferred. Bought more wine from the wine shop. With that and La Filaterie Cormatin does very well for the better off.

Though the weather has been disappointing it’s not held us back. However “it looks like being warm and sunny next week” is not appreciated.

Fin. Terminé.


February 4, 2013

Discovering Cluny Abbey

Filed under: Places — Tags: , — Mary @ 16:35


Once a year les Clunisois are invited to see how the restoration work is getting on at Cluny Abbey. I’m never one to miss an opportunity of free entry to see the areas not yet open to the public. Each time I go a little bit more of the jigsaw of the history of Cluny Abbey falls into place.

The tower at Cluny Abbey


Cluny Abbey was founded in 910 by a handful of monks. As it grew in importance a larger abbey, Cluny II, was built alongside the first.  In 1088 St Hugues de Semur  initiated Cluny III, the Maior Eclesia, which took 40 years to build. The small town of Cluny grew up around the Abbey to accommodate the builders, artisans and their suppliers, whose medieval shops and houses can still be seen today.


The Maior Eclesia had five altars, four steeples, two towers and was the largest and most important building in Christendom until the rebuilding of St Peter’s in Rome. Under its control were 1,200 monasteries and 10,000 monks. Its organization included priories in Germany, England, Scotland and Spain.

Richlieu's doorway reinstalled.

Cardinal Richelieu, Louis XIII’s first minister, was one of the abbots. A legacy is the magnicent doorway which has just been reinstalled after lying in pieces for a hundred years.

Eventually the Catholic Church became so rich and influential that the King of France tried to erode its powers and the Revolution finally put an end to Cluny in 1791. The Abbey was sold to a building contractor who rapidly pulled it down to sell off the stone in the early 1800s. Many houses in Cluny are built of this stone, not least the Haras, built by Napoleon in 1850. Recently the wall between the Abbey and the Haras was taken down and bases of the pillars have been built on the original foundations to show where the Abbey used to stand.


Pillars built on the original foundations

Even the 5% of the building still standing gives an idea of the sheer scale of Cluny Abbey before its destruction more than two hundred years ago. The remains of the monastic buildings are now the college of Arts and Metiers.


Millions of euros were poured into restoration before the celebrations of Cluny 2010, the 1100th anniversary of the Abbey. Work continues and the change from year to year is astonishing. To be honest I’m not too keen on the modern stuff, bar the introduction of the virtual reality screens which are absolutely fascinating.


The five arches of the cloisters

This year attention has been on the small cloisters which are the remains of Cluny II. Excavations at one end have revealed a stone slab with supports under which the reliquary would have been kept. The original pillars and capitals of the cloisters have been revealed within the wall built later which cut the cloisters in half.

The pillars of the cloisters revealed

There is evidence of two tiers of seating for 180 monks. The old decorated floor tiles have also been revealed.


We skipped the visit to the grenier as time was getting on. The restoration of its impressive boat roof had been completed before last year’s tour and everyone was keen to get to see the monks’ bathroom. This had been used for many years as a storage cellar. The question is, how many monks could get washed in the two sinks? I am awaiting the transcript from the talk and I will let you know what was said. Unfortunately with loitering behind I missed it.

The bathroom before restoration


Restoration in progress

A visit to Cluny Abbey gives a glimpse of the incredible power and wealth of the medieval Christian church and the influence of the medieval church over the people of the area. It’s one of the most important historical sites in Burgundy, if not in France.

May 13, 2012

A weekend of lacemaking in Cluny

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Mary @ 19:32
Lacemaking in Cluny

Lacemaking in Cluny

The first international ‘couvige’ of lacemaking was held in Cluny this weekend. ‘Couvige’ literally means ‘neighbours’ but is now applied to a meeting of lacemakers. It was organised by the Cluny association who invited 80 lacemakers from all over France, Germany and Switzerland to demonstrate their art. They exhibited at various sites around the Abbey which meant a pleasant amble between them in the sunshine.

Demonstration of bobbin lace

Demonstration of bobbin lace

We saw demonstrations of bobbin lace, needle lace, needle tatting,  lace imprinted pottery, lace jewellery of silver wire and the finest embroidery imaginable. At the museum of Jean de Bourbon there was also an exhibition of ‘coiffes’, traditional headresses worn a century ago by women from areas around Cluny. The different syles would indicate where the wearers were from and their marital status.

Work in progress

Work in progress

Traditionally, lace was always used as a fine decoration on clothing – collars, edgings, cuffs, veils, trimmings, and handkerchiefs. But now lacework is framed to decorate the home, used to make jewellery or greetings cards, runners and tablemats.

A decorative horse

A decorative horse

We were assured that lacemaking is not difficult, somewhat on a par with basketmaking. But it must be a test for both patience and eyesight as a small piece of lace can take hours to produce.

Part of the banner presented to Cluny by the lacemakers

There were two banners presented to Cluny by the lacemakers as an extension to the festivities of Cluny 2010. One depicts the medieval buildings and places of interest in Cluny, and the other depicts the Clunaic sites and the influence of Cluny in Europe. Another huge event is being planned for September 2012 and hopefully our friends from the German, English and  Scottish Clunaic sites will be able to join us for another celebration of Cluny Abbey.

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