One of the many aspects that I love about France (and most of Europe for that matter) is the artistry that permeates the environment. From the doors and windows to the gardens and the food, nearly everything exudes an artistic quality that, in my opinion, is sorely lacking in the United States. The arts are held in high esteem in France and it shows. What struck me on this trip was noting that many business titles include the word “artisan” in the description; from the patisseries to the boulangeries to painters and plumbers, everyone is an artisan.
Artisan (n): A person manually skilled in making a particular product; craftsman.
I wonder what our society would be like if we all considered ourselves artisans.
I love old cemeteries. I love to walk through them, gaze at the ornate headstones, and imagine the people who have passed. What were their lives like? What did they look like? Would they be annoyed that I’m standing here staring at them? As a kid, I trembled at the thought of walking across people’s graves. I always made sure to walk AROUND the grave, never across it. This probably stems from watching too many black and white horror movies on the Sir Graves Ghastly show (warning: audio starts when you click this link.) However, this behavior is still with me today and if I have to walk across someone’s grave, I always say “excuse me” first.
The cemeteries in southern France are all above ground. Families have small crypts to inter loved ones. Many crypts have several markers indicating which family member is buried in the crypt. The markers might be attached to the exterior of the crypt or they may be placed on the ground surrounding the crypt.
The local cemetery in Durfort was no exception. A couple of us even went back during the week to make molds of the designs on some of the headstones. Here are a couple of iron crosses from the cemetery in Durfort.
Windows, Doors, and Knockers
I mentioned earlier being drawn to the beautiful doors and windows in France. Many doors also feature wonderful door knockers that really are welcoming. Door knockers have been around for ages and were most evident in the Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance periods. Door knockers typically fall into one of three classes: the ring, the hammer, and the human figure or animal heads. Door knockers from the Medieval period were the most carefully designed and those from the Renaissance period were the most ornate. To read more about the history of door knockers, visit here.
Here are a couple versions of the popular hand door knocker which we saw on many doors in southern France.
And the doors; oh my. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many beautiful doors. This gentleman’s head was on a wrought iron door in Soreze. I wonder who he is and what he is thinking.
The doors below were along one street in Toulouse.
Full shot of the door above, including the stunning arch over the double doors.
And of course there are the windows. Here is another pair of windows in Soreze that drew my attention.
And a side street also in Soreze.
There is also wonderful artistry in the architecture of the old churches, castles, chateaus and yes, even the gardens:
The garden above was in Albi behind the Musee Toulouse-Lautrec. It reminds me of the gardens at Chateau de Versailles.
I’ll leave you with this picture of the arched entryway at Cathedrale Sainte-Cecile in Albi. We’ll continue our architectural tour in the next post.