Coup de Cœur – Part Eight: As if a hand has come out and taken yours
This giddying excitement is almost too much for a girl to take so I can’t imagine how you are coping! Here we are on the second Monday in a row and I’m still keeping the promise that I will devote each start of the week day to a post in the series chronicling the tale of our restoration of a former Medieval Watch Tower in Southern France.
Today, by way of wrapping up the satiating feast of retrospective posts I delivered last week, I thought I would write a little about the history as we now know it, which, it turns out, is rather different to the original tale we were told at the start of this neverending story.
When we first laid eyes on the reality of the place on a freezing cold late January day in 2013 we were assured that the tower, built in 1203, simply fell into neglect and disrepair over the years and the that villagers had, quite understandably, swiped what they fancied and upcycled it into their own abodes. Not so, mes braves. In fact the tower was wilfully destroyed at some point in the early 1790s when news filtered through that the revolution had brought down the Monarchy and flattenened (for a while) the old feudal systems, replacing them with a République that had no need for visible signs of the rule of church and king, hand in glove.
The correct name for the tower as it stood was ‘un tour seigneurial’. Ours was the first place built in what would become the village of Marcolès. It was inhabited by a feudal Lord who was, as in many cases, also the priest. After it was constructed, and satisfied that he could survey everything around him, a church was built, and then another. I think we can rest content that our Seigneur was a man of some excess. Two churches within what is a tiny city wall seems a trifle indulgent. Rather the medieval equivalent of those, so much richer than I, who bring out my most churlish streak by insisting on parading an endless array of unfeasibly expensive motor cars a single one of which would buy me a perfectly good house in which to live a quiet and unobtrusive life. At this time, the population was several thousand in the minuscule area that constitutes the walled ‘cité’ … these days in the whole commune, which is one of the largest in hectarage in the whole of Cantal, we number barely 500 in the village and all it’s hamlets. It must have been quite something.
The present Eglise de Saint Martin was built in the XVth Century and at that time was one of two churches surveyed by the Tour Seigneurial
Thus, during the revolution the tower was deliberately toppled but in fact much of it remained. To attic level for a little less than half of the building and up to first lintel height for the rest. My mind conjures an image of zealous villagers, positively inebriated with joy at the news of the fall of the Monarchy and the old-guard, advancing vigorously on that ancient and extremely sturdy construction and giving it utter hell for some while, bearing off their plundered stone with fervored delight. After the first flush of frenzied looting I imagine them losing steam, scratching weary heads and agreeing that honestly? Honestly, enough was enough, they’d done their bigger than needed bit and shrugging they retired to a hostelry to congratulate themselves over jugs of rough red wine. Vive la France! Now to get on with the important things. It’s entirely imagined and wholly affectionate, but I have a sneaky feeling there might be a bitty grain of truth in the notion.
Fireworks at the village fête de quinze août represent the fervour of the revolution
It should be noted that by now there was a fine chateau called les Poux, built in the early 17th Century which had hopped about between owners as such places often did at the effect of tussles and scurmishes but which, hold the thought, had been snaffled by Huguenots early on. By 1666 as London fried to cinders, its lethal combustion blamed for ever on an unfortunate baker who, in turn, protested his innocence for the rest of his life, yes, as London blazed, the present owners were already the incumbant lairds. I find this significant. It means that they escaped with their heads intact as the villagers, enraged and full of hope that the rich would no longer dictate to them, razed the tower that stood as a symbol of all things archaic and readied themselves for their brave new world.
The tree-lined avenue at Les Poux and a view back to the village from it’s land last winter
In the early 1820s that same sassy seigneur decided something should be done about, what must have been something of an eyesore in the middle of the village. It was surely safe to pop his head above the parapet by this time since the Republic had been abolished in 1804 in the run up to Napoleon declaring himself Emperor. This is not a French history lesson but suffice to say we are, at present, languishing in the fifth Republic of France and that 1824, which is credited as the year this chap decided it was safe to rebuild, was nestled neatly between the first and second. I rather think he thanked God himself for the fact that he still had a head. I think this not because I am harboring pious thoughts but rather because what he did, was to order the building you see now, but not as a house. Instead he created a hospice. Nursing nuns were installed to tend to the sick of the parish and to debilitated nuns from their Mother Priory in Aurillac which lies about 25 km North East of Marcolès and was, and still is, the most important town in the close area. In fact these days it is the préfecture, county town if you will, of le Cantal.
The priory still stands in Aurillac though these days it is occupied as apartments. Gerbert of Aurillac became France’s first Pope in 946 AD declaring his papal name to be, rather splendidly, Sylvester II
The nuns worked gently and serenely, one hopes, for the rest of the century administering to the needy. In 1914 as yet another war, that war that was to end all war, which I still find the most tragic epithet of all time, seered and permanently scarred the fields of Northern France, they departed. I have much research still to do, but I imagine that, skilled as they were, they were summoned to tend the wounded and maimed boys despatched as cannon fodder from France and around the globe. The building became empty and silent.
In 1917 another bevy of revolutionaries, this time in Russia unleashed hellfire on the Czar and aristocracy. They overthrew their own feudal rulers and a chaotic bloodbath ensued. That is the nature of revolution. Sitting and intellectualizing its manner and outcome is fine and dandy but the reality will take it’s own messy course peppered with unknowns and unthought ofs. Some years earlier the daughter of the Chateau les Poux had been dispatched to Russia to be governess to an unfeasibly rich family. She loved her Russian life, took to it like a little French duckling to water and had no intention of ever returning to the middle of no-where-land to pass her days as a spinster. That French was the first language of high-born Russians at the time and that all things French were considered to be the most elegant and sort after of treasures amongst the wealthy, explains why she would have been an appealing appendage to the family she served. It was actually very common for well-educated desmoiselles who had been unsuccessful in securing a husband, leaving all around them scratching their heads and wondering what on earth to DO with such an embarrassment, to be floated discretely off to Russia to live the fine life as an educator of the children in that strange limbo that governesses inhabited – something between family member and servant. 1917 therefore must have come as a colossal blow to her …. the family would necessarily have packed hastily and in their own chaos pointed her back towards France on the turn of a sixpence. All fine and dandy. Except of course France was at bloody and terrible war. Take a moment to imagine what her journey might have been like over sea, overland and eventually, in heaven knows what state, returning to the familial home in far-flung, and blissfully erased from her mind, southern France.
What we do know is that she turned up at Les Poux and was soon installed in the now empty Maison Carrée as it afterwards became known. There are still people who remember her. She habitually wore long, rather old fashioned clothes complete with astrokhan or fur-trimmed coat sweeping the floor, her unusual height exentuated by a tall velvet or fur toque depending on the season. She was a forbidding woman by all accounts and insisted on speaking Russian even though no-one understood a word she was saying. I rather fancy that when this apperition turned up at the bucolic chateau, her sister-in-law ordered her husband to get rid of her, and that is why he cunningly requisitioned the house for her, given it was conveniently empty of nuns. Wholly unsurprising that she was what the French call un peu spécial, which translates as odd, weird or barking mad depending on context. Poor love, she was sent to Russia, fell in love with the place and who knows, maybe with a beau too, only to have to rudely flee for her life back to a place that was less than welcoming and which by then had little to do with who she had evolved into. I have a huge fascination with her, not least because I too, am frequently the lankiest bird in plain site and am, undeniably foreign. Not forgetting odd. If the toque fits, I’m happy to wear it ….
Our not-Russian Russian lady lived in the house til her death, around the time that I was born, when it was inherited by a woman, widowed or divorced, no-one can remember which, and which fact I find quite charmingly indicative of the lack of busybodiness that is part of the fabric of being French. But whichever had rendered her alone she had two daughters and was, in some way yet to be discovered, related to those pesky poux. On her death the house was sold to the aberration of a man who preceded us in tenure, his wife and their two daughters. Therefore, since the destruction of the tower and it’s rebirth in 1824, my husband is only the second man to have resided there. I am comfortable that, wherever he registers on the eccentricity richter scale and which I am far too decorus to have an opinion on, he is also the only vaguely sane man ever to have lived in the building since the Revolution of 1789.
Finally Cast your minds back to the early 17th century. I mentioned the Huguenots. I have spoken before about my father-in-law, cheese guru and eccentric delight. His name was Patrick Rance. Therefore my name, since he was my father-in-law was also Rance at that time. In fact, had I not chosen to revert to my maiden name after that husband and I terminated our matrimonial bond, I would have been Mme Rance at the time I first set foot in Marcolès. The name is Huguenot. It derives from de Rance, a family of that provenance who lived in southern France. The river that Marcolès is built above is called la Rance. Sometimes, things just feel as though they are meant to be …..
PS: The quote is Alan Bennett from his glorious play ‘The History Boys’ :
“The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.”
Discovering the history of this place feels exactly like that. Even though it is not written in the conventional sense, so much of it is being pieced together from scraps of records and jumbles of recollections often told by extremely old people, we feel led towards it by the hand. And the hand undeniably belongs to la Maison Carrée
Many of the pictures remind me of my time in Orvirto, Italy back in 2003.. . narrow streets and lots of beautiful, ancient stone.
I’m happy to remind you of another beautiful place. I sometimes find myself stroking the houses as I pass reminding myself just how long they have stood. It’s quite leveling!
Scary and exciting – I do that too! I am known to have returned to stroke the stone of our home(s!) before leaving – for a walk, shopping, it’s so soothing and when I say: Tschau Hüsli (bye my little house), I feel that all is well….
You are not alone in that affectation. I know many wall strokers! It is very much a soul thing.
I am also v much a tree stroker….
Look what I have just found:
can’t copy link onto site. it’s a doc on Judi Dench and her love of trees. Beautiful… go to YTube and type Judi Dench: My Passion for Trees BBC Documentary 2017
My oldest friend (we met when we were 6 years old) sent me this link before Christmas. I’m a huge fan of Dame Judi and she shot up in my estimation. My friend had trees planted in a rejuvenating woodland in England as our wedding present. She knows me well. You might enjoy my page (it is one of the posts along the top of the page) titled trees …. it will give you a window into my enduring love 💕 🌲 🌳 🌲 🌳 💕
Of course….. why am I not even surprised?! I told HH about this documentary, such a thrilling and incredible testimonial. I also didn’t do nature a favour when earlier in the autumn, I pulled up and destroyed some 30kg of mushrooms growing out of the dead and felled Blue Cedar tree thinking it would contaminate my whole garden… NOW I know better!
Shall try to read your post later in the day. Need to lie down again….
How very fascinating. I wonder if in one hundred years time, someone will be researching our home and be curious about the former inhabitants. Maybe a secret place in a wall, if and when renovation are done, a letter is left…..
Ali that is brilliant. And I have just the place (to be revealed in a future episode!). Thank you so much for taking time to read and leave commentary. I find it so valuable and entertaining the conversation that follows publishing these pieces 😊
We used to enjoy findng the history of the houses we restored…one chance remark from a neighbour about the ‘salon’ led us back to a medieval chateau….
Now THAT is a story I need to read!
Wow – so much rich history! You will become part of this story some day – and maybe have stories told about you like the lanky non-Russian Russian lady 🙂 They will talk about your beauty and your passion and your love of writing and words and life and your daughters and HB2. They will talk about your adventures in restoring it and the tales you told about it through a blog called Half Baked in Paradise. It will be a wonderful part of the story.
Jodi, thank you … in that comment you simply encapsulate that wonderful hope that we can leave behind something better than we found both in terms of the fabric of the building and, as importantly in the legacy of love and kindness we hope to leave behind. Your description of how you experience me gives me tears ❤️
This is so totally fascinating! You are literally living, walking, and breathing history – I cannot imagine anything more exciting.
It is Dolly! We are so fortunate to have stumbled on the place and been stubborn or stupid enough to take it on. The history really feels as though it calls to us to uncover it. And doubtless there will be more. The village historian is more concerned with the original incarnation of the building as a tower which is fantastic. He is a retired and devotes all his time to researching a book on the history of the village. So that part I am happy for him to explore and uncover. But the second history fascinates. All those women …. this place makes it easy to count my blessings (though the actual restoration has me screaming for mercy much of the time!)
As challenging as it is, it’s a labor of love, and you are to be envied for being given this opportunity and having the wisdom to grasp it when it presented itself.
My husband was the really wise one. He would not be deterred. I don’t touch on the story of the purchase because it forms the basis for the novel I am working on but he just refused to be put off. Love, surely makes things so much easier. Certainly this saga proves that!
As a friend of mine once said from stage, “I am lucky! I was born in a city where a writer doesn’t have to write; all he has to do is listen and record on paper.” You are living in a novel! It’s the most amazing, fantastic experience I could ever imagine.
That’s exactly it! Perfectly put malady 😊
If that’s a malady, I don’t know what a blessing is!
I curse autocorrect. It should read Milady (although on reflection the character in Dumas’ books was not a pleasant cookie so I will settle for calling you ma belle amie instead!
My husband read somewhere that Milady de Winter was not a fictional character; she actually existed. Have you heard that?
P.S. “Bella” was my nickname as a little girl. We had Italian neighbours.
I’ve read that too but never followed it up. You remind me to correct that oversight. Bella suits you 😍
Thank you. Initially, it was Bella Bambina, but then I grew up out of “bambina” age. 😻
I shall always think of you as Bella Bambina now …. We should never truly grow out of being bambini 😊
I think I was born 18 years old, and that’s how I am staying. This is my story, and I stick to it. 😻
I believe all of us are born an age which is with us through our lives. I am six 😉
Good for you, and very accurate, according to all developmental scales! Brilliant, inquisitive, industrious – that’s the age. Gorgeous as well, but that’s a bonus from Heaven! 😻
I am now blushing like a beetroot. Thank you, dear Dolly ❤️
All true! Yesterday my students practiced developmental testing on live pre-school kids. One little cutie actually indicated that she might function on a level of abstract conceptualizing! If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I would’ve marked it as a student’s mistake. Yet emotionally and socially the little girl was exactly where a 5 – 6 year old should be, i.e. age-appropriate. I think that’s where you are “holding,” as we say in Jewish education. I suspect this little girl will grow up to be pretty much like you, if she is given proper upbringing and education.
Lovely tale, and I love the night photos – reminiscent of a, not London, in the fog one cold November’s night
Bingo! That’s exactly it, Arby and oddly enough the pictures were taken on a foggy night in November …. it’s always lovely to see you here when you find the moment – thank you for taking time to stop and read and comment
I get giddy just spending the night in a centuries-old hotel, so I can’t imagine what it must be like to actually own a historical building and call it home. Your writing is very special…photos are great, too.
It is a privilege and that is part of the reason we are taking our time. This house has been like a rather seasoned old lady who finds herself in hospital having been knocked down on the side-walk. She was extremely uncooperative to begin with but as we understand more and more of how she was and why I feel her relaxing and, although not always cooperative in the traditional sense, if we listen, she guides us. You are too kind about my writing but believe me your kindness gives me confidence and delight, my photos are very hit and miss but I do enjoy taking them!
I bet the Russian had some stories to tell.
Absolutely … it’s probably too much to hope that we might uncover any but yes, some showstoppers, I’ll bet.
Oh, could you imagine if you were to come across an old diary of hers? That would be a treasure trove.
It absolutely would and I haven’t given up hope. There are still some ghastlier to uncover and they may be stuffed with something of interest …
I will hope there is!
What a splendid history of la Maison Carrée. The best part is that once again it is being loved and cared for by someone who deserves to call it home.
And like a stiff old lady, she is slowly beginning to unbend and let us help her. Though sometimes she is still quite cantankerous!! So glad you enjoyed it 😊
I love the “odd” admission 😂
That oddness is a large part of why you’d be an excellent history teacher.. History is not bland, yet so many teachers, teach it blandly.. You teach the passions, struggles, pain and victories of the past.. If history was taught in the same manner as your writing, the human race might learn to not let the same mistakes happen over and over again..
This post is a beautiful way to wrap up the recap 💛
I lived in a village I called ‘Discretely Streatley’ when my children were very young. We lived there for 10 years. During that time I was sure that I was conforming nicely and blending into the wallpaper effectively. Imagine my dismay when a friend of mine one day casually called me ‘odd’. I was stung and it was a couple of weeks before I picked up the nerve to say something. Her turn to be horrified ‘my dear’ she said ‘it was meant as a compliment – it’s your oddness that we love so much’. After that I decided not to try to be something I am not … History should be told as living stories because that’s what they were. The moment we try to whitewash events we are doomed to fail again. In schools, surely history is the most important of subjects and it is the feeling of an age rather than dry facts that need to be absorbed. The feelings and the effects. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. The next will be back to the restoration but hopefully this piece serves to give more perspective to what we are dong 🙂
I’m glad you asked her and embraced your precious oddness that we love and is rare to find in the world..
YES! This also is so important – we need to know about history. I had a father who grew up in Germany (as a Swiss!) and came to CH only at the end of WWII – it’s a long and twisted story but as children we didn’t appreciate his ‘oddness’ in many things. We didn’t know anything about his path of life, we also didn’t know ‘better’ and only near his death did I truly realise what ‘history’ really meant.
Brilliant and splendid presentation, Osyth. What a place, superb.
You are SUCH a generous spirit and your kind words always fill me up with delight … we feel very privileged to be custodians of this place, in truth. Not least because we are foreigners in a remote part of France. Hopefully we will manage to do justice to all those amazing people who went before 🙂
Welcome Oysth for these kind words and there sure are wonderful places untouched by men on this earth. Hope that they remain unblemished.
We have to keep protecting with all our might. And if we can tell history in an engaging way to the young, maybe they will be less likely to engage in foolish combat in the future.
Yes absolutely true and history needs to be preserved and cultivate good habits in our youngsters too.
There will be no whitewash on my shift!!!
Hahaha great Oysth.
Your kind comments always fill me with delight – thank you so much. We feel very fortunate to be custodians of this place particularly when it is in a remote part of a foreign land. We feel very strongly that we must do justice to all the people who went before us, living lives unimagined. Justice to all except, perhaps our immediate predecessor- he we might gloss over 😉
Thanks Oysth and I completely agree with your words of so much wisdom and truth.
Sorry, I think there are some duplicated comments knocking around because they are not showing on my device! I don’t really do technology at the best of times!!!
Yes, yes it sure is Oysth and do not worry it happens with me too.
What a great tale!
Have you read “A Distant Mirror: The Tumultuous 14th Century,” by Barbara Tuchman? She is a top-notch historian and sets the story in France. Considering the dominance of religion in daily life, it isn’t surprising that a community of 1000 would have two or even more churches. People lived within the safety of the town walls, which made them conveniently close for morning and evening services. Even where I grew up in the U.S., there was a church every two blocks; the attached schools have closed as has one of the churches.
The names are amusing–Poux are fleas; Rance is rancid (though as you note, in FIL’s case it’s clearly related to the river). We have a baker named Froment.
As for the glee of the post-revolutionary villagers, it reminds me of Waterloo in Belgium. I had seen the much-mocked monument, with its gold lion, from the autoroute, but when I actually visited, I was moved to tears. The Flemish farm women had been so happy that Napoleon was defeated, they made a monument with all they had–buckets of mud piled up until it formed a tall hill (the lion came much later). And I can imagine them dumping their buckets on the growing heap of mud while cursing the destruction Napoleon had brought.
My apologies for the tardy reply …. thank you for the comment. Of course, you are right about the size of commune and the need, at the time, for churches. I have not read the Barbara Tuchman book – I will seek it out. My pieces are written lightheartedly and not to be taken as history lessons – for that I turn to my cousin who is, which might interest you, a renowned expert on the Crusades amongst other things. He is an archeologist by Professorship and DPhil (Oxford) but the two disciplines necessarily collide. He promises me a visit to Marcolès when he has a gap in his academic schedule – I will be interested in his take on the early history as it is being pieced together by our resident historian. Anyway, I have noted this book … it may be my husband that reads it. I am more focused on 17th Century onwards by disposition although sitting in the Quartier Latin in Paris as I have been all week, I am reminded that my own city, Oxford, and all it gently infected me with over the decades is far older than that.
We did giggle when we first noticed the name of the chateau …. I have a story for later on which will highlight what it means to readers 🤭 I have always understood that de rance means rancor and rance on it’s own means rancid. Given that I am divorced from that husband, you might understand that there were moments when I thought either cap fitted him rather well. My father-in-law (who, you might recall lived near Arles) always insisted that it be pronounced with a hard A as in Pants rather than the French way. For obvious reasons. And historically they were de Rancé or so they claim 😉
I am so glad that you enjoyed the history. Of course we may find more and we may find that some of this is not quite right. That is the joy of history … it is a matter of shifting through enormous and often conflicting amounts of documentation and then interpreting. We are hoping to track down the daughters of the widow/divorcée who would be perhaps 10 years older than me or a little more. If they are willing to visit the house, I am certain they will be able to send light on how it looked in their time. In the meanwhile, the mayor is a great source as is the old lady opposite who mercifully seems to have recovered form my faux pas over her wall coverings!!!
Passer un très bon fête de Noël 🎄
Absolutely loved this! Fascinating history, told in your own inimitable style – what’s not to love?! It must feel a little special (in the English sense, not the French one) to be the custodian of a place with such an important role in the local history, and with such a great collection of stories about previous owners and residents. My flat was built in 1972 and has no history whatsoever, so I’m envious of what you have found. I can well understand your commitment to fully restoring your home xx
It is a responsibility and a privilege to be custodians of such a place particularly in a remote place in a foreign land. Early next year I will start partitioning the stories and outling novels based on what we know. I seem to be getti g lots of enthusiasm for the stories so I might as well develop them. I think. xx
We are hugely fortunate to have been allowed to take this place on. A fact that is explained in my novel. Which I am getting on with such is the kindness and enthusiasm of so many, including you. As a sideline I intend to spend a little time outlining possible versions of the stories that preceded us and see if it is worth expanding any or all of them in to further books. And then there’s the story of the renovation. That seems to be grabbing people too. Blimey. I don’t think I’ll see daylight for the next decade! Thanks so much for your unerring support and enthusiasm, Clive. It means a lot to me xx
I really admire your verve, energy and commitment in taking on the project, knowing that it comes with so much responsibility. I hope you can find time in your busy schedule for all of your planned written works too: the support you receive for this is well deserved, and if I’ve helped in any small way in that then I’m happy too xx
Marvellous piece my friend. How interesting your newly unearthed alternative history is proving!
Clearly meant to be. This little gem was one of those magical, stumbled upon treasures that we all unearth sometimes. Whether we decide to run with our gut on these finds depends on many things, timing, finances, opportunity, backstory; one never knows until one starts a journey whether it will satisfy the soul.
Whether the treasure is a person, property, place or possession, it will ultimately be life -affirming; but only after much toil. That’s part of the story too.
From one serendipity scout to another. Go forth and maximise!
Wise, wise words …. it is only by metaphorically getting our hands dirty that we can truly engage in the journey. You, I know, understand all the issues that surround our ability to do things but, as I often say to people about bringing my family up with slender resources (another thing I know you understand) – in many ways I was fortunate because I was forced to think of alternatives and I was not able to rely on easy fixes to occupy the children. And they learned the value of need over want. The same applies at some level to projects like these. What you need to do comes first. What you want to embellish with you find ways of achieving. And you learn patience. Bucketloads of the stuff. I am delighted to be counted as a fellow serendipity scout and I promise I will do exactly that!
Our new moniker? It just dropped into my echoing skull, emptied by a particularly onerous hard working Monday.
I think so …. let’s get them done for the Moot 😉
wow ! Thank you for telling us the story of this very very special house, and the very special people who lived there !!
I hope that I have done them some justice. It’s hard to imagine what the life of a young Nun would have been like in a tiny hospice 25 km from her home priory which, on foot or even on an ox-cart would take a long time to reach and the not-Russian lady …. I just can’t begin to think what her life must have been like. However, I weave stories so I will try to take what I know and make them bigger as romains in time :). Thank you so much for your lovely remarks. I so much appreciate them 🙂
You’re welcome, I feel the same !! 🙂
Wow Osyth, soooo much history here. It’s hard to believe this place has witnessed so much over the years! If only the walls could whisper and the narrow streets shout out their secrets and stories. 😉
I honestly wonder what secrets it does keep …. all those years and years and years of people being born, living, dying. So many souls …. it is leveling to think how tiny a speck we are n the fabric of time x
For sure. We are are only here for such a short period, a mere speck indeed. Xx
It is so very interesting to own a house with such a long history but then to find out that the house may have come full circle with the Rance name – wow! There are no accidents in this life, just serendipity.
The first time we crossed the river and saw it’s name on the sign I nearly drive into it with shock. We are very oriciliged to be custodians of the place and aim to make sure we leave her in good shape when we pass on from this earth place ☺
Wow Osyth…so.much history here…i am.overwhelmed with the thought that one day you will be part of it too..
We are all part of history… it is for us to make the marks good and true 💛
Yes…very well said …and the best history is i suppose the memories we will create with our love ones in our homes..
100% yes to that!
Wow what interesting history! You make it all so much fun adding your ideas in along the way! I love the pictures especially in the winter. Lovely Fiona
Doesn’t everything look extra magical in snow? The history is amazing but I think most history is if we care to consider it.
Yes I agree most history is really amazing!
You live in a magical place!
The village is very special …
Wonderful; simply wonderful…
PS Merry Christmas!
You are ever FAR too kind. Have the Happiest Christmas full of joy and laughter, please do!
Oh what a lovely post to read with my cuppa this afternoon!
I love that you have looked into the history of your place and that there are so many tales to find! I must do that with the old house too.
I love the Not Russian, Russian! What a character and poor lady really. As you say, what a journey crossing the torment of Europe at that time and to have to come back to a place where she was not really welcomed!
I do think that we have a strong connection with the past and certain characters from it. I love reading about the Russian revolution and the royal family. My mother loves the Elizabethan era and is fascinated by a lady called Lettice Knollys. She went to an old house once not knowing about this lady and was drawn to her portrait hanging there. Lettice led a fascinating life and loved until she was in her 90’s. I love finding out about the lives of people from history.
I have always said that each house should come with a book that residents write in…what an amazing personal history that would leave for each house.
Anyway, thank you for that lovely Osyth. X
Yes, you must! I have only really started to scratch the surface. I want to spend time in the cemetery, at the priory and looking through the town archives and church records. So far it has been what we have been handed and plenty of propping up the bar with the old codgers (my idea of a heavenly pre-lunchtime by the way). Lettuce Knollys! What a wonderful name! Your mother was obviously drawn to her for a reason and the stories clearly gave her reward. I think we all have eras we are drawn to. I have always had an affection for the 18th/19th Centuries. Less so for Medieval times. Hence being happy to leave the village self-elected historian to do the digging on the tower and I am happy to focus on what really should be called La Maison des Dames ….
Loved this bit of history told so very well, and that narrow cobbled walkway feels like a hand reaching out to me.
I live in a city where a home built in the 1950s is considered historic. Though there are plenty of native ruins we can see in short day trips, but they are nothing you’d want to live in. 😉
That’s just it … the whole village is riven with history. As I suppose would I be if I had germinated in 1203. Living in such a place is a constant reminder of what tiny specks we are in time. Just think – in 100 years your town will be properly historic 😉
Thanks for sharing this marvelous history Osyth!!!
My pleasure … I’m so glad you enjoyed it!
Really, really, enjoyed this, as you obviously did too. Great pictures. I do so hope that when you cleared out all the sawdust/shavings from under the floor, you left a skeleton under the boards!
I did. Really, I did. Thank you for the kind words and praise of my myopic point and shoot photography. I haven’t left a skeleton yet, but there’s plenty of time ….
Sometimes you do not own a place – it owns you, and for that moment to happen many, many little moments nudge you in it’s direction. 🙂 Loved reading about the history (and sometimes I spend a lot of time wondering who lived where and how that was when I see an interesting place).
Exactly and precisely right! I’m happy you enjoyed the read …. i close my eyes and I can see all those people who went before and I want to do justice to their lives …. it brings mortality into sharp perspective
Ah, the most important thing is to do justice to your own life, using your own judgement. You know in your heart what your balance is.
Just like your faithful commenting friends, I too am totally overwhelmed by the unfolding story you tell. It’s amazing to read the history of this house, you must have been doing much research and read tons of papers. Then you have a way with words which suits me right down to the core, I love feeling your enthusiasm for the Maison Carrée and it’s hidden secrets and discoveries. I love reading about the feelings of your readers too, it’s fascinating and opens one’s heart even more. Thank you for sharing your treasures and good luck with the next instalments, the surprises to be had, may this end as THE forever home.
Reading about the Russian Woman who actually wasn’t ….. what an incredible token-story to your own ‘history’.
In the end, history is all around us. I am drawn to the stories in this house and want them to be preserved. I remarked to the Colonel of the Gendarmeries of Isère who lives in the apartment above us that like him,, I am a detective … to be a writer it is in the spirit. So happy that you are still enjoying the journey 🙂
You have done really well to discover so much of the life story of your lovely house in such a short time. And you and yours are already such a part of that rich tapestry. I loved this post. Thank you.
Part of the kismet of the timing of buying the house is that one of the locals retired at the same time and has been devoting his time to uncovering the history of Marcolès. Because the house is so treasured, we have been fortunate that he has concentrated much of his effort on it. He is, though more concerned with the medieval than the more recent history so I have taken up the chases and so far it has been enthralling. I am overjoyed that you enjoyed the post so much. Are we not fortunate indeed to have been allowed amazing buildings to bring back to life 🙂
It’s wonderful to see how absorbed you are in the unique history of your lovely house and it’s lovely to share it with you – such a wonderful fascinating resource and so thought-provoking x
I’m so glad you enjoyed it. The chap who has taken it upon himself to unearth the history of the village has been invaluable and shared all sorts of documents with us. Now, of course, knowing the broad history, I want to know more about the characters …. x
Again I see ancient figures walking the streets and alleys, stopping at the baker the butcher and the dairy. Preparing food as the sun rises, going to the fields to work and share in the bounty of the soil. I was born in the wrong century.
No. You were born in the right century because you remind us of what real values are. And you will do this more and more as you pursue yours own dream to fruition.
I especially liked “a thought, a feeling, a way at looking at things” of which you wrote 🙂
Alan Bennett is a masterly writer, ‘The History Boys’ a marvelous play and that quote, including the snippet you liked seemed to fit the piece as a whole. Thank you for dropping by and for taking the time to comment. I have hopped over to your blog but I seem only to be able to find an explanation of who you are rather than any actual articles. Perhaps you would guide me as I would like to read some of your work 😊
Funny about coincidences once more. I married a Paine – a northern French connection. My father-in-law stood at six foot nine – a giant. My husband and I travelled to France often and I fell in love with the country – hence why I am now here. The marriage floundered in the end. My memory of my late father-in-law was not only remarkable in height, but also by his booming voice and ginger hair and sadly his bad legs and circulation. He died a few years ago.
Whilst unpacking after arrival at our barn, my current beau asked me why I looked like I had seen a ghost? I had – my father-in-law!
He was THE SAME – tall, booming, with bad feet and ginger hair. I was momentarily fixed to the floor. The next day, Mr and Mrs R introduced themselves. Unable to speak French I couldn’t quiz Monsieur’s lineage, but he came from Northern France too. Until I can probe him further and translate his very broad accent, it will remain a mystery as to why two people were it appears doppelgangers. I hoped it was not some strange revenge, as in the end my father-in-law became eccentrically unpleasant to my ex. I had left by then and not on great terms with either of them.
But so far my neighbour is a lovely man and very welcoming. I have actually buried some demons about the father-in-law having seen the friendly version of him pottering about. But I will get to the bottom of this mystery as I do believe in fate.
Another great read Osyth. Thanks for the marvelous continuing saga, The part about building the two churches immediately brought to mind a joke my grandfather used to tell us when I was a little boy, He was a wonderful man who left his family and escaped from Russia at the turn of the century (around 1904) never to see them again. He was full of the funniest stories always told with a twinkle in his eye. This one tells of the rabbi who went to the moon and built two synagogues. When asked why it was necessary to build two synagogues he pointed and said that he went to that one, but “to the other one I don’t go”. Thanks for bringing back the happy memory :- Have a lovely Xmas.
Andrew … your Grandfather gets the storytelling prize- I adore that tale and I’m thinking of him in that vast terrain at the same time as my not-Russian Russian lady. User it so often the way that those that those who adopt a place become caricatures of the reality of the indigenous- interesting and I know I would have loved your grandpa 💕
Thanks Osyth. You would have indeed.
You really must keep catching your breath every time you come around a corner and there she stands in all her glory. I am so happy, jealous and just all around elated for you both….even though it seems to have already been a long haul, think of the future and what is to come…..as many years as she has been standing and with all the woman she has helped through the past, she is going to be gorgeous when your done fawning over her ! To be the curator of her for your lifetime, you and your sweetheart are truly blessed….Hoping and wishing you a very Merry Christmas in Grenoble…..sending you joy, peace and love….xxxkat
Exactement! Some things take time to perfect and this place is taking time but there is no need to rush …. she has stood there all this time and she will stand a while longer. Her history really speaks to us and we feel extremely fortunate to have found her and to be allowed to return her to burnished glory. I send you love from Grenoble and the wish that your Christmas is full of love and laughter xxx
Good morning right back…Merry Christmas from Santa Rosa…cold and gray morning, perfect for coffee and reflection….plus I woke up to Christmas Ants in the kitchen lol so had a little clean up before coffee…pretty sure they were hoping I was in the Christmas spirit and let them continue to raid the kitchen, but sorry to say, I can be a scrooge lol Merry Christmas my friend…xxoo
not sure what friena is but should of been friend lol
How fascinating! I love this sort of thing as you know and the tower’s history is certainly chequered. I love the idea of the eccentric non-Russian Russian lady. Have you managed to unearth any photos of her? She was plainly very tall, which might have put off local suitors, who are stocky montagnards in the Cantal. This is history the interesting way – not what you read in textbooks, but what you find in scraps and throwaway lines.
I remember your father-in-law with his monocle in Wells Stores. He would cut one a generous piece of cheese to try and then have some himself! Wonderful that you might be returning to his family’s roots.
I did hope you would enjoy this, Nessa …. you are rather the benchmark for such matters in my world. So far we have no photos of this lady who, you rightly say must have struggled by dint of her height in an area where she would have towered over the menfolk. I find it interesting that she was so tall and want to try to find out more about her heritage. For that I have to turn to the Chateau which is on my agenda for the next period. I also want to locate the daughters of the widow/divorcée (in truth I strongly suspect the former fate) who actually lived in the house. I am hopeful that they may have some information but of course it is a willingness to impart that one must be sensitive to. My father-in-law was pretty unforgettable, wasn’t he? I don’t think he ever cut a piece of cheese without snaffling some for himself. I like to think that, even though I was only connected by marriage that the fates have conspired to bring me to this place. Now to work out what to do with Part 9 ….. (I decided to take a hiatus on Christmas Day but will try to peddle an episode for New Year’s Day – of course it is always in the lap of the Gods whether I manage to do as I say, but that’s part of the fun) After that I will be scooting to Marcolès for a few days freezing fun with floors 😉
I’ve found that one always has to tread carefully with local people when it comes to seeking information. Sometimes, they are very willing to part with it. At other times, they can be quite cagey (especially about WWII) or are simply surprised that we might be interested. Good luck with your researches.
In fact you have pointed to that in your own writing on occasions and I have taken the fact to heart. We are hopeful that this fellow who has elected himself chief historian for the village will be the person to guide us further and to judge whom might be willing and who not
P.S. I’m intrigued by the curtain that is plainly ready to be strung across that archway. Almost like a stage set.
Well spotted and you are the only person to comment! That picture was taken in July just after ‘Les Nuits de Marcolès’ which is a wonderful 4-night treat every year – I will devote an episode of the saga to it … it’s great fun! So the curtain is not always there, just in July to add to the drama and give the audience a grand entrance when the fun begins 🙂
The curtain is a lovely idea and Les Nuits de Marcolès sounds great fun. I look forward to reading about that. It is obviously a fascinating place and definitely on my bucket list.
One of the things that I really admire about the village is their determination to make the most of what they have. Although they are pretty much off the map, and what they have is very tiny they have really pulled together to make it a place that people want to visit. I hope you will, one day 🙂
Oooh, aaaah! I am saddened the tower didn’t just fall due to disrepair. Instead to have had it willfully destroyed is upsetting and hope bad Kharma to those who destroyed this.
I loved how you ended this, when someone says or explains something as if they are you, as if they know your heart and mind, is truly magical. . . “As if a hand has come out and take you.” Perfect summary to all this lovely landmark has endured and been deeply beloved, Fiona. ❤ xo 💖
Hope your New Year is safe, healthy 🙏 and joyous in all ways, dearest friend. 🎆✨
It was very much the mood of the time. Sadly, much as America felt the repression of King George, so France felt the repression of King Louis. Chaos ensued in France and rather as Germany between the wars, unfortunately laid the fertile soil for the rise of a frightful dictator intent on world domination. I don’t wish those people ill – I wish they had not been destructive …. and sadly looting is still alive and thriving whenever there is political unrest. There will always be those that use unsettled times as an excuse to thieve. But the house has reached out and taken us by the hand. When I eventually finish the novel I am writing about how we came to buy the place (deliberately comic in tone, by the way and all players and places are disguised … it is fictional but very much rooted in what actually happened which honestly is stranger than fiction) – I think those that read it will be in no doubt that we were ‘meant’ to find this house and that even though I despair regularly, she gives us the determination to restore her tattered clothing and make her the belle of the ball once more. I wish you SUCH a wonderful New Year – love, peace and joy to you all to be followed with a 2018 full of good surprises and wishes come true xx
Oh, I am always glad to hear your personal contemplations on any subject. This was so nice if you to give me more of the background on this and remind me of our own rebellious path here from King George.
Like you mentioned, the past should be forgiven but I believe, never forgotten. Hence, those words often repeated. . .”lest we forget.”
I am proud of your taking on this projectand do realize it’s like “an albatross around your shoulders.” You don’t complain, but I imagine it is quite daunting.
I would be proud to purchase your veiled fictional historical novel, Fiona!
I loved your amazing wishes for my family and now, I must return them exactly as you expressed them. They are perfect!!
Wishing you a wonderful New Year — love, peace and joy to you and your family. Hope your 2018 has many good surprises and wishes come true. xo 💖 💐 🌈
I simply think that I am enormously privileged to have the opportunity to restore an historic monument however small, wherever it is. History repeats if we are not careful, over and over again. Lest we forget are the wisest of words. Never to be repeated too often. Never ever. When my book is finished you will have a copy signed and given free of charge with my love and no strings. No need to review, no need to even read it if you don’t feel the need. Just given to a truly valued person with my love xx
Oh, I like to buy books from friends. I only have enough extra to buy 4-5 a season now. I am skipping winter and spent on books my grandchildren chose. Even baby Hendrix chose a book!
My youngest daughter makes quite a bit of money in real estate and once she pays off her college loans, she will consider having me as her “partner,” doing secretary work and home showings and phone calls. I will be starting classes in the spring to get out of my warehouse job. ✨
I’m sure you have “heard my story.” How our government when President Bush made a mandate to have Master’s degree to teach, while I was taking classes I ran out of time and used my bachelor’s and professional teaching license to try and get teacher asst, tutoring, and school aide jobs while working at current job. I applied to nearly 360 jobs over the past ten years and only two interviews.
I have waited tables but decided it is not predictable! So, I believe in the goodness of people and one day, may be a licensed realtor. Yay! Tonight my three younger grandies will spend the night. Then, on New Year’s Eve I am going to my first big party with Felicia! 🎉 I have two new outfits, thanks to brother Rich’s Christmas gift of a store credit card. 😊 Hope you have a fun and joyous Eve and begin 2018 with a hug and kiss from daughter, sister (and) or hubby, dear friend. . . xxxx
Very poetic Osyth! It is very levelling when confronted with such ancient sites and buildings. I too touch the stone walls and feel very honoured to be able to do so!! Interesting post.
Always stroke the stone …. it’s reminds one of how fleeting we are, I think. I’m glad you enjoyed the post …. we are really only scratching the surface of the history – there is much yet to be discovered and much that will remain covered, doubtless.
What fabulous history your house has! They probably used the original stone from the 1203 building to rebuild your home. When you mentioned the feudal priest, I immediately thought of the priest in the book Chocolat. He was turned into a Mayor in the film – a Hollywood touch. You should put all this together into a book about the house and it’s surrounds. K x
I’m sure much of the stone is original to the tower. I love the book Chocolat and the film too, of course. My husband has a thing for Juliette Binoche (understandably) so it is a pretty worn DVD in our house 😉. I think the place will spawn several books if I ever get my act together … so many stories to work with. But my daughter says I should write the history and hide a copy (we have just the place) to be stumbled upon one day in the future. She also suggested wallpapering the bathroom with it’s pages x
I love the idea of wallpapering the bathroom!
I do too …. she’s very creative and comes up with (forgive the pun) off the wall ideas often. You two would get along roaringly now I think about it!
all your posts are “coups de cœur”, dear Osyth, as you’ve always written them with the “feather” of your big heart… <3 wish you my very best for the coming year: HEALTH, joy and love with your beloved hubby and all your close ones… poutous & à+! 🙂
* * *
otherwise, I can figure out your hubby's "thing" for Juliette Binoche, mine, too… 🙂 he used to like Isabelle Adjani before she started de ravaler et retaper sa "façade" to look younger, but she actually looks "figée"(frozen!)!!! 😀
It is so sad when a beautiful woman can’t bear to age gracefully …. my husband stands with yours on Adjani then and the sad results of not wanting time to create it’s own beauty. In my eyes their is great beauty in allowing nature to take her course and even though we gain lines, they are lines that we have earned. That said, I have to give thought to whether to change my hair as the amount of grey I am disguising is getting a little out of control 😂
Snaps are beautiful
Thank you … how kind of you to take the time to stop and comment 🙂
Happy New Year Osyth!!!
Et à toi, Almeidedepaulo – I hope you have a wonderful fête de saint-sylvestre and that 2018 will bring you only good surprises and a hatful of wishes come true x
Hey Osyth, Happy New Year my friend, I hope your days in Marcolès will be productive !
Cou cou mon amie …. touts mes vœux pour une très belle année pour toi! Marcolès beckons next Monday with a new episode 😉
Hi Osyth, Wishing you and your loved ones a very Happy New Year ☺️☺️💛💛. I have been traveling whole month and have had time for blog, have missed so many of your posts 😐 Going to take a while to catch up.
Sorry typo… HAVEN’T had any time 😐😐
It’s OK – I understood perfectly. Relax, dear friend and take your time x
Take your time …. there’s no law about reading posts but I do have a rule that family comes first and your priority must always be to make sure you don’t miss a single thing in the magical adventure of your little boy growing up. Take it from me, it passes so quickly. Too quickly. Happiest of Happy New Year to you and I look forward to continuing our path together whenever you have the time xx
Wow!! This is a fabulous post and I love how passionate you are in learning about the history…bringing it to life for yourself and for us too! The pictures are so atmospheric and dreamy whilst I’m so impressed with the local firework display. I love the Bennet quote at the end – how spine-tinglingly true!
I’m delighted you enjoyed it … uncovering the history has taken some of the pain out of the restoration process. I am quite determined to find out more. I would like to write a series of books based on her history since she is such a grand old lady. A bit like a film I adored years ago called ‘The Yellow Rolls Royce’ but a place instead of a car. For such a tiny village (sorry, Cité!) their fête in summer is really amazing. I will write about it at some point. Too many projects! The Bennet quote is absolutely spot on … how I love that man!
‘That is the nature of revolution. Sitting and intellectualizing its manner and outcome is fine and dandy but the reality will take it’s own messy course peppered with unknowns and unthought of.’ Well worded and appeals to me because that is what we are guilty of most of the time, drawing room conversations about coulda woulda shoulda.
The story of the not-so-Russian-and-yet-charmingly-Russian woman is intriguing. That is the quandary we face when we travel and fall utterly in love with new places, languages and ways of living, is it not? She must have had such stories to tell from her days in Russia. I am surprised you could dig out such extensive information about her. Was she quite well known around the parts? It seems rather like the pages of a book. The several acts that the house has seen and now it is to be geared up to witness yours. What if people left little notes in nooks and corners for those who are to succeed them in living in the house or would that be odd/creepy? Also, happy new year! I hope it began on a sparkling note for your loved ones and you. xx
Thank you dear Dippy …. it is, indeed what we are all apt to do. And there’s a place for it so long as one remembers that the imagined and the real, in most situations are not quite aligned. I am smitten with the not-Russian kitten. She is remembered by many of the very old in the village who were children or young adults when she was till living. She died around 1960, we believe. So even the Mayor who is the same age as my husband has recollections – it was he who mentioned her tendency to shout in Russian! We hope to find out more, because she was a daughter of the Chateau and it remains in the same family that have owned it since the 17th Century. I just have to pluck up the courage to ask what they might know. And, as will be told in another post, I do need courage after a mildly unfortunate encounter a couple of years ago 🙊 I intend to gather as much as I can in real evidence not just of her but also of the nuns (for that I need to find out if any of the Mother Priories records still exist somewhere and I need to be very careful not to appear intrusive to the faithful) and indeed the more recent lady and then think about writing a series of novels based on them all linked by the house. I wish you a year filled with Good Surprises and a smattering of dreams come true to add glitter to it ✨ xx
The mayor who tucks roses into your hands. You are certainly in a village filled with interesting people and stories. And to think a large chunk of it is quartered in your own historical house.
The sound of the novels is thrilling! I would love to know when you get done with them and buy my copies.
I have started sprinkling glitter already upon my days 🙂 xx
You would LOVE the Maire as he would LOVE you. Really a special soul. The roots of the house are the very beginning of the village (sorry city) and that helps immensely… interested others do most of the work 😉 xx
Someday, oh lovely Osyth 🙂 xx
Love the Allan Bennett quote, and The History Boys by the way! And I had to giggle at that wonderful French expression ‘un peu spécial’ – what clever understatement! Reading about the history of your tower is such a delight (even though my eyes threaten to close every minute now because of a sleepless night). And how fascinating that you actually share a bond with the Huguenots! You being there really seems meant to be! Bonne weekend, mon ami! 😄 xxxxxxxx
I am a slave to Allan Bennett and was hugely fortunate to attend the opening night of ‘The History Boys’ at The National … it is masterly but he is a master! Have you seen ‘The Lady in the Van’? Exquisitely crafted. This place is surely meant to be …. no idea why yet, but the feeling of being linked to it is strong and outweighs the sheer frustration of some of the last four years by a significant factor. I wish you a blissful weekend and get some sleep – les nuits blanches are a real pain! Xxxxxxxx
What a wonderful history. It sounds like you were meant to be the new caretakers of this fascinating building.
It does feel that way and 5 years since we first set eyes on it the village haven’t revolted yet 😉
Oooo I love a bit of history especially the medieval times. You live in such a beautiful place and now you know the history of it I’m sure it makes it even more special. And well, the coincidence with your married name and the Huguenots, certainly meant to be
I don’t actually live in Marcolès yet …. the house is still far form habitable so I live Grenoble and drive 6 hours each way to do work when I have the time. Or I should say ‘we’ as my husband is pretty crucial to the party! The history of the house is fascinating and I hope to uncover more but I did nearly drive off the road when I first saw the name of the river …..
Sorry for the late reply. I’ll be looking forward to more posts about your house. Wow you’re clocking up the miles. Yes the coincidence of the name is amazing!