THE ROMANESQUE HERITAGE...and more

 

VERSION FRANCAISE


text by Anthony Weir, Dissident Editions, www.irishmegaliths.org.uk, www.irishmegaliths.org, and author of IMAGES OF LUST


Maison des Consuls

Although this is a secular building - the oldest such in France - the carvings on it (except for one) follow two standard 12th century Romanesque themes: sin and the punishment of sin.
Redemption does not feature - since Justice does not concern itself with redemption.

On the left of the picture are Adam and Eve (close-up view on previous page), symbolising the commission of sin.


On the right of the picture above is the Emperor Justinian as law-giver, bearing a staff surmounted by the Imperial Eagle and holding an inscription which reads:
IMPERATORIAM MAIESTATEM NON SOLUM ARMIS DECORATAM SED ETIAM EGIBUS OPORTET ESSE ARMATAM VT VTRVMQVE - It is meet that his Imperial Majesty should be empowered not just by force of arms but also by the power of Justice. This inscription underlies the purpose of the edifice for civil and not religious use.

detail of Justinian's book, photographed by Jacques Martin



However, the capitals along the façade are very similar to those illustrating sins on churches.

The capital on the extreme left shows mermaids, symbols of Luxury, Vanity and Self-indulgence.
The same theme appears on the capital on the extreme right of the window,
though the two creatures in this instance are brandishing a fish,
which may be the timeless phallic symbol or the ICHTHEUS symbol of redemption - or both.
The letters in the Greek word for fish (ichtheus) are a Greek acronym for Jesus Christ,
Son of God, Saviour
, which ties in with the Fishers of Men phrase in the Gospels.


Other capitals show a sinful woman in the clutches of a monster - though in the context of the Maison des Consuls it might be Justice triumphing over Injustice;


a pair of mutual beard-pullers (symbol of strife);

 

moustachioed men being punished by eagles (symbols of divine retribution);


and more sinful women - this time their tresses (or artifical hairpieces bought from nuns and the poor) being seized in the beaks of long-necked eagles (symbol of righteousness and power).


These carvings are of a high standard, especially that of Justinian (who resembles similar sculptures of prophets at Moissac in the south of the same département, and at Souillac (Lot).

If - as seems very likely - the prestigious abbey, destroyed in the 16th century by Protestants during the wars of religion, had carvings of similar quality (and the exhibitionist corbel discussed on the previous page would support this assumption), it must have been a treasure-house of sculpture to match Moissac, one of the jewels of the Pilgrim Roads.


more vestiges of the old abbey >


Another interesting Romanesque fragment is close to the Maison des Consuls, at the corner of the rue Valat and the rue Guilhem Peyré. A monster (representing Satan or Hell) holds one end of a dead branch, while the other end is nibbled by a hare (symbol of licentiousness and concupiscence).

Thus the Tree of Life (or the possibility of everlasting life for each of us) is destroyed by the sins of the flesh.


In the little (sadly-underfunded) museum lodged in the Maison des Consuls on the Place de la Halle is a rare Romanesque wooden panel depicting birds (representing the Holy Spirit) amongst foliage (which often symbolises evil).


Also on the Place de la Halle (number 33) is a series of corbels, mostly of Romanesque inspiration, if not of 12th century date, two of which (photographed by Jacques Martin) are pictured below.


The façade of No.33, place de la Halle...


...and a little bracket corbel of a tongue-sticking beast or demon to the left of the arcade.

These carvings suggest that there was a wealth of Romanesque corbels on the destroyed abbey of Saint-Antonin - rivalling those of Mauriac or Aulnay-de-Saintonge or even Cervatos in Northern Castile - from which later sculptors drew their inspiration, or which they simply copied.


Rather later in their execution, North of the upside-down exhibitionist corbel in the rue de l'Eglise, is a once-fine but now very worn sandstone window of 16th century date.

On the right and left-hand sides, possibly taken from the Abbey like so many of Saint-Antonin's fragments. are a bashed microphallic male exhibitionist reminiscent of a Renaissance putto, and what seems likely to have once been a squatting female exhibitionist. Compare these with a similar (but earlier) pair on the island of Iona.


At the far end of the rue de l'Eglise is this curious little carving.


This figure overlooks the place du Buòc.

compare with a gargoyle at Bruniquel
comparer with a male exhibitionist gargoyle at nearby Bruniquel

 


See also the superb sculptures of the nearby fortified hilltop town of
Cordes-sur-Ciel.


 

 

A REMNANT OF THE ORIGINAL MEROVINGIEN ABBEY ?
click here


 

More-pedestrian information on the little town of Saint-Antonin...

...can be found at www.saint-antonin-noble-val.com


A fauve view of Saint-Antonin from across the river Aveyron in 1905
by Montauban painter Marcel-Lenoir.

 

The author's former house in Saint-Antonin is the oldest on the boulevard
(German: Bollwerk; English: bulwark)
which here, as throughout France and much of Western Europe in the 19th century,
replaced city walls and defensive embankments.

The lowest part, stonebuilt, with a separate entrance on the street to the right,
might date from the 16th century.
Up to just after the second world war it was used to stable a few of the horses of farmers come to Saint-Antonin for the Sunday market.
The first (stone and brick) floor of the four-storey, triangular house dates from the late 17th century,
and the half-timbered top two storeys were added in the 18th century..
The kitchen features a charming rustic fireplace nearly two metres wide,
which fills the apex of the triangle on the first floor.

Below is the view from the upper window pictured above - to the Roc or Rochers d'Anglars,
the most northerly of the cliffs which form the Gorges d'Aveyron.

The view from my front door, however, was directly across to an ugly secondary-school
built at the worst period of Western architecture: the 1970s, when 'new' (i.e. shoddy)
materials were used (mostly to 'cut corners'), storeys were added with no thought
to skylines or sympathy with surroundings, and depressing flights of steps in hideous
concrete terrazzo. Such buildings sometimes won prizes. And designs even more grotesque still do.

The ugliest edifice in Saint-Antonin (even uglier than the late 19th century church)
is further notable for the hideous fruit of local nepotism
in the form of a totally-meaningless, now-decaying, and universally
reviled bit of 'modern' (i.e. rip-off') sculpture which looks as if a gross child
had started to build pan-pipes in a scrapyard, then changed her mind
after the second pipe and decided on a bit of Gallic whimsy before going off to strangle cats.
The perpetrator of this insult to the inhabitants was the architect's daughter,
scandalously well-paid for her crime against art.
The subsequent planting of a few trees has done nothing to soften the school's
totalitarian brutism.



click here for a curious tour of Saint-Antonin, missing much of the best


 

my anti-bourgeois orchard



 


Doors and doorways of Saint-Antonin


Click for slide-show of doors and doorways in Saint-Antonin

 

The most exciting thing to do at Saint-Antonin.

Les Rochers d'Anglars

 


 

click the panel to see a selection of the decorated
SLIDE-SHOW
and modified Easter Eggs of the Fourth Annual Eggfest.

 


 

Eric Faure

master-potter

 


 

Prehistoric sites near Saint-Antonin:

Dolmens de Saint-Antonin >

Roussayrolles >

Saint-Cirq >

Septfonds >

Vaour, Verdier (Sainte-Cécile), Vieux >

Decorated cave of la Magdaleine des Albis >



'Le Chemin des Neuf Pierres'
suggests that a stone-row
once stood in Saint-Antonin's Wagnerian amphitheatre,
overlooked by some of the tombs on the plateaux above.
Alignments are not unknown in Rouergue...

 


 

SATAN IN THE GROIN ->
go to another of my websites

 



hunting opportunities in the area

 


papillons & orchidees
des Gorges de l'Aveyron


 

The English 'Bobs'

Saint-Antonin was occupied by the English for about 40 of the Hundred Years War between the (Anglo-Norman) Plantagenets and the (French) Valois in the 14th century.
From then until the mid-19th century the English were notorious in Europe for their violent, insolent and uncontrolled behaviour. The Victorian period (roughly 1860 to 1960) was the exception, when an excess of puritan "respectability" turned English unpleasantness inward.

But it has turned outwards again, and in the dreadful summer 'holiday' season, even a small and charming town like Saint-Antonin can become unpleasant at night, with English 'Bobs' (as they are charmingly known) binge-drinking in the local cafés and beating up anyone who attempts to quieten them, as I bloodily and painfully discovered at the Café de la Halle, unhampered by French restriction.

These Yobs (as they are more-appropriately known in English) are encouraged in the name of Tourism, that baleful tin god of Consumption...in both senses of the word...

In July and August, therefore, I retreat from the heat to the pleasantly cool, quiet and remote Irish countryside - and leave Saint-Antonin to the profitable invasion of the beauty-snatchers...

Saint-Antonin...where drunken English yobs once gouged FUCK in wet concrete, where the word still surprises the unwary.

Saint-Antonin...where it is best for inhabitants to be deaf but agile, because the internal combustion engine is king and the old streets (all without sidewalks) difficult to walk in; where an insane municipality is ever buying new noisy machinery to do stupid things such as blowing leaves off grass.

Saint-Antonin...where potholes in the uneven streets are filled with nothing more substantial than tarry grit, where gutters pour out water from on high without mending or complaint.

Saint-Antonin...where a car can be parked for a week on a pedestrian crossing, and another for two weeks on a footpath - without an eyebrow raised.

Saint-Antonin...one of the few towns in the whole region without a single speed-bump on its very dangerous 'périphérique' - which in parts has a footpath less than 60 cms wide; where cars and mopeds zoom along ancient streets with impunity. Few cats, however, are killed.

Saint-Antonin...where police lie in wait - not for speeders, but for those who have not (or not yet) attached their seat-belts (spot fine: 90 euros).

Saint-Antonin...where even in the mediæval centre the noise levels can be intolerable because of a noisy café at night, or kids roller-blading, playing football - or even riding mopeds - by day in the covered market.

Saint-Antonin...where garish plantings are made for summer tourists, but nothing, apart from vulgar Christmas decorations, for the local inhabitants in winter - not even pansies.

Saint-Antonin...where you are now not be allowed (by authorities who evidently have never left the Hexagon of France) to paint your house or even your shutters an interesting colour.

Saint-Antonin...where I was not permitted to change a Velux in my canal-tiled roof to an attractive dormer, even though Veluxes are now banned in this conservation area.

Saint-Antonin...where an attractive, rare old chemist's frontage was trashed, despite being in a conservation area...where a beautiful old hotel by the water's edge was stripped of its lovely and famous old pink wash and made drab grey, while a modern plastic entrance replaced the original entrance to the attractive old lobby, now 'remodelled'.

Saint-Antonin...whose grotesque 19th century belfry on an otherwise well-proportioned Maison des Consuls, is restored by the State (who paid for its tasteless and expensive erection) instead of being removed.

Saint-Antonin...where small businesses are desperately needed and are even encouraged - but commercial rents are far too high.

Saint-Antonin...now a fashionable place to have a second home, where t cement-mixers, mini-dozers and all sorts of noisy machinery make a constant clatter throughout the year as they renovate long-derelict properties - except in the tourist months of July and August, when they are banned. And so the wiser and/or richer second-homers buy old farms to renovate in the hinterland, or villas closer to town.

Saint-Antonin...which, like most of defensively solipsistic France, lacks any kind of decent communal spirit, yet where many locals swap gossip on Facebook.

Saint-Antonin...where half the dogs are free and characterful, and the other half are kept as crypto-fascists' depressed fashion-accessories on short leads or chains. I once saw a dog on TWO leads, one held by a small child, but it was a French visitor, not a local.

Saint-Antonin...most of whose inhabitants meet your eye (to the terror of the English) and greet you every time you pass them.

Saint-Antonin...where one of the first carburettors was invented, and one of the earliest female photographers worked without too much contumely.

Saint-Antonin...where beside the communal dumpsters many useful things are placed and can be retrieved: clothing, 'white goods', kitchen equipment, food, bedding, furniture, plants...

Saint-Antonin...which, despite all the above, and perhaps because of its dissident history until the end of the Wars of Religion, attracts quiet 'eccentrics', semi-hermits and reclusive artists.

 

 

From the Bulletin d'Informations Municipales de Saint-Antonin,
January 2007
the first and last verses of a satirical poem in Occitan doggerel, dating from the end of the 19th century,

LA VILA DE SENT-ANTONIN

La vila de Sent-Antonin
Renomada per son vin
A sos quartiers e sas carrièras
Coma n'i a pas otres sus tèrra....

...E pel jardin qualqu'un disiá
Qu'i volián far un casino
E, qu'a la plaça dels cagaires
I volián metre les aigaires.

Saint-Antonin, that worthy town,
Produces wine of high renown,
And has streets and neighbourhoods
Like no others in the world...

...In our fine Spa's pleasure garden
They want to build a new casino.
So where the locals have a shite
The sick will gamble through the night.

The plan for a casino was dropped. The elegant little Spa, built in the garden of the ancient monastery,
did not survive the closure of the railway, and is rarely used for local events.
The wine must have been pretty bad to have been superseded by Algerian vin ordinaire...





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see the sights of nearby

A Merovingian Remnant ?


THE FEAST OF SAINT-ANTONIN WAS CELEBRATED ON THE 2nd OF SEPTEMBER

text by Anthony Weir, Dissident Editions,, and author of IMAGES OF LUST