Thursday, May 6, 2010

Abbaye de Montbenoit

We left the mountain and headed for a local cave we had passed on another journey.  But, driving along, we couldn’t resist Resized_HPIM6087stopping at the Abbaye de Mont Benoit.  The kids, who had their shoes off in the back seat, stayed in the car while André and I took a look around.  It was a very interesting church because it was a great blend of old and new architecture.  The nave and part of the cloister were originally built in the twelfth century.  They were added onto in the 15th and 16th centuries and the tower was not raised until 1903.  The priory was a stop between France and Switzerland for thousands of pilgrims and the trail they carved, called “La Vy aux Moins” was used for centuries by salt sellers, smugglers and refugees.  It is still a hiking trail today. The phrase over the beautifully carved entry way to the church reads “Vos Esti Lux Mundi” or “You are the light of the world”

We were the only ones in the church.  It was beautiful and peaceful.  The woodwork was late Renaissance- so incredibly detailed and I was in love with the Italian renaissance-inspired ceiling over the alter.  I haven’t seen a comparable cieling since we visited Lausanne.

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We then headed over to check out the cloister.  The only other cloister we’ve seen in our travels was at Mont St. Michel.  In fact, Wiki claims that, due to wars and fires, this is the only preserved medieval religious complex in the Doubs.  This part of the building is the oldest and I could definitely see the Celtic/Megalithic influence over the stone carvings.

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There was an amazing garden behind the cloister and a cemetery across the street with a  war memorial.  It is pretty common for these war memorials to have giant shell casings as part of them but it always makes me cringe a bit.  We were a bit surprised that all the headstones were fairly recent.  We noticed that the steps up to another monument that were actually made of old headstones – guess that’s what happened to the old timers in that plot of land.

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On to the cave!  (Yes, it is still Sunday)

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