Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Yul not want to do this! - Ecclesiastical road-trip part III

Part II was here

After lunch on Friday we had arranged to meet Colin & Elizabeth at the village of Luzé to join them in a visit to the Abbaye Royale Saint-Michel de Bois Aubry close by. In a previous blog of their's they had mentioned that they would like to visit the abbey but needed a larger group. I had phoned the owner Marc-Olivier Gribomont, who fortunately spoke excellent English, to ask if we could visit as a party of six only to be told that he had a party visiting at 3.00pm on the Friday which we could join. I phoned Colin and our plan came together.

On arriving at Luzé there was the inevitable village church and I had to have a look. 

Inside was interesting and quite ornate though the arched ceiling was lined with what looked like modern T&G cladding. 

After the visit we went out and met up with our fellow bloggers. We then drove the short distance to the abbey where we were met by the owner. He let us in through the electric gate and told us the other party were going to be late. He then let us know that they were a local historical society and the tour would be in French but he would answer any questions we had in English.

The first view of the abbey was quite impressive and gave you had a good sense of its history. As we looked around however you could see that as a privately owned establishment it was probably a bit of a 'money pit'. The new owners have incorporated gites and a covered pool into the grounds to help finance its reconstruction.

When the other party arrived we were treated to an in-depth introduction to the history of the place standing in the courtyard - most (well nearly all)of which went over my head. Fortunately with the help of Pauline, Liz and Elizabeth I managed to pick up just enough to keep me interested...well for the first hour anyway!  Marc-Olivier gave a spirited and seemingly passionate talk on almost every aspect of his piece of history. From hermits to monks to orthodox monastic orders this place has had them all..see here for a breif history.

The work of maintaining the integrity of the building is interesting, in itself, but as C&E highlighted in their blog over 3 hours of rapid-fire French on every aspect of its history and on every stone and artisan's mark is hard to take. The French seem to be able to maintain a high level of concentration on the smallest details whether it be paintings, tapestries or buildings - well most of them. 

I was one of five (along with C&E) who made the climb to the top of tower which was slightly unnerving but had us looking down on the still talking guide and the rest of the group. He was still talking when we got back to the bottom and continued as it got a little darker and chillier - it was a lovely day when we started out so few of us had brought jackets into the property.
We did have some fun with our new French friends as darkness fell and we stumbled about in the dark trying to avoid the holes in the floor.
There can be no denying our guides knowledge and enthusiasm for the place but I feel that to get English speaking tourists to visit in numbers he could probably miss a little of the detail out..

One of the things that drew me to the abbey was the intriguing fact that there was a headstone with Yul Brynner's name on it within the small graveyard in a field behind it - why?

I'm not sure that the graveyard is now part of Marc-Olivier's property as we had to literally climb over a small fence to get access to it.If it had not been for the fact that Pauline and a couple of other visitors had torches we could not have gone there as it was now pitch black!. As it was I had a little giggle to myself when we arrived at the said headstone and our guide tried to read the list of credits of all, and I mean all, of the actor's movies - all the torches suddenly acted as spotlights to come to his aid.

 I asked why he had his headstone here (the abridged version) and it was explained that after his death in New York in 1985 he was cremated and his ashes were taken over to the family home in France. When this property was sold, his widow tried to have his ashes interred in an orthodox cemetery near Paris, but was refused permission.They were eventually accepted here (5 years after his death) by the small orthodox community who had been occupying the abbey since 1978. 
Of course by the time we got to the headstone it was dark and even  the shining torches failed to bring out the inscription.

Here is a 'daylight' picture from 'Val of Sydney' on Flickr you can check out her pics,... here
You can just see it if you enlarge by clicking on it,
Another good set of pictures here...


  1. Happy memories, Jim!

    ....But then again, distance has a wonderful way of lending out its own pair of rose coloured spectacles!!

    By the way, are you interested in making up a party to visit, em .................No, perhaps you're not!

  2. We actually had a good laugh about it all - apart from the chill and droopy ears - it was another good day out in good company!