Ancient Lapidary Blocks Stacked in Our Lady of Lamourguier of Narbonne France

Struggling through Sunday morning sleep, I blink into the weak rays of sun touching the outer walls of the courtyard and fingering their way into the chest cavity of our ground-floor apartment in Barcelona Spain. What is that noise? Ah, nothing more than a tour-bus-load of guests dragging their train of luggage up the pave-covered cobblestone street. They are likely on their way to the small hotel just around the corner. Stretching, I push back the blankets and step lightly into a day where dark coffee stings my nostrils as I prepare bread with butter and jam that still has lumps of tangy fruit and a few seeds. As an after thought, I add a small glass of orange juice and a couple of pieces of Gennaro Auricchio Collesardo Classicoa hard, delicate and nutty sheep cheese age between 45 and 60 days.

 

Padding in my still-bare feet and nightgown, sheltered by the privacy of my warn sweater, I tentatively slip into the courtyard and settle on the edge of a chair at the table in the covered area. What a pleasant morning I conclude. Then follow it up with sweeping the courtyard and the apartment, doing some hand-washing, have a shower and finish off by scrubbing and drying the dishes in the kitchen. It is my way of living in a place I am visiting – a way where I anchor the sounds of the birds, whose names I don’t know,  singing in the trees overhead, and the size of the courtyard, the kitchen and bathroom are measured and remembered  by the steps that I take around each. Possibly, this information isn’t necessary. But what comes with these solid knots of information is colours, forms and the quality of the light. These are important to a painter and a photographer. These must be remembered and recalled for later work.

 

Once the chores are completed, I begin to reminisce about Narbonne France and its 2,500 years of history yet again. Oh, not the medieval town itself so much but the rows of ruins stacked high in Our Lady of Lamourguier. Since 1868, the 11th century church has been used as a warehouse to hold various carved elements removed from Narbonne’s walls during demolition and it contains approximately 2000 ancient Roman lapidary blocks. Since cameras were allowed during my visit I can take us inside. Shall we go have a look?

 

The church completes her warehouse status with grit settled thickly on the grainy foundation and only an outer shell of her religious history remaining.

 

 

Lapidary Blocks in Our Lady of Lamourguier Narboone France 2 by Terrill Welch 2014_05_22 103

 

I am mesmerized by the pure abundance of carved blocks.

 

Lapidary Blocks in Our Lady of Lamourguier Narboone France 1 by Terrill Welch 2014_05_22 098

 

 

They are all numbered but not necessarily stack in order.

 

Lapidary Blocks in Our Lady of Lamourguier Narboone France 3 by Terrill Welch 2014_05_22 104

 

 

Possibly, they have even been moved for aesthetic pleasure.

 

Lapidary Blocks in Our Lady of Lamourguier Narboone France 5 by Terrill Welch 2014_05_22 114

Or maybe it is just my artist and photographer’s eye that is doing the organizing?

 

 

Lapidary Blocks in Our Lady of Lamourguier Narboone France 6 by Terrill Welch 2014_05_22 117

 

Sometimes my attention settles on individual blocks.

 

Lapidary Blocks in Our Lady of Lamourguier Narboone France 4 1695 by Terrill Welch 2014_05_22 110

 

Other times, it is an oddity that catches my attention.

 

Lapidary Blocks in Our Lady of Lamourguier Narboone France 8 by Terrill Welch 2014_05_22 125

 

What are these over-sized clay pots doing in here amongst the blocks?

 

Lapidary Blocks in Our Lady of Lamourguier Narboone France 9 by Terrill Welch 2014_05_22 136

 

They seem out-of-place somehow.

 

Then there are the angels with their perfect child-like portioned bodies. If we watch closely they seem to move around and around the remains of  this column, neither hurried nor stilled by time.

 

Lapidary Blocks in Our Lady of Lamourguier Narboone France 12 by Terrill Welch 2014_05_22 154

 

A guide book for a tour of the city states that the Romans arrived to Narbonne in 118 BC. The place called Narbo Martius has been known as Rome’s first daughter ever since.

 

Walking the rows I begin to ponder.

 

Lapidary Blocks in Our Lady of Lamourguier Narboone France 10 by Terrill Welch 2014_05_22 145

 

What from this century might survive for the same period of time into the future? What structure might it be housed in?

 

Who will visit and will they know who we are?

 

Lapidary Blocks in Our Lady of Lamourguier Narboone France 14 by Terrill Welch 2014_05_22 161

 

Will they wonder what we ate? Or what it was that woke us on a Sunday morning? Or who it was that we loved? Did we live to be old, die in childbirth or in a protest against our government or sacking another city? Will a sword that tore through your heart remain all those years later with your DNA still on its blade?

 

Lapidary Blocks in Our Lady of Lamourguier Narboone France13 by Terrill Welch 2014_05_22 158

 

If you could whisper one thing in the ear of a visitor hundreds of years from now, as they walked pass an artifact that you had made or that you had used – what would you say to them?

No let’s not go out into the sunlight. Let’s stay here just a while longer….

© 2014 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Creative Potager – Visit with painter and photographer Terrill Welch

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

For gallery and purchase information about Terrill’s photographs and paintings go to http://terrillwelchartist.com

 

Raining in Narbonne France

 

We didn’t know what to expect in Narbonne France as we knew very little about the city. We knew it had been a port before the river changed course and silt made it an inland city. We knew it was a medieval city at its heart and that there were ancient Roman ruins and a University. This was about it.

 

We climbed or rather crawled up the spiral stairs hefting the largest of our suitcases which I am sure has crept over its 50 pound airline limit (it is a good thing it separates into two parts for the return trip). The spiraling white piece in the middle is the hand-railing.

 

3rd floor crawl up by Terrill Welch 2014_05_21 021

 

I wonder about what we will discover during three-day visit. We are on the third floor of a sweet small apartment. The bathroom with its small blue tiles is separated by a white cotton curtain from the rest of the low-ceiling one room dwelling. A short kitchenette runs along part of one wall with its stoic folding table wedged into the remaining space between the bathroom and the old wooden door. The real bonus is two good-sized windows that open wide and look out onto the piazza. This and the warm ochre carpet splashed between milk-white walls combine to make for a most pleasing short-term residence.

 

We cautiously proceed back down the stairs to get groceries for morning. Then exhausted, eat the rest of the day’s lunch and call it an early evening.

 

At about 4:00 am the day is beginning in our little square in Narbonne. The Patisserie is opening up to set out its outdoor table and chairs directly out front and also in a corner of the square. The rolling up of metal storefront blinds and the rhythmic movement of a hand-trolley pulled by the storekeeper lull me back to sleep.

 

By seven in the morning it is raining – hard.

 

four am set up rained out by Terrill Welch 2014_05_21 012

 

I feel bad for the Patisserie as his early morning start has been a wash. Only a few students brave the wet and huddle in the doorway waiting for a break in the downpour.

 

waiting out the rain in Narbonne France by Terrill Welch 2014_05_21 019

 

I decide to go exploring but David being of the cat temperament decides to wait for drier weather. The streets are empty.

 

rain in streets of Narbonne France by Terrill Welch 2014_05_21 034

 

The late 12th century Cathedral Saint-Just et Saint-Pasteur with its flying buttresses is near so I decide to start there.

The inside is a no-photograph zone but it is so dark one almost needs a flashlight to see the aisle let alone anything on the walls. However, the courtyard is beautiful

 

12th century Cathedrale courtyard Narbonne by Terrill Welch 2014_05_21 043

 

and the roses along one of the walkways to enter the inner sanctum are not in the least put out by the rain.

 

roses at the Cathedrale in Narbonne France by Terrill Welch 2014_05_21 053

Walking along the corridors of the courtyard it is easy to have hundreds of years slip away and find oneself in another time, one where meditative prayer and silence are common maybe.

arches to the past by Terrill Welch 2014_05_21 083

I like to look up in places like this. It is like something remembered but just out of reach of conscious articulation. Do ever get that feeling when you go new places?

something remembered by Terrill Welch 2014_05_21 085

 

Having found a most appropriate frame of reference for my visit in Narbonne I head out the side exit and across the narrow street into the wet marble courtyard leading to the Narbonne Museum of Art and History. A staff person tiptoed very carefully across the glistening surface. I took to the approach to heart and followed in the same manner.

 

Musee d' art et d'histoire de Narbonne marble courtyard by Terrill Welch 2014_05_21 111

 

There is a sad-looking angel on a pottery bowl at the top of the stairs

sad angel museum stairs in Narbonne by Terrill Welch 2014_05_21 119

 

and I wonder what is John’s Club that can be seen out of the tall stairway windows that rattle loudly in wind from the storm outside.

 

John's Club paintography by Terrill Welch 2014_05_21 123

 

The museum offered a pass for seven sites for nine Euros or it was four Euros for just the Art Museum. On a whim I purchased the pass to the seven sites and succeeded in setting the course of discovery for our time in Narbonne.

 

After a lengthy exploration of the excellent permanent and special exhibition including several rooms of 17 – 18 century dishes, including some in a most stunning pale green dinning room, I am ready to see if David wants to come back again for the afternoon and so he could get his seven site pass as well of course. There were many great works to see but there was one that I knew he would love as much as me. It isn’t a large painting but rather about a middle size at 55 x 68 cm. The work is by an Italian painter Gaspare Traversi (1732-1769) and is called Mendiant accroupi or A Beggar

image

 

It is the emotion and compositional strength of this image as well as pure skill in foreshortening that had me coming back to this painting several times. Every centimeter of this canvas is in full use and allows you no room to shrink from the image. The beggar has seen us. We must respond in some way and whatever that way is he and the world will know. It is our human condition we are facing in this painting.  This image, courtesy of the Narbonne art museum and published in La Tribune de l’Art does not really fully speak to the power of this piece of course.  But it was the only image I could find to share with you.  Other than that – off to Narbonne and the art museum with you!

The weather is breaking and there is a warm glow in the jute carpeted stairway as I descend.

 

stairway Musee d' art et d'histoire de Narbonne by Terrill Welch 2014_05_21 125

 

I wonder what the ruins will be like? Well, that is the next post and we shall get to see at least some of them because one of the sites allows photographs!

If it was a rainy day and you could be in any museum in the world, what painting would you want to be standing in front of with your inquiring gaze?

 

© 2014 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Creative Potager – Visit with painter and photographer Terrill Welch

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

For gallery and purchase information about Terrill’s photographs and paintings go to http://terrillwelchartist.com