March 16, 2014

We went to Texarkana yesterday to attend a live performance of Met Opera's Werther via satellite.  In the last scene the tenor Jonas Kaufmann, shoots himself and falls to the floor. I think this cannot be, tenors sing on and on before dying and sure enough Sophie Koch arrives and they sing until (silence) the sound goes off for the last 10 minutes or so of the final scene. Silence not only in Texarkana but in all 66 countries where the opera was being beamed. I had about had enough of Werther and his romantic love curse, but I did want to hear how Massenet concluded the opera. When we got home Vicky found a youtube clip of the scene from 1981, but that was a poor substitute.

As I wrote earlier the first calf was born about a week ago; a black white-faced bull off a black white-faced heifer. The second calf was from a Charolais heifer and much to my surprise the calf was white. There are many cattlemen around here, so I was asking around about a white cow bred to a black bull having a pure white calf. Most thought it was possible because a black bull could carry a white recessive gene. But the mystery was resolved when my partner remember that back in December the neighbor's Charolais bull placed his head under a gate, lifted it off the hinges, and came visiting. Luckily, the heifer in question was a big old girl and had no problems calving.  (below) Mother and baby, doing just fine.

new calf


 A few more sacred spaces:                                                                                                           

WebSite for images of Vézelay and the Abbey of Fontenay.


Two of my favorite place in France are the Abbey of  Vézelay and the Abbey of Fontenay.

1. The Benedictine Abbey of Vézelay was founded, as many abbeys were, on land that had been a late Roman villa; in this case Vercellus (Vercelle becoming Vézelay). The abbey church holds relics of  Mary Magdalene and has a  program of imagery in sculpted capitals and portals. It has been judged to be one of the masterpieces of Burgundian Romanesque art and architecture.

 The subject of the  tympanum is the Pentecostal Mission of the Apostles, thus urging the Crusades.

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux preached  there in favor of a second crusade at Easter 1146, in front of King Louis VII.  The nave, which had burnt once, burned again in 1165, after which it was rebuilt in its present form.  Thomas Becket, in exile, gave his Whitsunday sermon in 1166, announcing the excommunication of the main supporters of his English King, Henry II, and threatening the King with excommunication too. Vézelay was  the staging point for the Third Crusade. It was here that King Richard the Lionheart of England and King Philip Augustus of France met and joined their armies for a combined western invasion of the holy land.

The abbey was sacked by the Huguenots in 1569 and suffered neglect in the 17th century and more damage  during the the French Revolution.   Restoration was undertaken in several stages between 1840 and 1861, during which time a team replaced a great deal of the weathered and vandalized sculpture. The flying buttresses that support the nave are from that period. Finally, it was declared a World Heritage Sites in 1979.

Victoria and I went there for the first time in 1986, then again in '87, and twice more after that. On the '87 visit to make an educational video about the abbey. The location is wonderful and the small town is exquisite. As we traveled to Europe in the late fall or winter, we usually had such places pretty much to ourselves, which is not the case today.

2. Abbey of Fontenay


The former Cistercian Abbey of Fontenay is located in the Côte-d'Or.  Founded by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux in 1118,  it is one of the oldest and most complete Romanesque style Cistercian abbeys in Europe,  Of the original complex comprising church, dormitory, cloister, chapter house, caldarium, refectory, dovecote and forge, all remain intact except the refectory and are well maintained. forms a connecting link between Romanesque and Gothic architectures. Cistercian monks moved to Fontenay Abbey in 1130. A few years later, the Bishop of Norwich fled to Fontenay to escape persecution, and bringing the money with him  finance the construction of the church. The monastic complex was complete about 1200 and able to house about 300 monks. In 1269,  the abbey became a royal abbey and thus exempted from taxes. In 1359,  during the Hundred Years' War, the Abbey of Fontenay was pillaged by the army of King Edward III of England. It suffered further damage during the Wars of Religion in late 16th century. In 1745, the refectory was destroyed. With the beginning of French Revolution in 1789 all of the monks left the abbey due to dechristianisation during the revolution and in 1791, the abbey was turned into a paper mill. In 1906 Edouard Aynard, an art-loving banker from Lyon, bought the abbey and began  restoration. Edouard's descendents continued to work on the abbey and it remains in the Aynard family to this day.


  WebSite for images of Vézelay and the Abbey of Fontenay.