Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Rocks in My Head

We recently spent a long weekend in Angers, a lovely small city in the Loire Valley that we thought might be an interesting place to live*.  While planning for the trip I took a look at the Michelin map to figure out the most interesting route. Now, you have to understand that the Michelin maps are much more than simple road maps. In addition to showing all the highways and byways of France, they point out such interesting sites as silos, (Silos? Bruce and I are still discussing the reasoning behind this.) bridges, chateaux, factories, abbeys, war memorials, spas, ruins, picnic grounds and dolmens. You’ve got to love a map that includes dolmens.

What, you might be asking, are dolmens? Simply put, they're rooms or chambers made out of huge flat rocks. They’re found in nearly every European country and as far east as China and Korea. Built during the Neolithic period, the oldest dolmens in Western Europe are about 7000 years old. Archaeologists aren’t exactly sure who built them or why. Most are oriented on an east-west axis and therefore have some connection with the rising and setting sun. Human bones and artifacts such as pottery shards have been found inside some chambers, leading one school of scholars to believe that the dolmens served a funerary purpose. Others believe that this is not the case; the bones often date to  later periods, indicating that the chambers were re-used as tombs, long after their initial construction. In the case of the Loire Valley dolmens, no bones have been found at all. It’s these mysteries surrounding the dolmens that make them interesting to so many people, myself included.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Color My World, Part 2.

I’ve become so accustomed to the dingy grey interiors of most European churches that I'm always surprised by the amount of color that was actually used in the Middle Ages. I’m not talking about the frescoes that decorate grand churches and small chapels; those fall under the heading of “ART,” a subject I don’t feel qualified to discuss. Instead, I’m talking about painted architecture: walls, columns, moldings, ceilings, vaults and statues. Any architectural element was a candidate for color.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Color My World

Before moving to France I ran my own historic preservation business. To make ends meet I took lots of different jobs: historic research, building investigations, conditions’ assessments and lighting design. To be honest, anything that got me into an old building made me happy, so I enjoyed all of these tasks. But nothing was more fun than a paint analysis project. To be part of the process in which a building casts off its ghostly white shroud to regain its original appearance is really a treat.