Friday, July 30, 2010


The arch is a central theme of mediaeval architecture. In fact, the arch dates back to the Romans, & in the Gallo-Romanesque village, of St. Antonin, you will see examples of the arch everywhere.

Whether looking though the foundation of the old bridge, or through the many passageways, leading down narrow lanes, one finds a view framed by the arch motif.

The original design of the Roman arch is rounded, as in the authentic Roman archway below.

The Europeans added the point at the apex of the arch, durning the middle ages.

There are so many arches through out St. Antonin that it would be impossible to document them all. Some are grand & others simple in construction.

Below is a beautiful example of a perfect pointed arch, standing proud, even with all of the publicity on the modern plat-glass.

Wether an arched passage way or perfectly preserved arched & leaded windows, these architectural motifs invite a second look.

There are so many arches here that many have been changed, covered up or filled in, until one almost fails to recognize them.

But no matter where you may encounter one of these structures there is always the allure of mystery. And sometimes you are actually treated to a beautiful & tranquil escape just on the other side.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Festival of the Gypsy, Roma Traveller

I was fortunate to attend, recently, a festival celebrating the culture of the Gypsy, Roma Traveller. Being a Gypsy, at heart myself, these festivities were right up my ally. Commemorating these proud people that have existed for centuries without land or nationality, the festival gave a face to the myth. The history of the Gypsy, Roma Traveller has been both romanticized & defiled. As many as 1.5 million Romani people met their death during the Holocaust. In honoring the romantic past, & the many accomplishments of the Gypsy, Roma Traveller these proceedings also addressed the ongoing racism that these nomadic people continue to endure.

In the next two posts I have tried to capture the face of the modern day Gypsy, Roma Traveller, as well as, the days festivities.


Gypsy Festival 2

The day of the festival was filled with activities. Traditional story telling, theater, dance, & of course so much music.

The traditional Roma music, passed down from generation to generation, is as much a part of the Gypsy culture as their nomadic lifestyle. This evening was no exception. Under the light of a full moon, the music flowed late into the night. It was still going strong when we left, well past midnight.

Sculptural Reliefs

Mediaeval decoration abounds in St. Antonin in the form of sculptural reliefs.

One of the most famous & certainly most photographed is this kissing couple on the 16 th century " Maison d' Amour ".

But perhaps the oldest & most elaborate is this sculptural depiction of Adam & Eve on the former Hotel De Ville dating back to the 12th century.

This stately lion stands guard over a grand port.

While this lioness sports a pot of ivy.

Here a kitten with a long branch in tow decorates the sill of a window.

An upside-down mermaid adorns a doorway.

Not only decorative, often these sculptural elements were in fact elaborate drainage systems, as in this case. I thought the placement of the modern drain pipe right next to the old a perfect juxtaposition,

My favorite of these sculptural reliefs are the simple portraitures that you will see scattered through out the town.

Each face probably a representation of someone who once lived within these very walls.

A 19 th century sculptor, who lived & worked in St. Antonin, added his own modern version of the medieval custom over his studio door.


Sunday, July 25, 2010


I love French signs. From the classic blue enamel street signs, to conventional advertising, & the faded remnants of the past, I love them all.

Below you have an early 19th century advert painted on the side of a building, where a typical modern, real-estate "for sale" sign is now hung.

Because the French learn to read & write in cursive before they learn to print you will often find signs written in their beautiful French script.

Some signs need no words at all, as the examples below.

One is either curious about what is within, or knows immediately what to expect.

My favorite of all the old faded signs would have to be this one, now barley visible.

It was, as you can see from the plaque below, an 18 th century auberge called
" Au lion d' or ".

To me these remnants of the past are so beautiful. Sadly, they are in danger of disappearing forever.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Doors & Windows

It is clear by now that I have some sort of fascination with doors & windows. It is true. I find them so appealing, no matter wether they are lovingly cared for or weathered & distressed. How could one not see the beauty in their alluring charm, like those of this beautifully restored home?

Or how could one not be intrigued by this mediaeval entryway with it's sinister window above?

Or this beauty? What was that narrow slit of a window for exactly? You will notice that each doorway is numbered, no matter wether, it is the entrance to a dwelling or an empty ruin lies behind (as in this case).

One can not help but be impressed by the facade of a stately mansion from the middle ages.

But certainly, it is no more lovely than the humble entrance to a country cottage.

I find beauty in of the subtlety of the grays & patterns of the stone, as well as the shapes & designs of the openings themselves.

Either grand or simple, these doors & windows suggest for me a sense of mysterious beauty. And imagine, all of them found on one summer afternoon, in one minor mediaeval village in the south of France.