West Virginia University in Vendée, France
In the land of the Brave...
June 24, 1999
We brave WVU-Vendéens are not directly the inspiration of today's page, but our courage and strength is definitely an important part of our ability to endure these hard times in the Old World. I personally arrived early to the port today, near the point of our departure for the heart of Vendée and the scenes of some of its most tragic events. As you see below, in a photo I took this morning, these are hard times for us, too!
The Vendée-Mobile took us today inland to the lands of the Logis de la Chabotterie. A logis is a kind of castle that is unique to Vendée. A castle is traditionally the grand house of the Lord or Seigneur who rules the surrounding lands. Generally his wealth and power derive from the lands and villages that surround his Château. The village is the home of the peasants that work the lands of the Seigneur. A logis combines all the elements of the feudal system with the farm system that would soon replace it. The Logis de la Chabotterie is therefore at once a castle, a village, a farm, and a fortress. It is simply all and everything to its inhabitants, both noble and common.
The Chabotterie today is one of the best furnished castles in Europe. Unfortunately, the delicate nature of these furnishings obliges the direction to forbid photography within the castle. You'll have to rely on the testimony of our WVU-Vendéens for an account of what lies inside. Outside, is a very rich garden in which a wide variety of traditional flowers and vegetables are grown.
One wall of the garden is protected only by a moat, known as an "AHA". We guess that the name is derived from the cry of the unhappy gardener who fell in! Only a skilled athlete like Amy dares stand so close....
One of the better views of the castle is from the gardens behind.
Our visit also includes a series of exhibits on the career of the great Vendée general Charette, who was the last royalist leader to be taken during the Revolution. He was wounded in the woods nearby, and brought to the Chabotterie where he lay on a table we saw earlier in our visit. Once well enough to be transported, he was moved up to Nantes, near here, judged, and condemned to death by the Republic. Below, his statue illustrates his last words to the Republican guards: "C'est là qu'on doit frapper un brave!" ("It is here that you must strike the brave!").
Charette's body was thrown in to the ditches with his followers, but a royalist maçon was able to make the funeral mask below before his body was lost forever.
We stop at the "Auberge du Lac" for a very fine lunch today.
This restaurant is located in the Lucs-sur-Boulogne, where over five hundred villagers were killed by the Republicans in the wars of the 1790's.
The view is over one of the more famous rivers of Vendée, la Boulogne.
A short walk away is the Memorial of Vendée, where the memory of those who died here and across Vendée is recorded for eternity. The farm tools below were often the only weapons available to the peasants of the Vendée resistance.
Each stone below represents a villager, young or old, who died when the Republican guards swept though here with order to kill all and burn the rest....
Inside the Memorial is beautiful park astride the river Boulogne.
The church of Les Lucs-sur-Boulogne records the events of these wars in its stained windows.
The soldiers in blue below are the assassins. Today, however, blue is the primary color of the French nation (and its sports teams, as you may have noticed in last year's World Cup).
Each year the Chabotterie boasts an exhibit on a subject of special interest. This summer the exhibit focuses on the history of photography, which was developped in France by the chemist Nicéphore Nièpce in the early 1800's. His successors, Daguerre and Nadar, opened up the world to a new form of art. At the end of the century, the brothers Lumière from Lyon would perfect a process of rapid photography that when properly projected would make pictures seem to move!!! The day of the stained-glass window was gone.... We will see a park devoted to the cinema in all its forms (the Futuroscope) at the end of our visit to Vendée, but today is the birth of photography... For those curious, I learned today that the first digital camera was developed in 1982. Without that invention, my communication with you would be of quite a different nature.
Below, a photography box from late in the 1800's.
Our Vendéennes today are happy to pose in the traditional costume of Les Sables d'Olonnes: Jodi Dowdell, Kathleen Schattenberg, and Amy Workman.
Many pictures from the past of Vendée are featured here, and pictures of pictures always pose special problems, but below we see a work project on our familiar "remblai" of Les Sables d'Olonne, circa 1950.
Another irresistable subject is the car below, which was caught in the tides of Noirmoutier, where we passed unscathed only a couple of weeks ago.
Our day ends as we leave the Chabotterie and head back to the Vendée-Mobile for the short ride back to Les Sables.
Stay tuned to WVU-V!
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