After leaving Fontainebleu, Raven and I continued our journey toward Blois. We thought that we could stop at any of the numerous side-walk cafes in any village and grab a bite to eat; we were sorely mistaken. Most restaurants are closed on Mondays and the ones which were open close for the hours after lunch and do not reopen until 7:00. That was one shocker for someone living in the United States. We would also later discover that the process of sitting down to eat takes a minimum of 70 minutes. Meals are designed to be a process filled with socializing and letting food digest before moving onto the next meal.
My first true letdown of the trip occurred when we hit Beaugency. My students may remember my lecture, accompanied with many visuals, on the Plantagenet family but I am aware that many of my readers may have no knowledge of such an illustrious, driven, scandal-clad, dysfunctional, and successful ruling family of England and parts of modern-day France.
Here is the WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW to understand why I was excited to visit Beaugency. Eleanor, a fifteen year old from Aquitaine (an area in present-day France), was married to the future king of France, Louis VII. The marriage, although happy at times, was not a love match. Eleanor was educated by the best of tutors and was not afraid of voicing her opinions. Louis was rather religious and held the then-accepted belief that women were weaker minded and also responsible for luring the weak-minded Adam to eat the delicious apple before being cast out of Eden. (I have always found it interesting that, instead of holding a man responsible for being weak, it was a woman who was blamed for the whole apple debacle.) Back to Eleanor and Luis…
Louis was sure God was punishing him for his sons by providing him with two daughters and no sons. It seemed both husband and wife were terribly unhappy together. The Bible was used to annul their marriage on the grounds of consanguinity, (the union was within the proscribed levels of family ties.)
Both Eleanor and Louis travelled to the castle of Beaugency to have their marriage annulled. I was so looking forward to looking in the very room that these two people stood, forever changing the direction of Europe.
I was somewhat mollified by the neighboring buildings. There was, within 50 feet a church which began construction just over 900 years ago. That would mean that, although not complete, Eleanor and Henry would have set eyes on such an engineering marvel. In fact, the council that declared the marriage annulled happened in this church. Remember, these architects and stone masons did not have the use of computer and they had to do all of the calculations using their… (GASP!)… heads!
Anyone who knows me, knows I have a keen interest in all things sacred. One does not have to be a Christian to understand the power of commitment and faith that medieval people needed to produce such wonders. Whether it is my overactive imagination feeling all of the emotions of a thousand years of people praying or perhaps something different, I was brought to tears walking through the church and stopping just shy of the alter. As an FYI, in case some of you are wondering if I am a Christian, I am overcome with emotion with just about any religious celebration. I think going on the hajj to Mecca would be overcome by watching the largest human gathering on the planet; the fact that non-Muslims are not allowed in the holy city is the only thing stopping me from attending.
Across the parking lot was a final surprise of the day; a beautiful medieval tower. Being part of Beaugency, it was closed so Raven and I had no access to enter it. I did run my hands over the rocks and thought about those stone masons from centuries past. Beaugency will need to be revisited on a future trip.