Monday, April 23, 2007

Mirepoix and a Nearby Windmill

Photos by Nancy. Click to enlarge.

Mirepoix is a most beautiful town and it is only 20 minutes or less from Leran. It has quite a history. It is a bastide town which means it was hurriedly built in the 13th century by either the French or the British who were occupying parts of France. Part of their purpose was to encourage settlement of sparsely populated areas prior to the Hundred Years' War. They are generally fortified and have streets on somewhat of a grid. There are supposed to be over 300 bastide towns in Southwest France.

When you go to Mirepoix, you will no doubt notice the half timbered buildings and the arcaded main square. It is said to be one of the loveliest in this part of France. The square hosts the weekly market which is one of the better ones I've seen, notable for the amount of produce and foodstuffs as opposed to junk which we already have too much of.

Mirepoix also has a fairly remarkable cathedral begun in 1343 and not finished until 1867. Six hundred years in the making. The remarkable feature is the width of the Gothic nave. Imagine the difficulty, when building with stone, of creating a roof without the use of long timbers. They did it with stone and mortar, fighting gravity all the way.

I'm not sure why Mirepoix has an arcaded square as no one has been able to answer my questions on why it was built in that manner. I've never come across another town in France built that way, although I'm sure there must be others. What I mean by arcaded is that the ground floor is set back underneath the first and second stories (I'm using the French terminology here) and supported by large posts and beams, and here and there by a new steel girder. There must have been a practical reason for it. I imagine it had to with protection, but something more than protection from the elements. If anyone knows, please educate us.
The windmill? I know nothing about it except that I think it has been converted to living space. It's quite beautiful and there was a sign that says it was for rent.


Anonymous said...

Luke loves the historical and architectural lessons that accompany your splendid pictures! I must ask, however, what is the deal with the bicycles in front of the this some kind of "sculpture" or some wildly unusual way of storing the family bicycles? Either's oddly interesting!

By the way, the coral/rose colored shutters in pictures 3 & $ were quite attractive...very fresh and spring-y. Just a thought!

Doug said...

I can only guess that the bicycles are someone's idea of a whimsical sculpture. If it is someone's idea of bicycle storage I'd hate to see how they store tools.

Doug said...

And I should point out that the bicycle on the ground is just parked for the time being, I think.

leslie said...

The photo of the burgundy shutters is from Fontaine de Vaucluse or Pergnes des Fontaines, I can't remember. The green shutters are definitely Beaumes de Venise. It is a lovely little town and the different shades of green seem to predominate in that town. Like the tourquoise in Gigondas or the true red in Seguret. I thought that the burgundy was pretty with the unpainted stucco.

Personally, the colors of the Vaucluse and Provence in general really appeal to me, I think because of the strong light that the impressionist painters enjoyed so much. The grayed colors, I don't think, hold up as well in the strong light. Just one person's opinion. Someone told me once to look at the colors around you , in nature, consider the light, ie colors used in Seattle in the muted light tend to be more grayed. I would have a tough time choosing colors and I like the strong and sometimes unexpected combinations. I still have some other ideas if you want them. If you go to Rousillion (sp?) where that red piment abounds in the earth you see all the wonderful combinations of their indigenous color, maybe that's why some towns seem to use one color predominately.