Friday, May 11, 2012

Hambye, Coutance, and St-Lô

Cheered by a forecast of improving weather we set off to see some things in the countryside.

The GPS immediately took us onto some narrow tree-lined roads.

First stop was Abbaye de Hambye, another monastery that was built in the 1100s, and closed and wrecked by the Revolution in the 1790s, and is now being restored.

Entry to nave, tourist for scale.

Skeletal central tower.

Pretty capital.

Skeletal apse with buttresses.

Next stop was the town of Coutances, which sits on a hogback ridge with a dominant cathedral.

As seen from the road, about 5km away.

Close up, after finding a parking space way down the ridge.

The cathedral's most stunning feature is the lantern tower, which Louis XIV's master architect said "must be the work of a madman."

Inside looking up into the lantern.

The only parking we could find was several blocks down from the top of the ridge. Climbing up, or sometime, Marian strained a muscle and was hobbling a bit. So we blew off another planned stop for a scenic walk, and headed for Saint-Lô.

St-Lô the town was in the way of the American invasion force in 1944. The Germans occupied it and the American bombs and artillery pretty much leveled it in driving them out. The town rebuilt itself (and as a result, has noticeably wider and straighter streets than other towns around here: urban renewal by high explosive) but the cathedral, which originally looked much like the one in Coutances, was only partially rebuilt.

South tower a stub; North tower not there.

One tower was left truncated. The demolished West front and its North tower were simply not recreated; rather a simple wall of greenish stone was built to close off that end. (Compare to Coutance's West front, above.)

After we'd been back to Bayeux for a bit, around 6pm, we saw the sun was out strong, so we went across the street to finally get a picture of Bayeux cathedral with light on it.

It really is the most handsome of the cathedrals so far, Notre Dame de Paris aside as a special case. Here's Bayeux's West front,

And here's a rather unusual gargoyle. All the others are standard beast-head gargoyles but this one is a person. Wonder who got immortalized with his mouth open?

The moral is, don't piss off a stone-mason.

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