Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Flat Stanley, part 2

So here we are in downtown Clermont-Ferrand. One thing typical of European towns is a big empty space smack in the center. Often this used to be the original market place, with people coming with carts or tents of things to sell rather than fixed stores. Today in Clermont-Ferrand this square is used for political and social demonstrations, seasonal events, gatherings, and when our team is in a big game, like the ASM winning the national rugby championship, or when the French team won the World Cup, they put up a gigantic TV and everybody gathers to watch right here, together.

This is the statue honoring one of the local heros, Vercingetorix. 2000-odd years ago this local chief managed to get enough warriors together (and more importantly, got them organized and disciplined!), and threw Ceasar out of the region. Victory didn't last, though, and the Romans were back not long after.

Most days he wields just a sword, but this year it's the flag of the ASM.

Being a volcanic area, monuments and statues in the Auvergne region are often made of this wonderful black lava. The grain of the stone is very fine, and it's exceptionally hard and resistant to weathering. This particular monument to Pope Urban the 2nd is quite new, but the details on the 15th-16th century cathedral are almost as sharp.

There's Urban, preaching the First Crusade. He was based in Clermont (just "Clermont". At the time, Clermont was a town centered on religion and government, while Montferrand, on the next hill over, was a town based on commerce. The two towns merged later.), which for a while was the seat of the papacy. The different popes moved all over the place during the midieval period, and sometimes there was more than one at a time.

While church attendance is dwindling continuously and many fabulous old cathedrals and churches are now historical monuments supported by the state, a different weekly gathering of the masses is growing. No game today, though.
Whew, all that walking around town made me hungry for another French thing: pastry!

1 comment:

Titus said...

Ooh, history, geology, Flat Stanley and cake! What more can life offer!