Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Few More Tombs

In Paris, there is a place called L’hotel des Invalides, or more simply Les Invalides. King Louis XIV founded it in 1670, as a place to house and care for the disabled veterans of his wars. It is now home, among others, to the Museum of the Army and the Tomb of Napoleon.

The sarcophagus of Napoleon Bonaparte, made of red porphyry on a green granite base, lies, at Les Invalides, in the crypt of the Church of the Dome, as majestic as once was this Emperor of the French. Napoleon died and was interred on Saint Helena but, nineteen years later, in 1840, King Louis-Philippe of France returned his remains to Paris. Within the sarcophagus, Bonaparte’s body rests in five successive coffins, made of tin, mahogany, lead, lead again, and ebony.



In the Saint-Gatien Cathedral in Tours, I was very touched by the sight of this tomb, that of the children of King Charles VIII and of Anne de Bretagne - Charles Orland, dead at three in 1495 and Charles dead at 25 days in 1496. For me, the monument captures the sweetness of childhood and conveys an even more acute pain at such an early loss.



In Caen lies William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy and King of England.

The Abbaye-aux-Hommes (Men’s Abbey) was founded by William in 1063 as penance for marrying within the prohibited degrees. For the same reason, his wife, Matilda, a distant cousin and daughter of the Count of Flanders, founded the Abbaye-aux-Dames (Ladies’ Abbey). She died in 1083 and was buried in the Trinity Abbey Church in the Abbaye-aux-Dames. He died almost four years later and was buried in the Saint-Etienne Abbey Church in the Abbaye-aux-Hommes.

William the Conqueror's original tomb, a magnificent marble mausoleum, was desecrated by Huguenots in 1562 during the religious wars. His remains were entrusted to the monks but a new intrusion of the Protestants scattered the bones of which only a hipbone was saved. In 1742, King Louis XV gave permission to the monks to transform the tomb into a simple sepulchral vault covered by a stone. In 1793, in the French Revolution, the tomb was once again desecrated. In 1801 it was replaced by the marble stone that we can see today.



In the Rouen Notre Dame Cathedral, painted many times by Claude Monet, there rest, on opposite sides of the altar, the heart of Richard the Lionheart (1157 – 1199)



and the king’s older brother, with whom he often quarreled, Henry the Young King (1155-1183), the second of the five sons of King Henry II of England and of Eleanor of Aquitaine.



The Cathedral also has the tomb of Rollo (Hròlfr or Robert) (c860-c.932), one of Richard's ancestors, founder and first ruler of Normandy.



There are several places who claim to have the head of Saint John the Baptist, among them the Amiens Cathedral, the tallest complete cathedral in France. It seems the head was brought home by Wallon de Sarton from the Fourth Crusade in Constantinople. To whomever it belonged, it’s still an impressive sight peering at you from the ornate reliquary.



And last, but not least, there is the American cemetery at Omaha Beach…

They were not kings or, on the contrary, they were…

15 comments:

the walking man said...

...men of peace bent on wresting freedom from the hands of tyrants. I am always given pause when I see the rows and rows and rows of any nations soldiers who died in a real battle for freedom.

I can walk past the tombs and sarcophagi of the leaders and not even think of them. But the graves of heroes always gives me pause.

Karen said...

I'm with TWM on this, except I do love to see the beautiful tributes paid to those gone before -- but when I come to this picture, it is like a punch in the gut. It certainly is a lump in the throat, and that's not cliche; it's true. For the same reason, In Flanders Fields, a poem written by a serviceman of WWI, has always been one of my favorite poems. I hope you don't mind that I'm posting it here:

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
— Lt.-Col. John McCrae (1872 - 1918)

[edit] Status

Vesper said...

Mark, leaders of old I think of them because I love history, a certain part of it, anyway… But graves of soldiers, known or unknown, elicit a completely other kind of emotion…


Karen, I felt that lump in the throat in every church I entered, because in everyone there was a tribute to those lost in the Great War. The poem is beautiful and I thank you for posting it here.

jason evans said...

Thank you again! Napoleon's internment is fascinating. Like a Russian nesting doll.

BernardL said...

Very touching tour with an extraordinary ending. Indeed... they were kings.

Rick said...

What a marvelously sensitive tour and such beautiful photos, Vesper. I can't wait for more of the same!

Rick said...

Yes, here I am again. You might want to drop over to publisher William Jones' blog at: http://williamsramblings.blogspot.com/ because he has a new anthology call out. It's dark fiction, etc., and a follow-up anthology to High Seas Cthulhu.

Miladysa said...

Excellent post Vesper - thank you :)

laughingwolf said...

i'm with mark and karen

though honors are bequeathed on the high and the low, all reduced to dust at the end...

Little Girl Lost said...

very very fascinating, vesper... and such lovely pictures...
its so good to be back here...

shasha said...

this reminds me it is our national heroes day today in my country...

Vesper said...

Jason, I posted this with you in mind. I’m glad that you found it interesting.

Thank you, Bernard.

Rick, thank you for your very kind words and for the info on the new anthology. That is very interesting.

Thank you, Miladysa!

Yes, LW, all are equal in the end.

It’s good to have you here, Little Girl. Thank you for your kind words.

Shasha, that’s a good thing…

Miladysa said...

Are you still in France?

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

A fascinating and poignant post, dear Vesper.
Did you know that in the Channel Islands, the Queen of England is also known as the Duke of Normandy as her official title there? :-)
xxx

Vesper said...

I wish I were, Miladysa, but, no, I'm back in Montreal... and also in this dark place devoid of inspiration and any kind of incentive...

Vanilla, I didn't know. Facinating!
xoxoxo