This Catholic church in the Dordogne region of France is a place that holds particularly special memories for me. It is a place that I have come to each summer to play in a music festival organised by one of the orchestras that I play with. So, it was with some disappointment that the festival was cancelled this year due to the Coronavirus situation.
However, as the restrictions were eased for the summer, it became apparent that a smaller version of the festival could proceed and that it would be possible to perform very small ensemble concerts, and it was with some joy, that I was asked to play! So, I got to spend a very nice weekend down in the picturesque setting of France and eat some pretty nice food and drink some pretty damn fine wine as well! Seeing as we had driven (to avoid the packed planes and trains), I was also able to stock up with some nice goodies to return home with which is part of the allure of doing work trips to France (and Italy... and Spain...).
This year, the weather was hot as usual... combined with the incredibly humid conditions as there were intervening thunderstorms. This plays havoc with the gut based stringed instruments, sending them wildly out of tune as the wood and the gut react quite strongly to changes in temperature and humidity. In fact, in this particular concert... both violin players snapped strings during the performance!
The church itself tends to be on the humid side of things... but remains quite cool during the early afternoons as it has thick stone walls. However, in the later afternoon and evenings, this reverses... and the temperature remains quite uncomfortably warm (especially if there is an audience for the concert!) whilst remaining terribly humid!
The church hails from the 12th century, and is built in the shape of a cross. It isn't particularly large, as it only had to service a small area, but it is a beautiful place and restful place (and a very nice acoustic to play in!). Just outside is a small cemetery, and looking outwards from the main door... you are met with a sweeping view of the surrounding countryside.
This town is next to impossible to get to without a car, however, if you do find yourself in the area seeking to escape the harsh summer Sun it is worth a look at... or if you happen to be in the area for a festival of Baroque Music. Plus, did I mention that it is around 900 years old?!?!?!
In contrast to many other Catholic churches in larger cities (or those that are closer to the Vatican), this particular church is much more austere... a reminder of Protestant churches in the Northern Germanic lands. Perhaps there is a historical reason for this or perhaps it is just the norm for a small church in an area that is primarily agriculture based.
It is a nice change from the overly ostentatious Catholic churches that evoked the ire of Luther back in the old times... with the perceived stench of earthly corruption that caused the Protestant Reformation to question the validity of the Vatican power and the infallibility of the Pope.