The topics of this blog are Armand-Jean du Plessis, Cardinal Duke of Richelieu, and the IDEAL CITY built on his command next to his magnificent CHÂTEAU on the borders of Touraine, Anjou and Poitou, in France.

Friday 28 August 2009

15 August - the procession for the Assumption of the Virgin Mary

On August 15 each year the church at Richelieu celebrates the day when Roman Catholics believe that Mary was lifted into heaven.  The gilded 17th century statue* of the Virgin is taken from its usual plinth in the church and paraded through the town; in this view on its return from the statue to Mary that sits on the site of the former nunnery at the north-west corner of the cité idéale of CARDINAL duc de Richelieu and his nominated shepherd of the new town's s souls, Vincent de Paul (later canonised as Saint Vincent).

Marian worship is an important part of the Catholic faith and the acceptance of the Her Assumption to heaven is a formal Dogma of the church based on the interpretation of the faith and Papal Infallibility.  The Church hesitates still to decide whether she was alive or dead at that critical moment.  Quite a teaser, that one!

The Assumption has been the subject of many famous religious paintings, notably those of Titian and Rubens, both paintings more or less contemporary with the town's construction and St. Vincent's pastoral duties.

Assumption Day remains a public holiday in laïc France.

*actually this particular statue is a replica of the real original one stolen from the church in 2004.

Thursday 27 August 2009

Pierre apparente

Pierre apparente (visible stonework) is a French mason's technique of pointing coursed rubble masonry (moellons) to give refurbished new-looking wall with replaced lime pointing.  It stands in contrast to a fully rendered rubble wall (with enduit or crépi).

The Abbé HP has always been puzzled how the artisans of masonry can achieve such a clean and pretty result, with the rubble's stone faces emerging from a sea of pointing, that might in one's own hands have looked little more than a schmooey mess.

Stage 1 is to use a masons pick to take out all the old lime pointing to a depth of maybe 5 cms. Then one sees if the rubble stonework can ever actually look pretty! Any stonework repairs required are carried out at this point.

Stage 2. On a big job one uses a lime-mortar 'concrete pump' - more or less like a motorised toothpaste tube for elephants - to squirt lime-based mortar (lime chaux + sharp sand) into the exposed joints. Lots will fall to the ground and have to be re-used or cleared up.  Then the mortar is troweled hard into the joints by hand while it is still quite runny.  Lime mortar, unlike Portland-cement-based mortar, does not adhere very well unless pushed hard home.
Then the magic wait - that only experience knows - that allows the mortar to 'go off' enough to work on.
Stage 3. Surplus mortar is removed to exposed the rubble faces with a stiff wire brush, and each stone's face is brushed up as clean as possible.  The lime mortar falls away from the face in a way that only lime mortar allows.  Careful artisans can achieve a really beautiful result, and this restoration process can be repeated many times over hundreds of years, as with the 18th century school canteen example in the pictures.
Stage 4 cleans up all the fallen mortar and the rest of the building site.  Lime mortar blends with the rough rubble stonework of tuffeau field-stone that is so typical of Touraine to make a really charmng blond wall that catches the sunlight so well.

In the 17 and 18th centuries pierre apparente was only used for utility buildings, being definitely third class after cut stone pierre taillée and its cheaper cousin, full lime rendering crépi.  The château of Richelieu was obviously in cut stone, the hôtels particuiers in render, and humble buildings like this one in pierre apparente.  Likewise, the roofs of quality houses had steep slate ardoises Touraine roofs, while this one has a Poitevin flatter-pitch  roof with humble Roman tiles tuiles rondes.

Wednesday 26 August 2009

just like a canvas by Watteau......

One of the wonderful August 2009 concerts in the Festival of Music at the Dôme in Richelieu organised by Nicholas Boyer & Gala Ringger was given in the centre of the rosegarden located in the courtyard of the old château de Richelieu, protected by the imagined inner courtyard of honour, the moat and the two arrival courtyards. Rather odd to listen to music on flute and harp in the open air surrounded by so much of the backdrop of the paintings by Watteau and Boucher of the fêtes galantes of the era of the third duke of Richelieu, himself the human model for the rakes Lovelace (Clarissa - Richardson), Valmont (les Liaisons Dangereuses - Laclos) and Octavian (Rosenkavalier - Richard Strauss - 'probably').

Do come to this festival of music next year - early in August 2010 - it will be sublime!

sublime |səˌblʌɪm|adjective; of such excellence, grandeur, or beauty as to inspire great admiration or awe.
ORIGIN late 16th cent.(in the sense [dignified, aloof] ): from Latin sublimis, from sub- ‘up to’ + a second element perhaps related to limen ‘threshold,’ limus ‘oblique.’

Monday 24 August 2009


This site will now on feature the communications of this illustrious club, operated and run from the drop-dead-gorgeous 17th century 'ideal town' of Richelieu, 20 kms south of Chinon, in France's lovely valley of the mighty river LOIRE.

Empty roads, beautiful destinations, gastronomy, hardly any wine (when motoring), supreme ELEGANCE and COMFORT all in  America's finest!!

- Cadillac Lasalle Club France -
21 Grande Rue
00 33 2 47 58 18 64

Pierre Gravel

Use the special button on the column on the right to filter all the 'posts' that concern those suave and magnificent bagnolles !

Back from la douce France

The Abbé Henri Proust has returned to the ghastly metropolis outre-manche and will very shortly continue  his works on the

Cité Idéale de RICHELIEU.

On his congés he only took his fishing equipment, and so there was  a brief caesura in the e-ther........