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The feeling of Albi - The Ex-Communicator

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July 22nd, 2009


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05:03 pm - The feeling of Albi
metafilter reminds me that today is the 800th anniversary of the Albigensian genocide, strictly of the first massacre of that war.

The huge brick fortress-like cathedral at Albi is worth a visit. It has an atmosphere of evil which is interesting to experience. It was built after the Cathars were crushed, to emphasise the dominance of orthodoxy over the region, it is huge and ugly and it includes a vast interior picture of souls being tortured in hell, which I think is extraordinary to see.

A lot of people (including me) come away from that part of the world with strong and not always entirely rational feelings. For example I'm pretty sure Kate Mosse wrote Labyrinth (though I haven't read it) in the grip of that feeling, and there are others. Darkmans by Nicola Barker has a character obsessed with Albi cathedral. Arthur Guirdham took it literally, and thought he and his friends were reincarnations of people who had lived there.

I know some people think events imprint on places. Or it may be that events leave a strong cultural residue. There's a recognised Jerusalem syndrome, which affects people from cultures for which Jerusalem is highly significant. Is that significance literally imprinted in the bricks and mortar of the place? Or (I suspect) entirely in the mind? And the same but for a different group of types, in whom I include myself, for Albi and Carcasonne.

ETA - and I see there's a Stendahl syndrome, which is based on Florence.

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Comments:


[User Picture]
From:hafren
Date:July 22nd, 2009 04:26 pm (UTC)
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Here's a house with a chequered past. It's called Kergord now but when it was built in the 1850s it was called Flemington. It's in Shetland, in a valley called Weisdale from which, during the clearances, the landowner David Dakers Black had umpteen crofters evicted for sheep. He then built himself a nice new house, Flemington, using the stone from the demolished crofts - tasteful or what?

During WW2 the house was a centre for espionage and sabotage operations in occupied Norway. It didn't redeem the house's rep in local eyes, though; it still has the name of an unlucky place.

Edited at 2009-07-22 04:28 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:July 22nd, 2009 05:02 pm (UTC)
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The Stone Book Quartet by Alan Garner has a similar story in it. In fact I think Garner is very good on this feeling of place.
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From:emeraldsedai
Date:July 22nd, 2009 05:09 pm (UTC)
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I'm one of those who feels that resonance with Albi, and that entire region of France. I'd never heard of the Albigensian "crusade" until college. From the moment it was mentioned right through my senior thesis on women in Catharism, to my most recent visit to that part of France in 2003, I have remained fascinated.

I used to believe that a place could hold an imprint of events. I am less of that mind now, and of course there are more mundane ways of accounting for my instant fascination with the Cathars than either reincarnation or "racial memory" or whatever other glamorous ideas I may have once had.

But still...
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From:communicator
Date:July 22nd, 2009 05:40 pm (UTC)
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my senior thesis on women in Catharism

No kidding? Well, there you go then. I don't know what to think about the atmosphere of places. I have a rational and an irrational streak. it's hard to let the irrational go completely.

The place where we stayed - the village of Lautrec - had a Templar shrine in it, now converted to serve as the town hall. I didn't get to go inside.

All this compelling unstated resonance. Then Dan Brown goes and ruins it all :-)
[User Picture]
From:emeraldsedai
Date:July 22nd, 2009 06:35 pm (UTC)
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Ack! Yes! *makes Dan-Brown-evil-go-away sign*

It was all fine as long as Baigent and Lincoln were going on about Holy Blood, Holy Grail and one could visit Rennes-le-Chateau in peace. Speaking of add-feeling places!
[User Picture]
From:watervole
Date:July 22nd, 2009 07:10 pm (UTC)
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That kind of painting of souls in hell wasn't uncommon. We simply lost the English ones to the Reformation.

See the page about Coventry's 'Doom' painting - with pictures. http://www.holytrinitycoventry.org.uk/doompainting/index.htm
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:July 22nd, 2009 08:30 pm (UTC)
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Wow, excellent link, thanks. I've not heard about those. I don't read the local paper, probably should.
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From:watervole
Date:July 23rd, 2009 08:07 am (UTC)
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I did some exploring when I came up for the last Redemption and that was one of my unexpected discoveries. I spent quite a while looking at it.
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From:toft_froggy
Date:July 22nd, 2009 09:22 pm (UTC)
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Fascinating. Thank you.

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