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Day 13: Visits to the city of Bordeaux, 15 km

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

I wake up around 7 AM after a refreshing night's sleep. After a quick shower, I head downstairs. As agreed, I let Floky sleep longer. By 8 AM, Christiane and I gather all the laundry and put it in the basement. Then the three of us have breakfast without Floky, who is still asleep. We enjoy delicious croissants, whole-grain bread, some cheese, and Christiane's homemade jam, like the delightful orange one. While they both prefer Rooibosch tea, I savor a lovely cup of coffee. After breakfast, the laundry is done, and I hang everything out to dry by the evening.

Next, I get ready, and by 10 AM, I'm out the door on foot. I walk down Rue Benauge and cross the Pont de Pierre over the Garonne River, which leads straight to the 18th-century Palais de la Bourse with its impressive Fountain of the Three Graces from 1869. On the other side, I head directly to Saint Michel Basilica. The tower, standing 114 meters tall, is currently covered due to restoration works. The basilica was built from the 14th to the 16th century in flamboyant Gothic style and gave its name to the neighborhood it's located in. Both this basilica and the later-visited Saint André Cathedral have a separate tower detached from the main church building.

Palais de la Bourse, Fountain of the three Graces, St Michel basilica

Inside the side aisles, there are 17 side chapels, each dedicated to a brotherhood and adorned with beautiful artworks. The chapel of Saint-Jacques, dating from 1470 to 1475, houses a wooden 17th-century altarpiece and a painting depicting "the apotheosis of St. James" from 1632. This chapel also holds the tomb of a pilgrim and is dedicated to all pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. In another chapel by Ferron, there's a beautiful Deposition from the Cross. The chapel of Saint Catherine clearly indicates her patronage of sailors. We also see a Pieta from the late 15th century and a statue of Saint Ursula, sheltering the virgin martyrs of Cologne under her cloak. In the nave, there's an 18th-century mahogany pulpit with marble panels featuring St. Michael, the patron saint of the church, on top.

Bordeaux, St Michel: Central nave, Chapel od St James and burial place of a pilgrim

Many tombs in the nave bear witness to the ancient custom of burying the wealthy in the church. This practice fell out of use during the 18th century due to public health reasons. The stained glass windows date back to the 16th, 19th, and 20th centuries. One of the oldest depicts the "Tree of Jesse," dominated by red, yellow, and blue hues. The stained glass windows in the choir, designed by artist Max Ingrand, replaced 19th-century ones destroyed during bombings.

Bordeaux, St Michel: Descent of the cross, Saint Ursula , Stained-glass window

After that, I walk to the Cathedral of Saint-André in Bordeaux, located on Place Pey-Berland. It was consecrated on May 1, 1096, by Pope Urban II during his tour to preach the First Crusade. The cathedral was rebuilt in the Gothic style from the 12th to the 16th century. Two royal marriages took place here: in 1137, the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine, then 15 years old, to the future Louis VII, King of the Franks. Later, she divorced him to marry Henry II Plantagenet of England, and they had a son, Richard the Lionheart. The second marriage was in November 1615, between Anne of Austria, Infanta of Spain, and Louis XIII, King of France and Navarre. The city is grateful to her for introducing them to chocolate, which she had imported from Spain.

Bordeaux: St André cathedral, tympanum of the north portal, relief of the descent into Hell

The tympanum of the north portal is divided into three registers. At the bottom is the Last Supper, above which is the Ascension of Christ with the 12 apostles. At the feet of Christ lies a symbolic Mount of Olives. At the top, God the Father is represented between two angels. One angel holds a shroud, and the other a crown of thorns. The two angels bear a moon and a sun, as seen in many Last Judgment depictions, symbolizing God's rule over the earth and the universe.

Inside, there's much beauty to see, such as the tombs of bishops on the left and right sides of the nave. There are also paintings in the nave donated by Napoleon, including one by Jacob Jordaens that had been stolen by Napoleon from Flanders. Against the west wall of the church, at the back, are two beautiful reliefs: the Ascension on the left and the Descent into Hell on the right.

In the choir, towards the right, there's a beautiful chapel dedicated to Charles Borromeo, who played a significant role during the Council of Trent, which strongly promoted the Baroque style. The Church wanted to demonstrate its superiority over the Reformation and the Protestants.

Bordeaux: St André cathedral, chapel of Carrolus Borromeus, Crucifixion by Jordans, the vaults

We visit more churches in Bordeaux, such as St. Pierre Church, Sainte Eulalie Church, and Sainte Croix Abbey, but time and space don't allow me to say more about them. Bordeaux is also a pleasant city with many small old streets, squares, and fountains creating a lovely atmosphere. Everywhere, metal plates on the ground provide explanations. You can enter or leave the old city through Porte Cailhau, where a copper plate clearly indicates that you are on the pilgrims' route.

Bordeaux: Porte Cailhou, pleasant streets, the impressive bridge across the Garonne

While I was visiting churches, Floky enjoyed a good long sleep until 12:30 PM. Christiane then served him a delicious breakfast. Before he went out to explore the city, he had a tasty slice of pizza. On his way back home, I bought him four wraps, which he has already devoured upon his return. Now, he's waiting for his dinner with the healthy appetite of a seventeen-year-old.

As I am writing, Christiane is cooking, and I can already smell the delicious meal. Floky and I are extremely grateful for their warm hospitality during our two-night stay. As a token of our appreciation, we bought them a book about symbols in art and cultures.

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