Brian and Joe flew home -- somewhat reluctantly -- from Toulouse. Matt stayed on in the city for a couple more days, then continued by car, driving back toward the north.
While at the archives in Toulouse, Matt made an interesting discovery: there had once been a church dedicated to St. Gerald in downtown Toulouse. It had been torn down in the 19th century, unfortunately, so that a public square could be widened, but the street that had been in front of the church was still named after him -- called Impasse Saint Geraud, meaning "Saint Gerald's dead end"!
From Toulouse, Matt went north towards Aurillac. But in his research, he had learned that there were several churches once dedicated to Saint Gerald, in small towns along the way. He stopped at several, but only one of these churches survives, in a tiny village called Vailhourles. The church was rebuilt in the 19th century, but the medieval priory survives. (A priory, by the way, is a smaller version of a monastery: monks from Aurillac would take turns living at Vailhourles, and at the other priories owned by the monastery at Aurillac in the southwest, mostly serving as hospices for pilgrims on their way from France to Spain, to the pilgrimage center of Santiago de Compostela.) Here is the priory:
And inside the church, a modern statue and a modern stained-glass window of Saint Gerald:
He stopped at Rodez, to learn more about Vailhourles, that same day. It has a beautiful Gothic cathedral:
From there, he drove to Aurillac, where Gerald had lived and where the monastery he founded had been located. The monastery is gone, but its church is now a parish church, and still dedicated to Saint Gerald. His relics are said to be inside, but they have been lost and refound three times since his death, so what or whose remains are in the casket are open to question.
The medieval church has been heavily damaged and restored over the years, so little remains of its original features. But behind the back of the church are some seriously deteriorated sculptures, that are probably medieval:
And across the small square in front of the church is a home that includes three arches that remaind from the medieval hospice that housed the pilgrims who came to visit Saint Gerald's shrine.
After two days in Aurillac, Matt continued north. Again he stopped at a small village that had been the site of a priory and church to Saint Gerald during the Middle Ages. In this case, the town was still called La Chapelle-Saint-Geraud ("Saint Gerald's Chapel"). Here the medieval church survives intact:
There were also more images of Gerald inside the church, albeit modern ones:
Matt drove all the way to Limoges that day, and stayed there for three nights. Not much survives of medieval Limoges, although he discovered that there had once been a church dedicated to Saint Gerald, torn down in the 19th century to create a public square in front of the city hall. But Limoges did have lots of porcelain shops, as well as an interesting museum, with medieval artifacts:
Medieval column capitals
A medieval tombstone for "Roger"
An explicit sculpture (this would have gone under the eaves of a medieval church!)
From Limoges, Matt had to return south, to spend time at the archives in Tulle. But since it was Sunday, and nothing was open, he visited a few tourist stops on his way:
The medieval church at Solignac,
The medieval village perched on a high hill at Turenne, and
The renaissance town of Collonges-la-Rouge, so called because of the local red stones used in its houses.
Matt stayed in the small town of Aubazine, founded as a Cistercian monastery in the 13th century, near Tulle. But the next day, the archives turned out to be closed because of the strikes, so Matt stayed in the town and saw some of its sights:
the ruins of the medieval men's monastery,
the water channel built by the medieval monks,
to divert a mountain stream from its course to flow right into the monastery (and still working!),
ruins of the nearby women's monastery, and
a prehistoric dolmen of standing stones.
A postcard of the whole town of Aubazine!
The following day, Matt drove back north, through Limoges and to Paris (the strike meant that trains weren't working that day). Here is Matt's route on his own:
From Paris, Matt flew to Florence, Italy, for a week, to visit friends who were spending the summer there. Then he returned to Paris, and spent three weeks in a small apartment, going to the archives and hosting friends from New York and Miami, who happened to be visiting there also. All in all, it was a great trip!
"If you drink, you die . . . If you don't drink, you die . . . so let's drink . . ."