|Cointreau moved to the industrial park from central Angers in the 70s.|
We arrived 15 minutes early (10:45) for our English speaking tour as instructed, but someone forgot to tell the tour guide to unlock the doors early.
|A fine art photo by Clark Hunsinger entitled "Four tourists waiting for a tour at a liquor factory".|
We are taught about the making of Cointreau, an orange-flavored liqueur that we enjoy at home. In fact, the US is their biggest customer.
|The distillery and our tour guide Anne|
At the end of the hour and a half tour, we were brought to lovely tasting room to try a mixed drink with Cointreau, lime juice and carbonated water - a Cointreau Fizz. We preferred the Cointreau Noir and Blood Orange, both neat, to the Fizz.
|Very modern tasting room at Cointreau. It was after noon when we started the cocktails|
We purchased a bottle of Noir and a bottle of the regular Cointreau. We'll report on our comparison taste-test with Combier in a later post.
We next set our GPS for St. Rémy la Varenne, the church and priory we visited on Monday.
|Driving through St. Mathurin to cross to the south bank of the Loire at the next bridge|
The priory is much more interesting than we expected. Begun in the 10th century, it was attached to the Abbey St Aubin in Angers (of which nothing remains but a tower). A small group of Benedictine monks were dispatched to this priory to oversee its primarily agricultural mission.
Starting at the entry gate, we learned the meaning of the monkey carved into the arch. We had wondered about its significance on Monday. The chained monkey was a medieval symbol of slavery due to sin.
These sculptures flank the entrance gate to the priory, just on top of the side walls.
|chapter room with frescoed wall|
|Fresco of Christ on the cross with Mary in red on the left|
|fresco in archway below tympanum of Christ on the cross|
We next explored a large room that had been used for multiple purposes over the years. It has had some restoration which uncovered a painted mantel that was rather amazing and confusing and entertaining all at the same time.
|A knight fighting a naked man with the salamander symbol of Francis I (Renaissance period)|
|An inexplicable set of scenes included nymphs, jousting, a coat of arms surrounded by mermaids. Our information said no explanation has yet been uncovered|
|This bas-relief of a woman arguing with her husband is one of my favorite panels.|
There is a local society for the preservation of this monument and it has done much restoration on the buildings. They have also provided (in English, no less) booklets in great detail about the rooms and history of the priory. The commentaries help us imagine how this priory was run. And we learned the difference between a priory and an abbey. Priories were satellites of an abbey, established as missionary "posts", or to manage agricultural properties of abbeys. An abbey could have many priories located near or far or even in foreign countries. This was especially true of Benedictine orders such as the Abbey St Aubin.
|Looking to other end of fireplace room. This room had been divided into 3 dwellings for the poor before becoming a property of the city, a national monument, and a UNESCO world heritage site.|
The fireplace room led to other rooms likely added in the 15th century. The priory was quite rich owing to its agricultural and pastoral success. The prior Mathurin Legay, who was of the nobility and not actually a monk, added these rooms to improve the comfort of the priory and make it more of a manor house than a monastery.
|Modern stained glass with coat of arms for the Legay family.|
|Coat of arms of another family influential in the priory's history|
The staircase ends at the level of a long attic space, recently renovated. This space was always used for storage it seems. The room seems to have become a museum for gourds of all sorts. Or a workshop for gourd decoration making. We never found out the significance of having an attic full of gourds.
|15th century circular staircase also provides access to the former first floor, now basement|
Once outside, we learned that the Loire River was once closer to the priory than it is now and that due to the building of a levee on the north side of the Loire across from St Rémy, the priory was frequently flooded.
|From the north side of the building you can see that the priory has 3 floors. Only the top two floors were livable once the North side of the Loire built a levee causing frequent flooding on this, the south side of the Loire.|
What we were seeing as a second floor was actually added in the 15th century and you can see the difference in the building materials between the original stone of the 12th century and the carved limestone of the 15th century. Also, the second story windows are typically Renaissance and more ornate than the 12th century priory would have had.
We next wandered over to the church which IS open today (in fact a woman is cleaning the pews while we are there). As the priory increased in riches and importance, the church was enlarged.
|1867 stained glass window in north end of church|
|This North side was probably the entrance to the original church. The long stained glass windows are a 19th century addition. (see above photo)|
|The side chapel dedicated to Mary has modern windows|
|Joan of Arc window, 1943|
|"New" addition to church, 12th century|