Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Amiens and ANZAC Day in Villers-Bretonneux

This post outlines some of our adventures on our Spring Trip in April/May 2012.

I'm a little embarrassed I don't have more of Amiens to show you - our visit wasn't very extensive due to rain and the fact we wanted to have an early night before the ANZAC Day Dawn Service.

Rainy days are a great for visiting churches, and the Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the highlights of Amiens (it's the largest Gothic church in France).

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Construction began in 1220 to create a cathedral to house a relic of St John the Baptist.

Even if you only get the chance to check out the exterior you won't be disappointed. It's got plenty of flying buttresses and gothic little gargoyles:

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Not to mention the incredible number of saint sculptures everywhere you look.

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The detail is amazing.

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Here we have the Headless Saints' Club. I'm not sure who these fellows are. St John is probably a safe bet; the other could be any of a long list of decapitated holy men.

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Notre Dame of Amiens is the tallest Gothic church - hard to miss once you get inside.

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Much of the interior is dedicated to St John the Baptist (and his noggin).

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There were lots of these intricate carvings around the cathedral displaying scenes from the life of Christ and St John. Some were fairly gruesome, including this one of the decapitation:

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Speaking of gruesome - that relic I mentioned before? St John's skull. Here it is:

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I should point out that there are at least 5 different sites all claiming to have poor St John's head (or a part of it, bleugh), so who knows if this is really the one?

The stained glass was lovely (relatively recent as the originals didn't survive WWII).

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Film strip depiction of the life of Christ

I think this must be the saddest little cherub I have ever seen:

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Sniff

And in the south transept there are flags and plaques commemorating the British, Canadian, NZ, US and Australian deaths in WWI.

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By late afternoon we only had time for one temper tantrum before getting an early night:

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I say no! (exact quote)

The next morning we attended the ANZAC Day Dawn Service in the nearby village of Villers-Bretonneux.

Over 1200 Australians died in Villers-Bretonneux in the process of recapturing the town from German forces in 1918, hence the importance of the town to Australians (and vice versa).

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We had everyone up at 3.30am wearing nearly every piece of clothing we'd brought. It was cold.

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Visitors park in the village and then take shuttle buses to the Australian National Memorial which is about 2 kms away.

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As you sit shivering in the dark at the start of the service it's not hard to imagine how utterly and hopelessly miserable serving in the Somme would've been.

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After the service the shuttle buses were swamped so lots of folks (including us) walked back to their cars. It's a flat stretch of road with temporary pedestrian barriers, so not difficult.

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Looking back on the Memorial during our walk to the car

It was at this stage that the children lost their happy thoughts - the early start and the cold had gotten to them - and they sobbed most of the way back (except the baby, snug in his pram, who thought we were all most amusing).

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Canola and rolling hills where there was once carnage

Nothing that a hot chocolate couldn't fix.

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A very moving and memorable day for all of us.

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The mairie (town hall) and australiana  

The next post will be crafty, I promise! A bientôt.

6 comments:

  1. What a special Anzac day that would have been! I can't blame the sad little cherub- the skull is a wee bit depressing, don't you think! Love all the colours in your photos today- stunning.

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  2. I don't know what's sadder, that Cathedral's cherub or your little upset cherub.
    Thanks for the tour!
    m.
    p.s. That skull freaked me out!

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  3. That little temper tantrum needed cuddles from Hegory and soccer balls raining from the sky :)
    And seriously, how many decapitated heads does one church need? Even the cherub is depressed for heavens sake! x

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  4. A truly memorable Anzac day for you. I;m not so sure of the skull, headless saints etc, a little depressing, no wonder your cherub had a wee tantrum.

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  5. what a very special day for all of you! You and the oldest kids will never forget this I'm very sure. Brave family you are - xx

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