PHYLLIS ODESSEY

warp, weft and poop

How does a Benedictine monk become a tapestry artist?  Dom Robert (1907-1997) was born Guy de Chaunac-Lanzac.  He came from an aristocratic family and  attended the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs in Paris. Dom Robert  was introduced to tapestry by artist Jean Lurçat. In 1930 Dom Robert joined Abbaye d’En-Calcat. This became his spiritual home for the rest of his life.  The Dom Robert Museum (www.abbayeecoledesoreze.com) is located in The Tarn, a department in Southwestern France.  For the American tourist, The tarn is an undiscovered part of France; full of obscure and hidden sites.

Open in 2015, the interior of the museum was designed by Italian architecture firm Studio N.

The museum contains many of Dom Robert’s detailed drawings which layout the colors to be used in the tapestries.

Tall Grass Tapestry designed by Dom Robert in 1961

Dom Robert’s work translated his love of nature into amazing contemporary tapestries.

The Jungle created in 1949

Driving around The Tarn, we spotted peculiar structures.  What were these baffling constructions?  A small marker next to one of them gave us a clue.  They were pigeonnaires. And what is a pgeonnaire? A colombier or fuie or a pigeonnier is a dovecote.  The inside of a pigeonnier was divided into boulins (pigeon holes lodging a pair of pigeons).

Pigeonnier du Souc (18th century)

As we drove around The Tarn, it became a game to find the next Pigeonnier. Located in the middle of a field or in the backyard of a house or on the property of a chateau.

Pigeonniers were brought to France by the Romans. 

Most of the pigeonnaires we discovered in the Tarn were built on columns, but not all.  And some were in better condition than others. Some very large ones have been converted to gites.

Drawing of the interior of a pigeonnaire

“Prior to the Revolution, the keeping of pigeons was a right restricted to royalty, the clergy and the nobility. The privilege was a complex, hierarchical display of wealth, authority and power. Pigeonniers were soon being designed and built to reflect this status.”  Google search
Poop was an important by-product to pigeon breeding; their droppings were highly valuable because they made  excellent fertilizer. Peasants were prohibited by law from breeding, eating or hunting pigeons – even when the birds attacked their crops. In 1789, the laws changed and the keeping of pigeons became universally permitted all over France.

 

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