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