Monday, 19 January 2015

The Provencal Creche in Bonnieux

Provencal Village

Last week, I was fortunate to stumble upon the spectacular Provencal creche in the church at the top of Bonnieux - my favourite perched village in the Luberon, France.  This particular creche is created every Christmas by Vincent Gils, it takes him over 3 weeks to construct using natural materials and vegetation to set the scene and to build the terraces and stone walls.

The figures used in the creche are called santons, they became popular in the 18th century and are made from local clay which is then hand painted - the larger ones are dressed in 18th century clothes.  They not only depict the usual nativity characters  but also people from every walk of life in Provence and their animals.   Families often have their own  creche which they display in their home every Christmas - gradually adding a figure or two every year purchased from the popular santon fairs held locally.

This Christmas and New Year period the creche was open every weekend from 29/11/2014 to 11/01/2015 from 2.30pm to 5pm and every afternoon during the school holidays.  Check with the local tourist office in Bonnieux for the opening hours next Christmas.

Feeding the Chickens

Tending the Crops

Water Wheel

Chatting in a Sheltered Spot

Daily Life

You can buy santons at  local fairs from the end of November to the end of December - there is an annual fair in the Place Jeanne d'Arc (near La Rotonde) in Aix en Provence, France.

Santons Cavasse, Venelles (These are the santons that I'm collecting for our rather more modest family creche).

Santons Fouque , Aix en Provence

Santons Jouve, Luynes.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Dennis Sever's House, Spitalfields, London

Earlier this week, we stepped back in time to the 18th century and paid a visit to Dennis Sever's House in Spitalfields, London.  Just round the corner from the hustle of the City, this 4 storey townhouse houses the imaginary family of Mr and Mrs Jervis, a family of Huguenot silk weavers.

As you enter the house, you step back in time to a home  lit by candlelight and heated by smoky coal and log fires.  Each room is a still life;  a meal unfinished on the dining room table, tea things in the drawing room on the first floor and unmade beds and washing drying upstairs.  It's as if the family have just this minute left.  The only concession to the 21st century is a sound recording in each room - music, birdsong from caged birds and murmuring voices.

Visitors are asked to  walk around the house in silence.  It makes you look closely at everything and really absorb  the atmosphere of the house - the sounds and the smells.

This unique experience was created by artist Dennis Severs (1948- 1999) who bought the house in 1979 and lived there while he created his 'famous time machine'.  We visited just before Epiphany when the house was decorated for Christmas, but you can visit all year round.

Further reading: