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Narbonne, dejeuner, and the Aussie Disposals Hat


Today we took the school bus to Narbonne. Very sensibly the French allow the public to travel on the school busses, and the only objectors are the scholars who tend to regard the busses as their busses and adults shouldn’t apply. Tough tittie; we went in on the later, (8.00 a.m.) bus with the college students and came back on the earlier (4.00 p.m.) bus with the school children.


The main square in Narbonne has a rectangle dug down a few feet and there is the old Roman Road, the Via Domitia, and for 10 yards or so you can walk along the paving stones smoothed by so many Roman feet and wheels. The younger generation use it as a meeting point which is just as it should be. To either side are the busy shopping streets that still follow the exact line of the Roman road, and are the exact width that the original streets would have been. Judging by the buildings they could well have the original Roman stones incorporated in them.


To one side of the square is the Palais des Archevêques, an enormous and magnificent building including a huge fort built in the early 13th century by an archbishop concerned for his personal safety. This whole slew of buildings is now the Mairie, but even the Maire will not wield anything like the power of an Archevêque who did however meet his match over the matter of the Cathedral which is only a fraction of the size of his palace which may say something about archiepiscopal priorities.


The reason the cathedral is so small is re-assuring. Even archbishops couldn’t defeat the planners. The cathedral was started with a great outbreak of enthusiasm and the choir was built on a huge scale. The roof is 40 metres high, and should have a nave stretching into the middle distance to be in scale. The city fathers observed the building of the chancel and were happy enough for it to go ahead if that was what the archbishop really wanted, but if he thought he could have his nave to go with it – a very finger wagging and resolute NON!. The problem was that to build the nave would have required the city walls to be destroyed, and archbishop or no archbishop the city fathers were not about to loose their city walls. You never knew when the English might come visiting.


Like so many planning disputes since, this one ended in the courts, but the outcome was a little different to the usual unhappiness all round. The reason for the sudden rapprochement between church and state was the arrival of the dreaded Black Prince at the city walls, which were the only thing standing between Narbonne and ravishment. So the city father kept their walls, and the archbishop got some land for a set of cloisters. Pretty second rate things they are too; game set and match to the city fathers..


The French penchant for dejeuner has kept us happily occupied. We were chucked out of the cathedral a few minutes before 12.30, and I nearly caused an incident by remembering as we were ushered out that I’d left my $1.50 Aussie Disposals hat under a misericord where I’d left it whilst Sylv and I had a sit. When I explained it was a hat all the way from Australia the functionaire agreed it had to be rescued so the cathedral was re-opened so I could go and get it. The fact that a city employee was closing the cathedral is because all churches built until recently belong to the state, more precisely to the local authority. I assume that the law in question says that only Catholics however are allowed to worship in them, otherwise what will happen when the Muslims say they would like access to one of the state’s religious buildings please. Notre Dame would do nicely, thank you.






Narbonne’s Finest.. Not remotely like the Riot Police – altogether too friendly



Archevêque’s palace. Cathedral somewhere over in the back


Roman road under the town square. A popular meeting place


2 tourists playing silly b’s with their camera