August 18, 2014
Normandy History And Restoration
On Friday I went to the cathedral in Coutances with a friend who is not only an architect, he is currently in charge of all the momuments historiques in the entire Auvergne region. Spending the day with him is like having a history, art and architecture professor at your disposal and I was more than happy to visit as many cathedrals, churches, abbeys and châteaux as he wanted.
We arrived under beautiful blue skies and thanked Mother Nature for giving us the chance to enjoy a day free of the drizzle and gray skies that decided to take their holidays in Normandy this August.
We walked around the exterior, snapping photos and admiring the Romanesque/Norman/Gothic facade. In the square in front of the cathedral we came across a series of photographs depicting the bombardment and destruction of Coutances during World War II. Seventy years ago, the exact place where we were standing was a giant pile of destroyed homes, businesses turned to rubble and pieces of the cathedral.
It was a sobering moment.
After the war the cathedral was painstakingly restored by Yves-Marie Froidevaux.
When you step inside and your eyes are drawn up to the light, the stained glass windows and the central dome, the amount of care that was given to bring it back to its former glory is unmistakable.
I'm sure that those poignant photographs will be stored away at the end of 2014, the year of the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the year when Normandy remembers its liberation by the allied forces. I can only hope that in the years ahead, when visitors come to experience this beautiful, delicious region, they will have read not only about Mont Saint Michel, Impressionism, Calvados and the cheese, but about the restoration of places like the cathedral of Coutances, the history and impact of the war, and will remember the atrocities that the French people suffered under the Nazi regime, so that it never happens again.