Cool calm churches, places of worship, joy, hope and sorrow. France is full of churches, from the grandest to the humblest, the church is the mainstay of many a comunity.
Whether you have religious or not, you have to admire the beauty of these places.
Grandeur, big spaces, dramatic architecture. Places that make you feel small as you look with amazement at what man could do with stone so many years ago before he had all the technology and machinery that we have today.
Statues, beautiful people carved in stone. Their calm demenour forever reasuring the onlooker of their everlasting love.
Many statues are damaged, hands, feet and faces removed. A dismembering that seems all the more barbaric in such a place of love and worship.
Colour, oh such colour. The plainest of buildings, the most spartan of furnishings can be illuminated and brought into incandescent life by the most amazing of stained glass windows.
The artists hand, the light of God, what could be more dramatic than that.
And then there is something completely different. A crocodile. Yes a crocodile, well why not really, shouldn't every ecclesiastical establishment boast an nine foot stuffed reptile on the wall!
Actually bizarre as it looks, this crocodile was apparently brought back from some crusade and was used as a talisman for a great many years. People would bring their hopes, fears and tears and pat his feet and nose when asking God to fulfill their desires. A popular chap this as you can see by his worn away feet and a nose that would benefit from some serious reconstruction.
He adds a quirky touch to a place of such solemnitude. A touch of the extraordinary, a wee bit of wackiness on a wall in France.
I've wandered round lots of churches in france. Most are left open for visitors to step inside and visit with their maker. I don't think you have to be of any specific religion to visit a church, you just have to appreciate it as a place of worship and say hello to your God whoever he or she may be.
My only boo-boo when visiting a church in France (just a small village one this time) was when I'd wandered in and was looking at a window in the back when lots of people came filing in. Best sneak quietly out I thought as they all took their seats and fairly filled the little building. Imagine my horror when I realised it was a funeral going on and the deceased was up the front in all his glory boxed up and placed on a trestle beside the priest.
One of those moments when you feel like a rabbit in headlights, frozen and not knowing what to do. Luckily I was right at the back, there was only one thing for it – stay put and stay quiet. Boy I never realised that French funerals took so long. It seemed an age before it was all over and the congregation filed solemnly back out again. Once they were gone I took my leave hoping that nobody had ever seen me, but just as I was making my way out into the brilliant sunshine the old priest stepped forward from a side door and smiled. He just nodded and smiled and said Bonjour.
French churches are special places whatever your religion.