by Ted Welch
Fri May 23rd, 2008 at 08:51:26 AM EST
Saorge is a very beautiful medieval village perched along a narrow rock spur that juts out into the Vallée de la Roya, high above the river. Saorge is classed as one of the "40 most beautiful villages of France".
A visit to this village included a monastery, and a coincidence of dates led to reflections on how the Catholic Church treated Galileo and Giordano Bruno. Another coincidence of timing allowed us to witness a VE Day commemoration ceremony in a nearby village and an article about the WW2 experience of an American's father echoed our feeling that we ought to celebrate life.
Promoted by Migeru. Fold moved here for the FP. -- Jérôme
To get to Saorge from Nice, the A8 takes one into Italy, before the S20 goes back into France and to Saorge. We stopped off in Airole, an Italian village, to look for a restaurant, but the only two seemed to be closed. It's an amazing medieval warren:
And the "Happy Days Bar" wasn't quite what we were looking for:
Back in France we found a restaurant with terrace in Breil sur Roya, which seemed to be a quiet village. But once we were seated there was an incredible noise, which I assumed was someone cutting stone, or some other building work. But the waitress explained that it was model power-boats on the river. As with the bloody motor-bikes in Nice, just a few nuts ruin the peace for everyone else - a clear case for a ban. Until then - don't stop if you're looking for some calm:
Saorge IS a haven of calm:
Like Airole, Saorge has incredible little medieval streets:
The main street:
The communal laundry - labour-saving devices avoid a great deal of hard work, but can lead to social isolation - what gossip must have been exchanged here:
The Franciscan monastery - how many lives were wasted here?
At least now it is used to provide places for writers to work in peace - and to show art - sadly, the current stuff was very boring abstract painting:
Glancing at the sign about the history of the monastery I thought to myself that it was founded at about the time Galileo was being punished. Another weird coincidence - when I later checked a leaflet about its history, it was established in 1633, and when I checked Galileo's trial - 1633 !
In the 1633 trial of Galileo Galilei, two worlds come into cosmic conflict. Galileo's world of science and humanism collides with the world of Scholasticism and absolutism that held power in the Catholic Church. The result is a tragedy that marks both the end of Galileo's liberty and the end of the Italian Renaissance.
The grand play ran its course, with the Pope insisting upon a formal sentence, a tough examination of Galileo, public abjuration, and "formal prison." Galileo was forced to appear once again for formal questioning about his true feelings concerning the Copernican system. Galileo obliged, so as not to risk being branded a heretic, testifying that "I held, as I still hold, as most true and indisputable, the opinion of Ptolemy, that is to say, the stability of the Earth and the motion of the Sun." Galileo renunciation of Copernicanism ended with the words, "I affirm, therefore, on my conscience, that I do not now hold the condemned opinion and have not held it since the decision of authorities....I am here in your hands--do with me what you please."
After six days in the custody of Niccolini, custody of Galileo transferred to Archbishop Piccolomini in Sienna. In late 1633, Galileo received permission to move into his own small farmhouse in Arcetri, where he would grow blind and, in 1641, die.
Meanwhile the monks gathered in their gloomy little chapel to celebrate their faith.
The burning of Bruno
A mother and child - it looks quite harmless doesn't it, but 33 years earlier there was an even grimmer reminder of Christian intolerance and cruelty, even to one of their own, a Dominican monk - but one who left the order because he refused to fetter his own intellect, Giordano Bruno:
Bruno continued his Venetian defensive strategy, which consisted in bowing to the Church's dogmatic teachings, while trying to preserve the basis of his philosophy. In particular Bruno held firm to his belief in the plurality of worlds, although he was admonished to abandon it. His trial was overseen by the inquisitor Cardinal Bellarmine, who demanded a full recantation, which Bruno eventually refused. Instead he appealed in vain to Pope Clement VIII, hoping to save his life through a partial recantation. The Pope expressed himself in favor of a guilty verdict. Consequently, Bruno was declared a heretic, handed over to secular authorities on February 8 1600. At his trial he listened to the verdict on his knees, then stood up and said: "Perhaps you, my judges, pronounce this sentence against me with greater fear than I receive it." A month or so later he was brought to the Campo de' Fiori, a central Roman market square, his jaw clamped in an iron gag and an iron spike driven through his tongue. He was tied to a pole naked and burned at the stake, on February 17, 1600.
Ah, those loving Christians.
In some ways Bruno's ideas anticipated modern cosmology:
Essentially, the same physical laws would operate everywhere, although the use of that term is anachronistic. Space and time were both conceived as infinite. There was no room in his stable and permanent universe for the Christian notions of divine Creation and Last Judgement.
Under this model, the Sun was simply one more star, and the stars all suns, each with its own planets. Bruno saw a solar system of a sun/star with planets as the fundamental unit of the universe. According to Bruno, infinite God necessarily created an infinite universe, formed of an infinite number of solar systems...
400 years later, the Pope admitted that the Church had made an "error". There is a statue of him where he was so horribly put to death - for thinking.
When we left Saorge we arrived in nearby Fontan, with incredible timing, just as the road was blocked by the memorial day procession (May 8th). From memories of one brutal regime to those of another:
At 02:41 on May 7, 1945, at the SHAEF headquarters in Reims, France, the Chief-of-Staff of the German Armed Forces High Command, Colonel General Alfred Jodl, signed the German Instrument of Surrender. All active operations were to cease at 23:01 Central European Time on May 8
So M parked and I got some photos.
In the History Channel an American doubts if many Americans today know about the significance of the day:
The act of military surrender was signed on May 7 in Reims, France, and May 8 in Berlin, Germany.
Surprised no one posted anything about this historic day. My Dad told me once that when they were told the war in Europe was over, the GIs had to turn in all their ammunition and fire off what they had in their weapons. He thought 'I sure hope somebody told the Germans this is over'.
63 years ago this day. I doubt a large number of Americans walking around today could even tell you what VE Day meant let alone who we fought against. Pretty sad state of affairs.
We tried to celebrate being alive with a drink on Beaulieu beach.
The day after writing that, I read this in the International Herald Tribune:
Johnny pulled guard from 9 to 11
... After my father died in 1997, I found his wartime letters to my mother. Germany's imminent surrender was a frequent theme, along with a longing for home. One topic was taboo: death.
Attending Mass in the village of Belvedere on a Sunday in October, my father escaped injury when German artillery shelled the town. His best friend, a man named Johnny, was not so lucky. In a letter to my mother soon after, the realities of war forced my father to forget his self-censorship.
"A month after Johnny was killed, his wife wrote me. She must be very religious or something because she wanted to know if Johnny had gone to church that morning he was killed. Johnny couldn't go to mass that morning. We went to the nine o'clock mass and Johnny pulled guard from 9 to 11. He planned to go then. We went to the church basement and Father Lambert finished the service there. It wasn't till about 10:30 that I heard that Johnny had been killed.
My father lived. I live. Millions of Americans can say these two words because someone came home from a war decades ago. If those Americans were lucky, they learned what my father taught me: to celebrate life by realizing how fortunate you are to have it.
Unfortunately, by the time we descended from the A8, the beach cafe was closing, so we couldn't sit and enjoy this view at Beaulieu:
So we had drinks in the lovely garden of La Reserve, from which we could just see the sea through the restaurant.
As Logan's father said:
"celebrate life by realizing how fortunate you are to have it."