14 July 2010

Cycling On Le Quatorzieme: Revolutionary?

Today is, of course, le jour de Bastille.   Three times in my life, I've been in France on this date: Twice I was cycling in the countryside; the other time I was just barely keeping myself out of trouble in Paris. 

Possibly the most interesting of those quatorziemes was the one I spent in a town called Foix.  I ridden from Toulouse through the Pyrenees into Spain and had just come back into France when I came to Foix.  If you are in that part of the world, I definitely recommend going there.  It's not a big city at all, but it has played significant roles in the history of France and the region.  I won't get into it here, for much more than a blog post would be needed to do it justice.  But it's also worth going simply for the spectacular views. friendly people and the castle:

According to a local song, El castels es tant fortz qu’el mezis se defent: The castle is so strong it can defend itself.   Indeed, since it was built around the year 1000 C.E.,  it has never been captured.  Within its walls resided the counts of Foix, who were considered l'ame  of the Occitan resistance against the Albigensians in the 13th Century.

Most people think that some particularly clever Marine came up with the slogan Kill 'em all.  Let God sort 'em out. Actually, it was Arnaud Amaury, the Abbot of Citeaux and the Papal Legate to the Crusaders, who said Neca eos omnes. Deus suos agnoscet ("Kill them all; God will know His own.") when Simon de Montfort, the Commander of the Crusade, pointed out that not everyone in Beziers, a town he was ordered to sack and burn, was a heretic.

No matter how many people they killed, they couldn't touch the Foix castle. I have no idea of what the Bastille was like. But I imagine they would have had a much, much more difficult time storming the Foix castle than they did with the Bastille. How would history be different if the Foix castle had been built in Paris or the Bastille in Foix?

Anyway...When I showed up at the castle on my bike, people--all of them strangers--applauded. Do people applaud during revolutions?

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