Lots of eye candy in this post about visits to two iconic sites: Chateau Chenonceau in the Loire Valley and Mont Saint Michel on the coast of Normandy. The Abby at Mont St. Michel dates to 1017, while work began on Chenonceau – built as a pleasure castle began in the early 1500s.
The pictures speak for themselves and bear witness to values of the time – conspicuous consumption and monument building on the part of both royalty and the church.
I had two emotions while taking in all this in during my visit to many castles and churches in France. The first was appreciation for the craftsmanship and artistry that went into theses buildings. They are truly amazing. The second was puzzlement and some anger at how so few controlled so many for so long.
Resources to build castles and churches might have been used to build schools, roads, hospitals or to improve access to basic needs like clean water. But the rich cared primarily about themselves and the church was interested in perpetuating the institution and maintinning its alliance with the rich and powerful.
No wonder there was such a bloodletting during the French Revolution when the Third Estate said enough is enough. Anger that had been pent-up for hundreds of years was finally set free by enlinghtenment ideals and the example of the American Revolution.
And while we have made progress in modern times, there is still much work to be done to achieve the humanist’s vision of a society which promotes social and ecomonic justice for all.