Hiver est arrivé!
Crisp and even!
Just as it should be but isn’t always these days as the seasons come unstuck.
They are planting the garlic and our birds are back on the bird table–tits, nuthatches and a robin.
Surprising how good it makes one feel–seasonal balance.
It helps this morning as we wait with our builders for someone from the La Mairie of Lautrec to arrive with the key to the church–the future of which has been an on-going concern, or to put it more crudely–has been bugging us for the past three months.
An unwelcome distraction from the food and everyday life blog.
The mayor (maire) announced at a meeting of the parishioners at the beginning of October (the first night of my cooking workshop, so Meredith had to go alone) that he is wants to sell the church.
He claimed that it is in a dangerous state and about to fall down.
Lautrec is in debt he said and short of money.
He claimed there was someone interested in buying the church and converting it into a living space.
Oh my goodness!
It’s no more than ten yards from the présbytere-the priest’s residence–our residence now.
So IOBY (in our back yard)–literally.
Ben on the lookout!
Meredith suggested there were other solutions.
OK says the Mayor, you have three months.
The church is no oil painting but we have grown to love it and its reassuring presence.
It was built about 1870–a hundred and fifty years after the presbytere (priest’s house) to replace the original chapel that was destroyed at the time of the French Revolution (1789-1794…).
In 1905 Church and State were separated by law in France and the churches became the property of local government.
SO–the church belongs to the commune.
In March at the local elections the Mairie changed hands and the new Maire decided that the church had to be sold.
(It was deconsecrated as a church sometime ago.)
A local woman had shown interest a couple of years ago but the then mayor assured us it was not for sale.
After the election, however, the same woman approached the new mayor….
We have been busy these three months.
We’ve consulted notaries, lawyers, the citizens advice bureau in our local town and all agree, after studying the documents that there is NO ACCESS to the church from our side and our neighbors, the farmers who own the land surrounding the church say they will not grant access from their side.
There is also NO WATER on the site and NO SANITATION--ie septic tank.
The only land is the narrow path that circles the building–NO TERRAIN.
As to the state of the building today two builders examined it inside and out and their shared opinion is that it is NOT ABOUT TO FALL DOWN.
There is structural work to be done to secure the chapel on the north side–but tis would not be “grande choses”.
One of them suggested that two exterior buttresses would render that chapel safe.
At the meeting in October the mayor assured the parishioners of St Martin, many of whom have family tombs in the adjacent cemetery and for whom the ongoing presence of the church building is significant, that it would retain it’s outward footprint—ie look the same.
The lawyers in Albi and Castres told us this assurance does not conform to French law in the case of rural churches.
Indeed the prospective buyer has told us that, if successful in her bid, she intends to knock down the two side chapels to provide window views on the north and south sides of the building.
SO MUCH FOR THE FOOTPRINT!
We heard last week that the town council has voted to sell the church.
Though many people we have talked to say “BE PATIENT!” this is MAD and will not happen, it is a distraction.
We have set up a worldwide petition in favor of preserving the church as a significant presence and with the possibility of using it as a cultural centre and exhibition space. Please sign it:
The interior of St Martin showing some of the murals depicting the life of St Martin.