05 January 2019

Jeanne et Jésus

The more I write this blog and read the Michelin guide about different regions of France, the more I realize that the Michelin guidebook is really focused on churches and religion. I guess that's inevitable, because modern France grew out of the Christian occupation of Gaul during and after Roman times. One of the symbols of France is Joan of Arc — Jeanne d'Arc — a young woman who many people came to believe was inspired by God and was doing His work when she helped throw the invading English out of France in the Middle Ages. Here's a statue of her that I saw in a church in the old village of Vouvant in the Vendée. A lot of the veneration of Joan was a late 19th-century phenomenon, I think, and probably was a post-Revolutionary (avoiding the term "reactionary") religious movement.

Yesterday we had a long discussion in comments on this blog about La Chaise, the name of a small forest on the Île de Noirmoutier. The word chaise in place names derives from Latin casa or "house." The "house" in question was sometimes a church ("house of God"), a domaine (a large agricultural property), or just a settled place like a hamlet or village. There was a monastery on Noirmoutier, going back to the 7th century. Maybe that's origin of the forest's name.

Coincidentally, the village we stayed in when we visited the Vendée is called Chaix. Is that the same term in different clothing? Probably. There is an old church in Chaix, and it might have been seen as the "chair" or "house" of God. Or not...

This statue of Jesus stands on a curve in the main road in Chaix, not far from the church. For once, he is not shown on the Cross during the Crucifixion. I don't know, but I imagine this is a 19th-century creation too. It's not part of the village cimetière. Here's a wider view of the monument.

Do you suppose this thing had a function? Or was it just intended to be decorative? Below is a photo of the church in Chaix.

The church in Chaix is dedicated to saint Étienne — St. Stephen.

Another coincidence: I just learned that there is a place, now run as a B&B, called Le Manoir de Chaix in the village of Truyes, not far from Tours  or Loches, and just 25 miles west of Saint-Aignan. I guess I should mention that a chai is also the building in which a grape-grower/winemaker crushes grapes and then ferments and stores or ages wines. Wikipedia says the term was originally Celtic — that's what it says about the name of the river called La Chaise in the Alps too.


  1. So chai is connected to this etymology too? Interesting.

  2. That statue and set up is strange. The mount looks like it has a space for words. Perhaps it's a spot for prayer...

  3. To me, the Jesus thing looks like a burial site, or a family plot, explaining the enclosure. The whole thing has seen better days!

    I love the simplicity of that humble village church.

    1. As a follow up from yesterday, there is a 15th century Prieuré de la Chaise near Saint-Georges-sur-Cher; it serves as a B&B. Certainly same derivation as the Auvergne Chaise-Dieu.

  4. I went back to yesterday's comments to read all of this discussion -- thanks for the other meaning of anse-- I absolutely did not know the word for a basket's handle, and never thought about not knowing it! Ha! Great word!

  5. The Jesus place looks to me like a burial site, as well. I've seen very similar things in Mallorca, so I imagine it may be a style / format common to the western Med area in general. The Vendee would be stretching that, but perhaps the Romans spread the idea around while they were dispensing other things?


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