Thursday, March 10, 2016

Medieval France: Homage to Christine de Pizan in Poissy

The walled monastery at Poissy. This has been there since Christine spent the
last years of he life here. 
Early in my journey in France, I was staying with friends in Le Vesinet, a wealthy northern suburb of Paris.  Since Poissy, where Christine spent the end of her life, was close, I decided to spend a day visiting the town, where the abbey enclosure walls are still visible and where a library is named for her.

An exploding house, just right for the budding
Dropping her name at the tourist office and with locals I met did no good, however, as the only response I ever got was “Ah, la Mediatheque.”  No one knew who she was.  So I walked the walls of the Poissy Abbey where she lived at the end of her life, paid attention to the old houses, and fell in love with a tiny wood and plaster house not far from the old Abbey. 

I went to the charming Toy Museum, more to see the building that it was housed in than to see the toys.  If you’ll excuse an aside, the most interesting toy I found there was an exploding house from the late 19th, early 20th century.  As far as I could tell with my faulty French, children could create a combustible chemical cocktail, pour it into a container in the middle of the house, and then ignite it and the house would explode.  Just the toy for your budding arsonist.  Anyway, it was a lovely visit, but I didn’t find much of Christine. 

I continued to wander, searching for medieval construction, visiting the church, etc. I came across a park with gold painted cinder blocks glinting in the sun. 

The City of Ladies art installation in Poissy, France. 
I walked into the park and read the plaque attached to the side.  I found Christine. 

The blocks are a monument to Christine’s most famous work The City of Ladies.  The artist created a charming representation of the blocks that Christine uses as her metaphor as she and Dame Reason build the city of ladies, with women of learning and virtue making up each of the blocks in the building. 

It was a gift, and a justification for my instinct to wander, or as the French call it, flaner, through a town once I’ve finished my more  formal research. 

Thank you, Poissy.  I forgive you the fact that no one in town seems to know Christine beyond the fact that she has given her name to the local technology library.  Of course, I can't tell you how to get to this sculpture since it isn't listed on the city website.  Wander around.  Perhaps you'll find it. 

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