Reading the fascinating essays on the history of Nanteuil le Haudouin has made me see the townscape anew, with new interest, full of imaginings, making connections.
Look at this picture of a pretty drab concrete 1980s (I imagine) building:
There’s a hint of a cloister as the building is designed around a courtyard with a couple of trees on three sides through the colonnade you can see here, plus the name on the sign is pretty suggestive. The building seems to be mostly apartments with a couple of offices and a local art association having some space I think. Here is the south side:
It was the two arches on this side nearest the carpark that caught my attention. Is it possible they are really vestiges of a previous building? Part of the Cluniac Priory that I know was around there somewhere? Here’s a closeup image from the 17th century of the priory church next to the château.
I was pretty excited to find this photo on an old postcard. The two arches look the same to me. And the caption indicates that this was “the old church or Priory where the Benedictines looked after the tombs of the Lords of Nanteuil, notably the beautiful mausoleum of the Maréchal of Scromberg currently in the museum of Versailles.”
So, I don’t know how accurate that caption is, and a website about the local church suggests that the mausoleum actually got moved to a church in Crépy-en-Valois, but it made me look at this image from the Bibliothèque Nationale, found through their online resources search:
Either the perspective is wrong, or that tombeau was monolithically huge!
And the parish church here is also interestingly ancient. According to the website on churches in this department, Oise, it dates back to the 11th century. When you look up at the west facade, it feels almost fortified and the adjectives “robuste” and even “lourd” (robust and heavy) definitely seem to describe it well. In the image I posted yesterday of Nanteuil in the 17th century, the church spire (you can see it towards the left of the picture) looks totally different. It appears that there was a fire which destroyed the original and you can see a kind of artist’s impression of the church post-fire on another old postcard.
Today I saw with new eyes, eyes fired by historical imagination. Just goes to show what a bit of knowledge can do. I wish I’d read more about Nanteuil’s medieval history sooner!