Michael and John were on bikes, so they headed back to the barge, while Margaret and I stayed on to explore the town under our umbrellas. We stopped by the Office de Tourisme again to get the large key to the church and made our way up the hill.
For me, our visit to the Eglise Saint Florentin was a true highlight of the trip. It looked huge from a distance and was also dramatically imposing up close. Sitting on top of the hill, it dominates the heart of the town, and the century-old gargoyles look down fiercely from high above you. Although called a “parish” church, its dimensions are so large and impressive it made me wonder if it could have been an unfinished cathedral. As I discovered, it actually was never completed, as the nave was never built.
Inside this gorgeous old church is a 17th century organ, beautiful statuary, glorious vaulted ceilings and the most spectacular, breathtakingly beautiful stained glass windows. These totally captivated me. Sadly, my photos do not do them justice.
These 16th century stained glass windows were made by makers from the famous French “School of Troyes.” There are 16 in total, and they’re among few remaining sets in existence. Each window tells a story. One is the story of Florentin, a noble knight, who was martyred in the 5th century by a leader of vandals. In 833 AD, his relics were brought to the town by two countesses, and from that time on, the town has been known as Saint Florentin.
To add to my excitement, there were scallop shells decorating the entrance to the church. Scallop shells on a cathedral, church or abbey indicate a pilgrims’ shrine and part of the pilgrims’ Camino de Santiago de Compostella. Is it possible that this church was part of the pilgrims’ Camino? I wanted to think so.
It was a lovely experience to visit this town and its wondrous “local parish church” full of so much history; I was thoroughly enchanted.
Some days later, on our return to Migennes, we had guests on board, so I insisted we go back to Saint Florentin in time to collect the key from the Office de Tourisme for another visit to the church. We lingered as long as possible to take in the pleasure and joy of the moment.
For the first time in my life, I decided to buy a candle. We found some matches and lit it. We then said a little prayer for the Betty B, for her to be safe and well with good mechanics and for all who barge on her to be safe, happy and healthy. It was a beautiful, thin, tapered candle, and we hoped our prayers were heard. The candles were either one Euro for the small size or two Euros for the large. Although my candle was small, I left two Euros.
We returned the key and popped into the boulangerie (bakery) to buy some gateaux (cake) for dessert and a couple of baguettes for breakfast the next day. Then, at the epicene (grocery store), we bought some fruit for breakfast and tomatoes for lunch.
Walking down the main street, which we didn’t do the last time due to the rain, we realized just how pretty Saint Florentin is with the houses made in a Burgundian style of wooden beams and colored walls, similar to those in Strasbourg. We passed by the circular tower that used to form part of the town wall and had been an essential part of the security of the town.
Then, we headed back to the barge for dinner preparation, showers and our Champagne aperitif. Dinner was slow braised pork with prune and apple sauce, ratatouille and creamy mashed potatoes.
What a great life it is barging on the canals in France.