Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Maison des Dragons

June 21, 2012

It wouldn't be fair for me to say I love history since I don't actively seek to learn more about it (if reading books about it counts) but I do get excited when I'm about to learn stuff history things  stuff.

The Maison des Dragons, or 'House of the Dragons', was a dilapidated old house that may have once belonged to a wealthy medieval family. Well, whoever lived in it would have been wealthy, based on its larger size and massive archway. I don't have the expertise to rant about medieval architecture.

The story goes that it was once a medieval house, built perhaps earlier than those times. The house had a huge main archway for a door to the ground floor, which would have been a workshop (in medieval times families did their trade on the ground floor and lived upstairs). The house had another archway that joined it with its neighboring house. The archway was huge (by their standards) to allow maximum illumination by natural light. Medieval times came and went, and the house was built over as the years past. It survived through the Renaissance, with added Renaissance features, and lived through to modernity, the age of plaster and floral wallpaper and indoor plumbing. Then it was abandoned and fell into disrepair. The roof fell apart, through which gaping holes the rain entered and supported to growth of mold and ferns.

It was, however, a part of Cluny's history, and inspired by the spirit of patrimoine, heritage, the town of Cluny bought over the house with intentions of restoring it. They built a new roof to keep out the damp, which was important for the preservation of the house.

I love that idea. Much better than the demolition of historical 200-year-old houses in Penang, Malaysia for god-knows-why.  History is quite neglected in Malaysia, much to my regret. 

Excavation is done in layers, chipping away at the modern layer to get to the Renaissance layer, and chipping away (carefully) at that layer to get to the older medieval layer. Fascinating stuff. I had wanted to be an archaeologist once.

The chapel, usually at the center of the town. The Maison des Dragons is almost opposite of the chapel, so it was probably owned by someone important


The archway beneath the plaster

They found an old mummified mouse. *insert nerdy excitement*

I think this sign says there's going to be a clean up in the house

The sort-of modern fireplace at the site of the old fireplace

Opposite of the chapel

Floral wallpaper and the wonders beneath

The house was also intriguing for it has a third floor. Not very common in medieval houses, apparently. The third floor was used as a store in later years, so not much modification was done to it.
The roofs are new, but the stones are ancient. The thing to the right was a pigeon coop. The bigger your pigeon coop, the wealthier you are


The old old stones

The medieval man looks at you through the ages.

Pigeon's nest
des Dragons

After seeing a restoration in progress, we went to see a fully restored medieval house, which was simply amazing.

People weren't just allowed into shops back then.  Negotiations were made outside, and once the deal was sealed the customer was invited in. That has nothing to do with that cool-looking window there, which was installed later by a guild.

The interior. The beams were made of freshly cut, still-moist trees that eventually dried out and shrunk. I didn't get a good picture of the rocks wedged between the beams to support them when they shrunk.

A dog skeleton they found

Close-up of the dog skeleton

There were a bunch of cooler things, like the toys and tools they found in the house, and the little hidey-hole of a person trying to escape the French revolution. The person had made cryptic paintings in orange/red paint, which still makes the hair at the back of my neck stand just thinking about them.

- Louisa Lee

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