Fiona Alderman: The Crusaders’ Convent
It is one of the most beautiful and also one of the oldest buildings in Salignac, probably built in the 13th century. It is South facing onto the street and consists of six huge arched doorways and three pairs of gothic style windows on the level above. All of this topped by great wooden beams weighed down by a massive stone roof. Part of it has the original “lauze”stone,weighing a ton per square metre – unique to this area of France. The rest of it was replaced in slate after the war
No document survives of the existence of a convent on this site, however, and is misinformation of the original convent further along the street and whose remains no longer exist. It was in fact called un hotel noble des croisiers. A Crusaders’ house for the nobility, which housed a religious order who helped the poor, and who apparently went out each morning in the village to seek alms.
The part on the left of the building is now a ruin. It has been taken over by the local council and will be renovated. The rest is owned by a French family who I have known for about 12 years. I call them “the folks who live on the hill” and I often go up to see them and integrate into French life.
The inside of their house is wonderful, full of antiques and in keeping with all the original features. It has huge rooms with oak beams and huge open fireplaces which are lit with crackling logs in the winter. I love the “tree” made of ivy growing up one side of the house, trimmed meticulously to encircle some of the windows. Very unusual.
The Little Black Dress
This was the name synonymous with the famous couturier Givenchy who created a beautifully simple but chic dress for Audrey Hepburn in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Hubert Givenchy died recently after a long career in fashion and innovative design. He was the first designer to create “ready to wear ” clothes for both men and women and in the 70’s he would also design the interiors of Hilton hotels around the world..
He first met Audrey Hepburn on set of the film but thought he was going to meet the American actress Katherine Hepburn. However, this was the beginning of a life long friendship and she would wear his creations in public as well as in private.
She was his muse for over 40 years and he would continue to work on her films like Charade and Funny Face. His elegant clothes would also be worn by Jackie Kennedy, Princess Grace of Monaco,. Greta Garbo. and numerous other famous beauties.
He was awarded many awards including the Legion D’Honneur in France. There is a lovely perfume dedicated to him by Guerlain called “la petite robe noir” with adverts on the television with a signature song by Nancy Sinatra and a little girl dressed in the famous little black dress.
The Little Black Cat
Last month I talked about Jacques, our lovely black cat. Sadly he has since died.He had been ill for about a month and I had to take him to the vet. An expensive business in France but luckily there is one business locally. The vet said he was in a bad way but could she keep him overnight on a drip and see how he was? Heartbroken already, as this little one had quickly endeared himself to us, I sadly left the room.
A phone call came later on that night to say he was worse and what would I like to do. I said if he was suffering then there was only one thing to do . We buried him in a neighbour’s garden overlooking the chateau.
He had originally been found there, abandoned as a kitten, and the owner of the chateau thought I might like him as she knew we loved cats. He installed himself quickly into our household and our other cats accepted him too. A quirky little character that remained with me and sat on my chest for a sleep or played endlessly with balls of string and other toys. I shan’t forget him.
Fifi’s stories from rural France. March 2018.
www.salignacfoundation.com Dance and film courses in SW France
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