4.7.11

Over-Egging the Pudding

     As some of you may have noticed from my general absence and my slow comment replies in the first half of June, I have recently been away from my desk and en vacance around the south-western region of France. It was tres jolie et reposant, travelling from Bordeaux to Biarritz, Beziers to Bergerac (I didn’t plan those alliteratively) in weather conditions often not dissimilar to the UK (i.e. cloudy with a bit of rain) but occasionally glorious. Anyway, if you look at that route on a map, you’ll see it goes straight past Lourdes.


     Lourdes is a site for Roman Catholic pilgrimage and worship, thanks to the visions of a certain Bernadette Soubirous of what is thought to be the Virgin Mary, causing a spring to spring up on the site. People go there nowadays to pray and be healed by the holy waters of the spring. It is also, incidentally, the name of Madonna’s first born. Not being particularly religious, morbid fascination took me there, to what is otherwise a hyped-up Pyrenean mountain town. Hyped or otherwise, it was a place that I'll never forget...

     I have no wish to comment on the actual meaning or religious significance of it: the thing that was quite shocking was the rampant commercialisation of it all. It was nauseating. Flashing neon signs for the 'Alliance Catholique', special Lourdes containers for collecting holy water by the litre, candles and fridge magnets and pencil cases featuring Bernadette, Jesus and the Pope. Shops sold Lourdes-marked candles that were available for free just down the road with an attitude akin to 'God made me do it'. It was really quite frightening. My guide book described it as a kind of 'religious themepark', and they were really not wrong.

So, thoughts? It was too much. Waaayy too much. This pudding has been over-egged, over-done, over-commercialised. It is the purple prose of the Catholic world: over-written into parody and farce.  The Vatican is nothing like this, by the way. That's bold and stark and clear in its purpose, leaving plenty for aesthetes and believers alike. Lourdes is just gratuitous. Maybe like all examples of purple prose, it just needs a damn good edit. As it is, I'm surprise they don't rhapsodise about the money pit that sprang up alongside the spring...
 
On a more positive note, if you ever find yourself in south-western France, stay here: Appart des Anges. It was gorgeous. 



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