March 15, 2002 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the issue of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on March 15, 2002.
Versions of the following have appeared online regularly, since 1992, as a feature of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which is distributed for free via email every month except August. Ejournal subscriptions may be obtained via email request to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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A tour through the phenomenal "L'Abbaye Saint - Germain d'Auxerre" site,
can give satisfaction to anyone interested in France and Europe, the history, architecture, archaeology, and the motivations of early Christian and medieval life -- or to anyone wanting to see what information technology truly can accomplish, something better than Infotainment bump 'n grind... or to anyone with a little time to kill on a rainy afternoon, who simply wants to explore something online which is beautifully done and really interesting...
The site is available in English as well as in French. Its graphics are done dramatically but simply -- stark contrasts instead of all the quirky colors and designs which can distract on a little screen, and spare iconograpy in place of wordswhichconfuse -- and the site is filled with glorious manuscripts and photos and other images, of this ancient abbey which played such a central part in the earliest history of Europe.
Touring through the website you get a sense, almost better than you do on a personal visit, of the reasons why the early Christians built their building, and decorated it as they did. On an in - person visit it always is hard to keep your focus -- on the rapid - fire French tour guide droning along from about 30 tourist heads away, in a busy modern French town with bus noise and fire engine klaxons going off in the background, while you are worrying about where the kids have wandered off to and where you will have dinner, and the German tour is pushing by you and the Japanese tour is waving their flags and flashing forbidden photos -- and the architectural mishmosh of nearly 15 centuries of subsequent French history is obscuring what you really wanted to see of the earliest stuff...
It is a lot easier imagining being a 6th century Christian "believer" when you are alone -- just you and your little computer and the Web, plus the tender guidance of a multitude of French archaeologists and art historians and Web designers all tailoring the presentation to your own hypertext whims -- the relics need protecting so they may be worshipped, now the comte de Nevers is rattling his sword again, the folks down at Ve'zelay are running to Cluny for protection... no klaxons or kids or 19th century renovations, yet... just you and the history...
This Auxerre Website -- of which the French are proud (it is a feature of their Ministry of Culture's "Grandes Sites Archéologiques" offering, along with "La Grotte de Lascaux", "La Grotte Chauvet - Pont - d'Arc", "La Vienne Antique", "Vivre au Bord du Danube il y a 6500 ans" and others) -- is organized around five themes:
Haymo, Commentary on Ezekiel, Paris BnF lat. 12302 f1v
the description reads,
"Au registre inférieur à droite un ange transporte le prophète à Jérusalem. Il est ensuite représenté dans le temple de Salomon où il assiste à des rites d'idolâtrie devant les statues de la Jalousie (à droite), d'Adonis (à gauche) et de représentations d'animaux (en haut). Dans le temple à gauche les Hébreux tournent le dos au Saint des Saints..."
Heiric, Florilegium of John Scottus Erigena, BnF lat. 13953 f1v
Servius, Commentary on the Aeneid of Virgil, 4th c, BNF lat. 7960 f154
Saint Jérôme traduit la Bible en latin, première Bible de Charles le Chauve, BnF lat. 1 f3v
and there are others.
All this without the use of a printed book.
An introduction, you might say... one to begin, or perhaps at most later on to supplement, a study which eventually must lead to the printed word to be complete?
It is interesting, though, that the men and women who actually built the marvels at Auxerre, and who worshipped there, did not rely so greatly on the printed word as we do now...
And here we are again -- not relying on the printed word but instead enjoying, and learning from, images and paintings and architecture -- online, via this Internet / WorldWideWeb thing.
And they will have sound, one day soon, at this online site: if not songs of the period, which may have been lost, perhaps Gregorian chant?, plus the birds in those pretty Auxerre gardens, and the echoes of ghostly footfalls in the tiny corridors of that ancient crypt.
And experiments are under way to bring even smells to the Internet as well, now -- so... the musty odors of an old church, the smoke of candles and the sweat of the crowd on a feast day, the baking bread scents from the town outside -- all so much a part of an Auxerre visit to pilgrims today as they were 1500 years ago, now once again perhaps to become part of that which the printed book could not convey.
(Anyone who has visited Madurai will attest to the importance of sounds and smells to the experience -- medieval European places were closer to modern India's, than anything which the 19th century cleansed and rendered antiseptic for us.)
So perhaps Victor Hugo, in this bicentennial year of his birth, may be found to have had it backwards. Perhaps his "ceci tuera cela" held true for only a few centuries.
Once Auxerre is fully online here, will the images and sounds and smells thereby assembled any longer be the mere adjunct to a printed description? Or will that relationship become reversed, and the printed descriptions wither for lack of use as more and more people, all over the world, come to know this chapter of French and European history through its online multimedia depiction, of which this site is such a fine representation?
Well, find me a "book" on Auxerre -- even now, already -- which is this graphically impressive, this much fun to use, and this inexpensively and easily accessed.
The Auxerre W3 site is wonderful: links to it should be provided by any other site, anywhere -- francophone or anglophone or other -- with interests in France or Europe or the Medieval histories of either, and also by any which address distance learning, online education, and really fine W3 conceptualization and design. This is a site of which their Ministry of Culture justifiably is proud, one of many outstanding websites being designed now by the French.
FYI France (sm)(tm) e-journal ISSN 1071 - 5916 * | FYI France (sm)(tm) is a monthly electronic | journal published since 1992 as a small-scale, | personal experiment, in the creation of large- | scale "information overload", by Jack Kessler. / \ Any material written by me which appears in ----- FYI France may be copied and used by anyone for // \\ any good purpose, so long as, a) they give me --------- credit and show my email address, and, b) it // \\ isn't going to make them money: if it is going to make them money, they must get my permission in advance, and share some of the money which they get with me. Use of material written by others requires their permission. FYI France archives may be found at http://infolib.berkeley.edu (search fyifrance), or http://firstname.lastname@example.org/ (BIBLIO-FR archive), or http://listserv.uh.edu/archives/pacs-l.html (PACS-L archive) or http://www.fyifrance.com . Suggestions, reactions, criticisms, praise, and poison-pen letters all will be gratefully received at email@example.com . Copyright 1992- , by Jack Kessler, all rights reserved except as indicated above.
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