Paray-les-Monial isn’t particularly old by local standards, but its history is the stuff of which movies are made. At its heart the first church was consecrated a mere thousand years ago, and was run, if that is the correct word, by an order of monks who, reading between the lines had a great old time of it for around seven hundred years.
All was going splendidly it seems until a young nun experienced a vision in the early seventeenth century, and the place became the focus of great pilgrimages in the years that followed. Pilgrims still make the journey in the present day albeit presumably in greater comfort. Mind bogglingly to those of us who thought that recognition of things historical began in the seventies with “Green Bans” in Sydney’s Rocks area, the church was declared an historic monument in 1846.
Clearly all the attention brought with it a certain change in the economics of the village, although apart from a couple of shops selling “souvenirs of the apparition” of slightly dubious relevance, it’s mostly a working, living place with a chocolate-box scene at it’s heart.
We did manage to avoid buying any of the ceramic quasi-mediaeval souvenir figurines carrying lambs or tending cows, even though for many reasons we were sore tempted to part with some change for the one in the coloured gown in the form of a helium-balloon vendor. Instead we sought refuge in a fabric shop, leaving there with several balls of hand dyed knitting cotton and a few buttons.
It seems we are going to make a souvenir of our own.