Saturday, July 14, 2012

The miraculous source

peek a boo

Our journey back home from Mirande took in a decent diversion through the south west of the Gers in the direction of Aignan. There’s a sequence of lakes much larger than the one we visit at Lupiac which I thought I’d check out and let Munson have a swim to revive after the midday heat. This area is marked by lots of ridges and little valleys which hide these lakes well from the roads. As a result we didn’t find the ones we were looking for and were distracted by smaller beauty spots like the  Lac de Saint Fris (above) which we encountered near Bassoues.
sunflowers
The mid afternoon saturated our journey in rich colour from the yellow sunflowers wrapping over every fold in the landscape, to the sudden rich green of the waters of the lake competing with the electric blue sky. Bassoues itself can be seen on the hill beyond the lake, with the Basilica of Saint Fris standing high above the town.
Lacs de Saint-Fris, Bassoues
Fris was a son of Duke Robbad of the Frisians who took a stand against the Saracens at nearby Lupiac in 732. He also took a fatal arrow and was buried secretly and then “miraculously discovered” by a shepherd (a forebear of Bernadette?) two centuries later. As is typical for the age and the area, miracles ensue, holy relics aggregate like iron filings to a magnet, and before you can count from one to Lourdes, the monastery follows.

I had no idea that the Saracens had passed through this region, but a little digging around shows that after the Iberian peninsula was taken they didn’t waste any time in heading further north. They were finally defeated much further north at the Battle of Tours in this same year of 732 by Fris’ uncle, Charles Martel.

I think Fris’ father Robbad, Radbod or Redbad (unless I’m mixing up several bads), known either as King or Duke according to your affiliation is the one who in 718 was

“induced to be baptized ; but when he had put one foot in the font, he drew back the other, and asked whether the greater number of his predecessors were in Paradise or in hell ? And when he heard that they were in hell, he drew back altogether, saying, " It is better for me to follow the greater than the smaller number." “[*]

Given that the Frisians battled with Martel over a couple of generations I haven’t figured out how Fris was related to both. I’ve fumbled my way through a number of Wikipedia articles but just keep finding more and more spellings of Redbad.

St Fris
Pilgrims on the path to Santiago de Compostela passing this way partake of la source miraculeuse which I guess offers a quick route to heaven via the non-potable water from the pump at the memorial chapel, so bathing in the waters is the usual recommendation.
P1100076 P1100068
Dubious miracle waters aside it’s a nice picnic spot but bathing in the lake is verboten (it does look a bit murky).

Munson was impatient for a swim so we continued on to Lupiac where we both guaranteed of a dip, more concerned with turtles nibbling at our toes, than Saracens swarming over the surrounding hillside, or even in this very valley before it was dammed.
Lupiac 2 Lupiac 1

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