Saturday, November 03, 2007

Toussaint/ Fête des Morts

Here in France, the first of November is All Saints Day [la Toussaint] and second of November is the Festival of the Dead [Fête des Morts].

These two festivals have become somewhat interchangeable over the years, and its more common for people to visit their family tombs on la Toussaint. I've heard it said that this is mainly due to Toussaint being a public holiday here.

However, since there is a famous painting of families visiting a cemetery on Toussaint from 1888 [ Émile Friand] it would seem that this is definitely not a recent development.

Bunches or pots of Chrysanthemums are used to decorate the grave sites. This association of chrysanthemums and the dear departed now means that its bad luck to receive chrysanthemum flowers as a gift.

The cemetery in the centre of Nice is on top of the Colline de Chateau with a view over the sea and Nice old town. Most of the tombs are from the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century and the sculpture is quite opulent-with plenty of angels and cherubs in stone.

This tombstone depicts someone rising from the grave at the last judgment when called on by an angel. I think a lot of modern visitors find it creepy to see a shrouded hand lifting up the stone.


I think this grave sculpture is really attractive-it was quite a different style and i liked the lady's peaceful expression.


Old cemeteries are often filled with children's graves-and its a reminder of how much the world has changed in the West and that most people can now expect their children to live and thrive and reach old age. And yet, such a short time ago, losing children to disease epidemics was commonplace.

This little girl is depicted here in her first communion dress, circa 1930, I think.
These little portraits were on a large family tomb which depicted many members of the same family and a considerable number of children.

The little ten year old and 4 year old somehow remind me of Mary Cassatt's painting the Sisters Some angels on pedestals, towering over the cemetery - very reminiscent of a scary Doctor Who episode called Blink where Angels statues come to life.


These angels were street performers at the Haut de Cagnes mediaeval fair. They moved quite slowly as if they were statues coming to life.

There was something quite freaky about them, even for people who more than likely hadn't watched the "Blink' episode of Doctor Who.



Some of the performers were on stilts and looked very imposing, especially when they moved suddenly. This woman was obviously taken by surprise when the tallest 'statue' started striding through the crowd..

[I've blurred the faces of non-performers in the photos slightly]

This little princess found the living statues very intriguing.


A little Knights Templar boy acting as a scale marker
Their clothing and skin was covered in a kind of clay -which must have made moving difficult- although it definitely added to the impression of statues coming to life.

The programme for the fair called them Living Gargoyles,which seems quite appropriate.

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4 comments:

Miss Eagle said...

Alison, this was a beautiful and interesting post. Death and burial rituals are rich with social commentary. The talented "statues" were very clever and you brought them to "life" very well. The next best thing to being there.

Blessings and bliss from The Trad Pad

natural attrill said...

Wonderful photo's.
I like the banner at the top too!
Penny.

Caribbean Colors said...

Lovely photos as usual, I love how you show us the non-commercial side of living in France. I especially like the reclining girl.

Julie said...

Lovely blog and a fascinating post, Alison. I wish I could've seen those 'living gargoyles'. The statue of the little 20s/30s girl is amazing, too.