Wednesday 3 August 2011

Decartes & Demarcation

a pensive René
On Tuesday we drove over to Decartes, birthplace of the famous philosopher René Decartes. In fact the town was originally called La Haye and only renamed later in honour of its famous son. We were meeting a colleague at a cafe on the square in front of the marie for a hand-over of teaching and course materials. Decartes was a convienient meeting place --roughly 1/2 way between Charnizay and N's home. N had taught the students last year in premiere [11th grade/lower 6th] and now Antoinette is going to take them into Terminal [12th grade/upper 6th]. While Antoinette and N talked 'shop': English and literature; Niall went off to look into historical matters.

other René who died for his faith

In the church of St George he spotted a small memorial plaque to René Guérin who was a courageous fellow. An oil [vegetable/ walnut?] merchant  from the village of Cussay he is reputed to have shouted "to the devil with the Republic!"and shot at horsemen who came into his village to destroy the symbols of the Catholic religion. Presumably he had become fed up with the Revolution and thought himself safe enough to be able to voice his annoyance. Sadly for him this turned out not to be the case. He was guillotined on 14th February 1793.

Demarcation Line in Descartes
earlier Demarcation Line near Le Petit Pressigny
Decartes also played a role in more recent history. The 'Ligne de Démarcation' ran through it. This line separated Occupied France from Vichy France in World War II and all along it's length there were crossing points but it was porous. Last autumn we went to an excellent exhibition about the Demarcation Line in the Logis Royal in Loches. At Decartes people were able to slip across unofficially. One exhibit explained how the football field played a key role. Apparantly it was on the line and  the players in each team were in a state of flux, or perhaps there were just a lot of successful substitutions....

In very late 1940 they re-drew the Demarcation Line settling on its definitive location at Decartes. Between us and Decartes it originally ran outside of Le Petit Pressigny on the way to Le Grand Pressigny, a matter of roughly 7km from Charnizay.


Pollygarter said...

It's a fascinating exhibition and shows at the same time how evil and how good people can be to each other. It's been moved to Maillé, another place of terrible memories, where it continues until 30th August. See

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Pauline - didn't know the exhibition moved to Maillé. Found it to be excellent when we visited when it in Loches. Hope they get lots of visitors--as you say it's powerful and delivers plenty food for thought

GaynorB said...

After you'd told us about seeing the Demarcation Line near to LP-P we went off to have a look for it. A simple structure, but such a lot of meaning behind it!
I'll look out for the exhibition.