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The shadow of young girls in flower – at Cricquebœuf

Surely this church must have fallen down.  Look at all that Ivy! Was it a ruin?

Someone thought the view picturesque enough to make the postcard that we found in a St Ouen flea market, north of Paris.  But no-one ever posted the card, so we don’t know when it looked like this.

Neither of us could remember ever seeing L’église de Criquebeuf, although we travel the route between Honfleur and Trouville often.

Then, on the sort of sharp corner that requires full driving attention, behind a high hedge, we found it!

l'eglise de criquebeuf
Match! Up a tiny track.

Contented Normandy

A pond still reflects the church at Criquebeuf.  Nearby contented white cows graze under old apple trees and blossom shines brightly against a temperamental spring sky.

In the esteemed company of Marcel Proust

Marcel Proust uses this ancient ecclesiastical view to provide a bit of quivering colour to ‘In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower‘ written just before WW1.  The narrator is 16 yrs old and his mother has told their host he likes churches. It is soon clear his interests are not consistently highbrow.

Young Marcel Proust, do thinking about churches?
Young Marcel Proust, probably not thinking about churches

“Mme. de Villeparisis took us to Carqueville (Criquebeuf), where there was that church, covered in ivy, of which she had spoken to us, a church that, built upon rising ground, dominated both its village and the river that flowed beneath it….. the arch in this clump of ivy was that of a pointed window, there that projection of leaves was due to the swelling underneath of a capital.

Then came a breath of wind, and sent a tremor through the mobile porch, which was overrun by eddies that shot and quivered like a flood of light; the pointed leaves opened one against another; and,  shuddering, the arboreal front drew after it green pillars, undulant, caressed and fugitive.”

To awaken an idea

All that undulating was distracting enough but then he sees a group of local girls.  One, holding a basket of fish, has an instant effect on him:

“She had a tanned complexion, gentle eyes but with a look of contempt for her surroundings, a small nose, delicately and attractively modelled.  My eyes rested upon her skin; and my lips, had the need arisen, might have believed that they had followed my eyes.”

He wishes.  Passion is combined with loftier ideas:

“it was not only to her body that I should have liked to attain, there was also her person, which abode within her, and with which there is but one form of contact, namely to attract its attention, but one sort of penetration, to awaken an idea.”

Thinking about snogging again

With a bit of masculine ego thrown in:

“But just as it would not have sufficed that my lips should find pleasure in hers without giving pleasure to them also, so I should have wished that the idea of me which was to enter this creature, was to fasten itself in her, should attract to me not merely her attention but her admiration, her desire, and should compel her to keep me in her memory until the day when I should be able to meet her again.”

And so Marcel reminds us of the complicated pleasure induced by sudden blinding attraction, which when you are 16 happens quite a lot.

No more undulating ivy

Today the ivy has mostly been cut away.  We suspect by a shocked cleric who read the rest of the book.

l'eglise de criquebeuf (5)

See for yourselves

How did we miss it for six years? Something to do with those corners!  Spot the L’église de Criquebeuf top left of the heart shaped lake.

l'eglise de criquebeuf (1)

We would have spotted the church at this speed.

l'eglise de criquebeuf (7)
Future Ian and Pip


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