Friday, June 6, 2014

Festival of Joan of Arc - Fête Johanniques - Reims 2014



Over the last weekend of May, the Fêtes Johanniques took place, as they do each year, not just in Reims, the Cité des Sacres, but also in Orléans and Rouen.


In Reims, the successful coronation of Charles VII in 1429, instigated by the Maid of Orléan - Joan of Arc, is commemorated by the annual festival which culminates in the procession of the king and his spiritual counselor.


Around the historic town centre street artists play music, dance and entertain the crowds with displays of acrobacy and theatrical performances.


Of course this festivity is largely centred around the cathedral and the old squares and for the space of a weekend their atmosphere is completely changed, yet in a manner that seems most fitting.


The oldest buildings of the town seem to come alive as crusaders, nobility, peasants, musicians, Middle Age freaks and performers all rub shoulders in the street processions...


Simply looking regal and very Medieval...


Loitering on street corners, chatting together.


 Declaring sentiments...


Or just being plain weird...


Mesmerising when you catch them full-on...


When they're performing...

 

Or at rest...


Just as they slip out of view...


Shrouded figures wandering off into the distance...


Drifting away, down the streets...


Gowns flowing...


Heading towards the Palais du Tau...


Or static, obscured by clothing and mystery...


Or lost in thought...


Whilst others are simply there - radiant!


Meanwhile, whatever the activity, the music seemed to resound everywhere...


Performed by the young and old(er!) alike...


The rumble and clatter of chariots and carts advancing on the cobbles could be heard as people went about their business...


Or took part in more silent processions, which went from the bucolic...


...To the demonic, with these nightmarish gargoyle figures...


...That seemed to wilt and wither a little under the glaring sun...


Others worked in earnest...


Watching over the campsite with a beady eye and evil-looking cod-piece!...


Casting out menacing looks...


With undefinable expressions...


In turn scary, or wary...


However, as far as I'm concerned, the scarier the better!


And although I've seen these looming forms several times before, the magic hasn't faded...


And they always have a weird effect on everyone else who comes across them...


However, for me the stars of the show will always be the animals... They are just effortlessly beautiful.


They were a little more modest this year, no yaks, camels or wolves or even the habitual green monkey that usually performs, most appropriately, on Place Royale.


 Nevertheless, that seemed to bring out the skill, intelligence and simple gentilesse of the animals that were present.


This one seemed to defy anyone to make any assumptions of him as a mere sheep...


Other animals were just waiting to serve...



Be they feathered or furry...


And finally we were led to the high point of the festival, the symbolic appearance of Joan of Arc and Charles VII and their blessing at the cathedral... Roll on next year!

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