Postcard from Bordeaux, France: Cathedral home to royal weddings and horsefeed

Above, Cathedrale-Primatiale Saint-Andre de Bordeaux

It seems as though almost a dozen streets lead directly to the grand plaza surrounding Saint Andre Cathedral, and all are rewarded with stunning views of its portals, the spires topping its bell towers or the adjacent Pey-Berland Tower. Now well disguised by later French Gothic transformations, the original Romanesque church dates to around the year 1000.

This church was the site of the wedding of 13-year-old Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204) and the man who not long after their nuptials became king of France, King Louis VII (1120-1180) – making her queen. That marriage wasn’t a happy-ever-after story, and its failure led her to wed a much younger man, Henry of Anjou (1152-1189), who also would make her a queen, but of England. Will not distract you from the cathedral with the fascinating history of how her marriage to Henry II made the Aquitaine region of France part of England for three centuries.

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Postcard from Bordeaux, France: Lady Liberty breaks free of shackles on both sides of Atlantic

While the use of the guillotine symbolizes a reign of terror during the early days of the French Revolution, its usage was adapted in the late 1700s as a more humane way to carry out public executions. It was regarded as both efficient and fast, sparing the sentenced unnecessary pain. It is said that before it was sanctioned as the official executioner’s tool, King Louis XVI (1754-1793) suggested improving the design to utilize an angled straight blade instead of the original curved one. He himself, along with his queen, Marie Antoinette (1755-1793), benefitted from the enhanced efficiency when they were beheaded.

The tool became a hallmark of the political maneuverings carried out by one of the leaders of the revolution, Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794). Robespierre definitely established himself as a kind of “if-you’re-not-with-me-you’re-against-me” kind of guy, placing those who found themselves in that category labeled as enemies of France. He was also adept at rallying the masses, the sans-culottes tradesmen in Paris, to protest against these enemies.

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