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: Saint Seurin saved the city, but Vikings later destroyed his church

Above, statue of Saint Seurin of Bordeaux

With the withdrawal of Roman protection, Aquitaine became vulnerable to attacks by a host of others – the Vandals, the Goths, the Franks.

According to legends, as Saint Martin of Tours was dying in the year 397, he appeared in a vision to Seurin, a bishop engaged in fighting the spread of Arianism. Saint Martin directed Seurin to go to Bordeaux.

Bordeaux had no job openings for bishop, but, miraculously, the presiding bishop had a vision as well. The Lord directed him to welcome Seurin with open arms. So, the pair met, embraced and entered the church together; Seurin emerged with the title. The timing was fortuitous for the city’s residents, under attack by either Goths or Franks at the time, because Seurin was able to perform numerous miracles to successfully defend the city.

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Postcard from Lecce, Italy: Frolicking putti, Solomonic columns and saintly relics

she-wolf on facade of chiesa di sant'irene in lecce

She-Wolf and Oak Tree, Symbols of Lecce, on the Façade of the Church of Saint Irene

Baroque churches of Lecce are filled with putti frolicking amidst birds and pomegranates, twisting Solomonic columns covered with intricate lacelike carvings, images of saints and some of their bones.