Blessing the Clocher at Nouzerines

Cool cartoon off the service sheet

This morning, Saturday, Chris and I went to a rather nice ceremony at St Clair’s in Nouzerines. It was a little service to bless the new clocher (bell tower). The weather was foul but at least it was dry inside the church, although it certainly wasn’t warmer than outside! We did wonder slightly why the powers that be had decided to celebrate in the middle of winter. The tower was actually finished last summer!

Père Arnaud Favard is the priest for this parish. He has a wonderful singing voice and is very strict about the musical standards of his flock. We always have to rehearse beforehand! He took us through the various chants and hymns and only when we were good enough, could we proceed to the ceremony proper. (He does the same thing every year at the St Francis Day animal ceremony.)



Stéphanie Josset, Président of Patrimoine Nouzerines, the fundraising body that has been the driving force behind the church renovations, opened the service and then there was one of the now perfect hymns and a prayer. Fellow English expat Christopher (not my Chris) played his piano accordion to liven things up. Then the priest gave a short sermon, explaining the different symbols that are usually to be found on top of every church’s bell tower in the form of the weather vane. There’s always a cock, as opposed to a pig, cow, sheep, llama etc, since this creature is the symbol of rejuvenation and new life. By crowing at dawn, the cock celebrates that night is over. Symbolically this represents him heralding the end of any period of physical or moral darkness. He always stands atop a globe to represent the world. Most church weather vanes also feaure a girouette – the wind indicator itself. Père Favard told us how important that was in the past, a real indication of what weather was heading our way. The Maire gave a short speech too.

One of the hymns had been about people coming to church from all four points of the horizon. These aren’t the points of the compass as you’d expect, but in fact east, west, up and down. Churches are on an east-west axis. The alter is at the eastern end so that the congregation sits and looks towards the rising daylight and life. In contrast the priest looks west, facing death. In Limousin statues of Christ always face west for this reason. The up and down represent heaven and hell. The weather vane draws eyes upwards towards heaven. He didn’t go into the hell thing in much detail!

Pere Arnaud helped by Lena

After more expert singing, we finished the ceremony outside with the physical blessing of the clocher. The rain briefly held off while the priest read out the benediction (see below) and we sang the refrain beautifully. Then he threw holy water towards the bell tower before rushing back into the church to start ringing the bells.

We’d said the Lord’s prayer along the way. For the first time I saw the words of it in French, but I stuck to saying the English version. It occurred to me that our heathen youngest son doesn’t know that cornerstone of the Christian faith in either language! I guess that’s a bit of a giveaway that we don’t go to church all that often. I remember how Benj blurted out loudly once, when we were at a service, I forget for what reason: “Gosh we’re in Church. Is it Christmas!” Don’t you just love kids!


0 Replies to “Blessing the Clocher at Nouzerines”

  1. Hi Steph,
    I am delighted to find your site and look forward to following it. Your essay about battery chickens was right on spot. Industrial agriculture here in the US, and it sounds like in France also, is shameful. I’ve read a bit in your archives and find we have some bits and pieces in common … we grow a lot of our own food, otherwise eat and buy as local ( hmm, not true, with the exception of French cheeses, Italian ham when I can afford it, French wines!) as possible. No animals here now except our one happy cat, but we used to raise chickens with some other families in town. We didn’t save an old house, but did build our own in our little clearing in the woods with only solar electricity and heat with wood. It is cold here in the winter!!

    Can’t wait to read more, and am tickled you commented on my interview with Gerry, leading me to your site.

    Amitiés, Suze

    1. Hi Suze, That’s really impressive that you only use renewables for your energy supply. We nearly manage just on wood for heat, but do use our gas central heating in the kitchen on the morning to get the kids fed before school. Other than that it’s chop, lug, burn to keep us warm! On the bike front, I’ve been following Gerry’s blog for years. We’re a cycling family. Chris and I cycletoured before the kids came along, and then we still had cycling holidays but smaller scale. We cycle most days, apart from December and January when it’s just too icy or wet, and dream of going off on long cycle tours again – one day when the nest is empty again and we’ve taught the farm animals to self-cater!

  2. Started to ask where to look for cycling posts in your site and then remembered to look at your keywords, not just the listing. I look forward to reading those! We’re actually not just renewables for energy .. even in my long-gone most labor-intensive days, cooking on wood seemed like a real nuisance. So propane refrgeration, cookstove, space heater in bathroom.

  3. After reading this post, I’m going to look at church bell towers with new interest. Come to think of it, I haven’t ever seen a llama on top of a weather vane. Maybe that’s something that you should work to change!

    1. It was interesting. I didn’t catch everything the priest said since there’s a lot of echo in the church and he has a very boomy voice! Also it was freezing cold which was a little distracting at times!

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