If you’re not pretending to be what you are not, are you pretentious?
Today was just me wandering about the centre-ville of Dijon, which is a little architectural jewel box. I had done next to no research, and enjoyed discovering that it is even better than a mini-Paris, because there is a perfect sprinkling of half-timbered old houses amongst the elegant and iconic 17th century mansard hotels.
A hotel is, I gather, what they called their big, fancy Baroque townhouses, and the oldest ones in particular tend to have just a wall facing the street, with a big, carved wooden door, or double doors that open to a courtyard, or some private little world. Many seem to be former homes of people of local renown, who contributed to the fame and well-being of Bourgogne. This inheritance is part of what the French call their patrimoine.
I walked down to the Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy, which, though it looked too official for me to want to take a picture, was more meaningful now that I’ve read Sir Walter Scott’s Quentin Durward, and The History of the Middle Ages by a man named, I think, Koeppel. The dukes power rivaled that of the King of France, who had just a small territory, until one of them managed to curtail the power of the dukes and centralize it in Paris. That later allowed the Sun King, Louis XIV, to be what he was, the born and bred biggest baller in European royal history, which led eventually to the power brokers deciding the king bit had gone too far. But the Sun King did, as I observed from his bust in the museum there, manage to make scarf wearing intensely important for all French people, men and women. Mystery finally solved.
And in the Palace is the aforementioned Musée des Beaux Arts, where I could see some more obscure medieval art. This is usually different in less famous museums because you often get to see how truly weird they were in those times. I think, after about the year 1000, the Church had begun to consolidate its power to coin gold and usher in the age of finance we are enjoying now. And the term ‘mass formation’ which has been tossed about pretentiously by British thinkers in particular, had taken hold as society was terrorized into conforming to a new order. What is going on there, anyway?
Some artist was, nevertheless, still confused about what a sacred space was supposed to be. Maybe this was a long term debate lost to history, as a couple centuries later a painter at least decided that the holy infant could focus on higher issues, even if nobody else was.
In the gift shop, I bought two little books on the architecture of Dijon, but since I have not read them yet, you will not get a pretentious lecture, as I do not know entirely what I am talking about. I also bought my research department a magnet to add some class to the fridge, as it says Grey Poupon, and I was suckered into a taste test at the Maille shop that convinced me to spend $24 on a little pot of mustard. This will impress the locals back home.
Although we don’t have a Duke’s Palace, it might impress the Dijon people that we in Oregon can put up one large Christmas tree in our public spaces, and do not need to rely on hundreds of little ones cleverly disguised as a big one.
But Dijon has inherited a little something or two from us as well, as I found when I drove six minutes from the centre-ville to get some gas for Greta, featured here.