Or getting covered with plaster, anyway. Things are really starting to move at the Chapelle de Teysseroles, where we are helping with the restoration work. A month or so ago we received authorisation from the Bâtiments de France architect to remove the plaster – crépi – from the internal walls prior to the work starting in earnest. On Friday we set to with a vengeance.
A team of 10 turned up at 08h30 to attack the job – décrépissage, as it’s termed in French. Well, some did. I regret to say that the SF and I blotted our copybook by turning up at 09h15. By that time, work was already well underway. I paused only to take a few photos and then it was all hands to the pumps. Armed with hammers and chisels, we hacked away at the walls.
Much of the plaster was damp and in poor condition so it came away easily, revealing the lovely dressed stone walls underneath. In places, though, it stuck like cement. In fact, on the right hand side of the chapel it was cement. It was plain that the poor chapel has been the subject of some shoddy workmanship at certain times in its life.
Despite appearances to the contrary, we went carefully. There was a possibility that we might find wall paintings beneath the plaster. However, the chapel was rebuilt in the 1490s. I have read that most ecclesiastical wall paintings in France date from before then, so this was always going to be unlikely.
We discovered a lovely niche to the right of the altar which had inexplicably been covered up.
The current altar – a real monstrosity – is totally out of keeping with the style of the chapel. Opinions vary as to its age – 18th or 19th century. It doesn’t matter. It’s ghastly and it’s going. Behind it, we uncovered another, larger niche topped with a dressed stone archway enclosing a painted wall – the only one in the chapel as far as we can see. Why on earth did they cover all this up? We’ll never know.
The ceiling of the chapel is some 7 metres high. To reach the top of the walls we had to put up scaffolding. The SF, who doesn’t like heights, gingerly scraped away on his knees on the first level of scaffolding. I’m slightly less bothered by heights and got up there to do my bit. The president of our Association, Alain, who is a maçon, has no fear at all. At one point he was standing on a narrow metal bar right at the top of the scaffolding and hacking away at arm’s length. Between him and oblivion – nothing.
This wouldn’t be France if you couldn’t stop for a decent lunch. No curling sandwiches and tepid beer for us. We set up a proper table with a paper tablecloth, plates, cutlery and glasses. Although it was less than 10 degrees outside, Françoise lit a fire and barbecued 1.8 metres of sausage on it. We also feasted on two sorts of pâté, crudités, salad, several cheeses and two sorts of cake, all washed down with red wine and then coffee. It wasn’t warm, though. I was wearing a T-shirt, jumper, fleece, jacket and woolly hat. Gloves wouldn’t have gone amiss. Nonetheless, a good time was had by all. And at least it didn’t rain.
After lunch, we attacked the work with renewed vigour. By the end of the day we had done about 2/3 of the vertical surface area of the chapel. Not bad. There’s more to do but we feel that we have something to show for our efforts. This is important: people have been giving us money since 2011 and we need to demonstrate progress this year.
Our clothes were coated with plaster dust – not to mention our lungs – and every muscle ached. But there’s something very satisfying about physical labour, especially in a good cause. By the time our annual fête takes place (Sunday 23rd June this year) we will have gone a long way towards our goal.
Copyright © 2013 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved