Monday, June 23, 2014

The Louvre in Lens

Last week Red Baron was in Flanders in the north of France. The Louvre in Lens was among the many highlights our group visited. The Louvre? Is that famous museum not located in Paris? Going back in history, here is the full story:

Le Louvre in Lens
Following the Hundred Years War and once the rich and influential Dukes of Burgundy had been subjugated France became a unified kingdom. In order to keep the vast and round off territory well under control the French kings not only centralized all administration in Paris but attached the still existing princes to the royal court thus keeping a close eye on them. The centralization continued under the various French Republics (up to now we count five) so that when you ask a Frenchman or -woman today they will proudly answer de Paris even when they live well outside up to one hundred kilometers away from the capital.

Red Baron is a dedicated federalist. The Federal Republic of Germany developed naturally out of historically grown structures. Since the Middle Ages the Holy Roman Empire was a loose alliance of dukedoms, bishoprics, and free imperial cities under a German king holding the title of Roman Emperor. Following the Napoleon wars the German Confederation, the Second Reich, and the Weimar Republic kept Germany's Federal structure that only the Nazis destroyed during their twelve year rule. Now we are happily back to our federal structures.

Being aware of the deficiencies of a centralized system the French government tried to give more autonomy to regions like Rhone-Alpes or Alsace over the last 40 years. However, this is an artificial and slow process not being on the mind of the rooted Frenchmen and -women. Nevertheless various central governments made an effort, e.g., in creating branches of Paris museums in the provinces. There exists a Centre Pompidou in Metz and the Louvre in Lens.

The branch of the Louvre was built in the north of France - an area severely hit by the decline of industry (coal, steel, textile) - in particular to attract visitors to the region. The modern exhibition hall of the museum is vast and impressing by the ample space between the objects exposed. When you walk up the hall the historic time scale starts with Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt and takes you to la Belle Époque. What impressed me was the quality of the selected exhibits but even more so the presence of many school classes with their teachers meaning that those empty spaces between the objects are really needed.

Gudea, prince of Lagash, Mesopotamia, 2120 BC.
Note the children in the back looking at a sheet of paper.

Praetorian Guard, i.e.,
bodyguards to the emperor as decoration on a triumphal arc around the year 50.

My friend Denis Diderot by the famous Jean-Antoine Houdon, 1775
Previously I had seen French girls and boys running around Freiburg with sheets of paper given out by their teacher containing all the questions about the city to answer. Sometimes they ask me and  I like to help with the answers.

My German-learning pupils with their teacher.
Au revoir et à bientôt!
This time in the museum the children approached me but did not ask about the exhibits. They rather wanted to know how to say Bon jour en allemand: Guten Tag. To make an enjoyable story short I ended up giving them a German lesson finishing with Au re-voir = Auf Wieder-sehen (it is a one to one translation) and Adieu = Tschüss.

Tschüss is a cacography of the French word Adieu that dates back from the times of the Napoleonic rule of the city of Hamburg. The Hamburgers had become French citizens of a newly created Département de Bouches d'Elbe and had difficulties with the French pronunciation speaking their lower German dialect. During recent years Tschüss for Auf Wiedersehen made it from Northern Germany to Bavaria. This is how languages develop with time.

On the photo the pupils look all content including their teacher they call maîtresse in France.

No comments:

Post a Comment