Sunday, September 23, 2012

We discovered Chandonnay with the bones of Mary Magdalene

My wife Eddi and I decided to take the back roads from Gevrey-Chambertin to Chinon in the Loire Valley. We got lost winding through small villages, found huge chateaux not listed on any guide books and stumbled upon the bones of Mary Magdalene.
The hilltop Abby and community of Vézelay.
According to legend, near the end of the first millennium a monk brought bones of Mary Magdalene to Vézelay, France from Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume. In 1058, the Pope confirmed the genuineness of the relics, leading to an influx of pilgrims that has continued to this day.

Vézelay Abbey was also a major starting point for pilgrims on the Way of St. James to Santiago de Compostela, one of the most important of all medieval pilgrimage centers. 

In the 9th century the Benedictines were given land to build a monastery. The current Basilica was built in the 11th century. The town and the Basilica of St Magdelene are designated UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Bernard of Clairvaux preached the Second Crusade at Vézelay in 1146. In 1189, the Frankish and English factions of the Third Crusade met at Vézelay before officially departing for the Holy Land.

Today, Vézelay is a commune in the Yonne department in Burgundy.  Bourgogne Vézelay is the local wine appellation. Vineyards descend to the edge of the town and produce a range of mostly white wines, mainly on the Chardonnay, Melon de Bourgogne  and, of course, Pinot Noir.

Today the town is swarming with pilgrims—some would call them tourists—still seeking. Seeking what?  Well, I'm not exactly sure what they are seeking as they sit in the outdoor cafes sipping local Chardonnay. Surely this could not be the beginning of a new Crusade?

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