Haute Normandie

From the Fountain of Time

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Les Andelys and its sister, Les Petit Andelys are two villages that sit along the mighty Seine only some thirty kilometers upstream from Monet’s Giverny. With its domineering medieval castle perched on an adjacent cliff like a ledge and a river-side location, this is a beautiful spot in France. Only about 1600 meters east of the Seine in Le Grand Andely is a fountain from which a great tradition springs. Located on a small intersection away from the main thoroughfare, this fountain dedicated to Saint Clotilde is a quiet haven for some self-reflection and to see an example of France’s miraculous layered history. Tradition has it that Clotilde, wife of the Merovingian King, founded a convent (L’église Notre-Dame des Andelys) nearby in 511. To quench the thirst of cathedral workers, Clotilde prayed at a local spring and the water was turned to wine. The spring, which was said to have healing powers, became a destination for pilgrims. Over time, the pilgrimage developed into a celebration on June 2 of each year, two days before Saint Clotilde’s feast day. During these festivals, throngs would gather to bathe naked in the fountain’s waters. So crowded and rowdy were such events that many died after falling into the freezing spring waters or burning themselves on the bonfires that started. The festival garnered such a crowd that in the late 1700s, police tried to end the festival by clogging the fountain, but to no avail. The fountain and its waters are much smaller today, but one can still be a pilgrim like those who flocked to this site for a millennium.

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