Thursday, 12 March 2009

Holidays in Bordeaux - The Saint Eloi Quarter and the Grosse Cloche

The Saint Eloi Quarter is full of winding cobbled streets and is home to Bordeaux's main shopping street which is 1 mile long! This focal point of the Saint Eloi Quarter is the Grosse Cloche, known as the Saint Eloi Gate and is just next to the 12th century Saint Eloi church. This imposing gate was built in the 13th century and originally, one of its towers served as a prison where delinquents who had had one too many drinks were locked up.

The St Eloi Gate became the city’s belfry in the 15th century and a bell was added to it. The Big Bell came to regulate the inhabitants’ lives – even ringing to announce the grape harvest. and would ring in major events. The bell was replaced in the 18th century, and it took 14 pairs of ox to carry it. It was the biggest civilian bell in France, which weighed 16,535 and the Belfry and the Big Bell still appear on the Bordeaux coat of arms.

Saint Eloi is the Patron Saint of goldsmiths and other metalworkers. He is also the patron saint of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME). But he is best known for being the patron saint of horses and those who work with them such as Blacksmiths. Eloi (his Roman name was Eligius) was chief counsellor to Dagobert I, Merovingian King of France. He was appointed the Bishop of Noyon Tournai and worked for 20 years to convert the pagan population of Flanders to Christianity.

Eloi was born in Aquitaine around 588 into an educated and influential Gallo-Roman family. His father, recognizing unusual talent in his son, sent him to the goldsmith Abbo, master of the mint at Limoges. Later Eloi worked under Babo, the royal treasurer, on whose recommendation the King of the Franks, is said to have commissioned him to make a throne of gold adorned with precious stones.

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