Thursday, April 28, 2016

A New Knee, Tall Tales and a little Feminism

If theres one consistent thing about Burt, it's that he usually gets pretty wrapped up in whatever is happening at the moment. You can't really blame him for being enthusiastic! 

Nick, aka His Madness, had his old knee replaced with a snazzy plastic and titanium number a few weeks ago and looking after him has been Burt's number one priority. He felt it was only fair that he should return the favor since Nick put him back together after he came apart last summer.  

Recuperating can get to be a bit boring and sometimes things don't always go as smoothly as they could. It was clearly time a diversion of some sort. 

So in the dead of winter we decided to take a road trip. All those icicles were starting to look just a little too much like prison bars and it was time for a break. Now leaving town is not something we embark upon fool heartedly during the season of blizzards and sub-zero temperatures but never the less sometimes it is absolutely necessary in order to maintain our sanity. Luckily, the conditions that day were pretty typical, an overcast sky with a stiff wind howling out of the north. Most importantly it wasn't snowing which was about as close to perfect weather as we were ever going to get!  

The destination for our winter exploration was a 15th century French gothic building located on the campus of Marquette University in Milwaukee. It was mentioned briefly on a local television show and caught our attention since it has to be the oldest building in the state. Jean Nicolet was the first documented European to set foot in Wisconsin, and that took place in Green Bay in 1634. Above is a 1910 mural depicting a highly suspect account of his arrival. Supposedly he came ashore with both pistols blazing and wearing an elaborately embroidered silk robe. Apparently thinking he had found China. It's also highly unlikely that there was a welcoming committee of Ho-Chunk people waiting for him or that they would have stuck around after that rude performance, yet the tall tale persists.


Meanwhile back a couple hundred years, the St. Joan Chapel began life as the Chapelle de St. Martin de Sayssuel in Chasse-sur-Rhone, south of Lyon. It fell into ruin after the revolution and was discovered after WW1 by a young architect who arranged it's sale to an American socialite, Gertrude Hill Gavin. In 1927 it was disassembled and shipped to Long Island, New York and added onto a French Renaissance chateau she had picked up on a previous shopping spree. Shortly afterwards the French government put a stop to the looting of their architectural heritage. The chateau was destroyed by a fire in 1962 but the chapel survived and it's new owners donated it to the university. After a second trip and another reconstruction it was dedicated to St. Joan of Arc on May 26, 1966. 

As with most buildings that travel many miles from their original homes, it's changed a lot. I've been lucky enough to visit Gothic cathedrals in France and if there's one thing they have in common it's their frigid interiors, even in August! It was very cold that day and a big surprise to be greeted with a balmy (almost too warm) chapel, all due to the radiant heating installed under the floor. It is used for services daily and I suspect the parishioners really appreciate that upgrade. The roof of course is also a complete reproduction and the stained glass windows were fabricated in 1929 by a New York firm.

The reason for it's dedication to Joan of Arc is found in a niche to the left of the altar in the photo above. According to legend, Joan prayed before a statue of Mary while standing on this stone. After finishing her prayers she would kiss the stone and from that time on the stone has remained colder that the stones surrounding it. This was not part of the original chapel but was added by the architect who oversaw the it's reconstruction in New York. Neither of us were adventurous enough to actually check out the temperature difference since we both spent most of our childhoods being reprimanded for misbehaving in church. Poor Nick attended Catholic schools and to this day has a fear of nuns!

The building with it's trees and garden make a lovely centerpiece to the campus, especially since it is so carefully nestled in the middle of the modern buildings. It appears a French teenager with a little help from a socialite has stolen the show from the great explorer and Jesuit Pere Marquette. Although, it's probably only fitting since in 1909 Marquette became the first Catholic university in the world to go coed and that at least is one fact (according to their web site) among the all tall tales.  

Appreciating art is always thirsty business. Happily, a few blocks up the hill from the university is the Ambassador Hotel where they pack their Bloody Mary (a different Mary!) with a smorgasbord of asparagus, sausage and mozzarella sticks along with the usual garnishes. Talk about a liquid lunch!

Cheers and thanks for stopping by!

Have you run into any tall tales or nuns lately?


  1. So glad to see His Madness is recovering well (with Burt's help).
    The story of the little chapel is fascinating...we have a modern phrase for such items. They are now known as "Trigger's Broom"....from the tv show Only Fools and Horses....Trigger is proud that he has been using the same broom for 30 has had several new handles and the head has been replaced a couple of times, but it is still the same broom lol :D XXX

    1. Ha,Ha! I watched the clip of that on YouTube, it's the perfect analogy for that little half-gothic structure!
      HM is almost back to what passed as normal for him and we all survived intact. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I have never really understood the concept of Bloody Mary's, but even I could get on board if it was stuffed full of snacks :)

    1. Yeah, me too, but they're very popular at breakfast and lunch among my acquaintances. Nick ordered this one, we shared the garnishes because I would be worthless all day if I started drinking that early!