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News on the Patrimony

How do I miss these things? I just discovered an archive of patrimony-related news items, La conservation du patrimoine, from L'Express. (On the concept of the patrimony, see Ionarts posts on August 6 and November 19, 2003.) Here are some excerpts from the two most recent articles, both very interesting.

Pont du Gard, sound and light installation by James Turrell, 2000Michèle Leloup, Gard: Le pont des cultures (Pont du Gard: cultural bridge), May 31

The Pont du Gard was built by Roman architects over the Gardon River valley in the first century B.C., as part of the remarkable aqueduct that carried water from the source of the Eure River, in what is now Uzès, 50 km (31 miles) to the Roman settlement at Nîmes (Nemausus). Beginning in 2000, the bridge and aqueduct have been managed and restored in a national millennium project to preserve this important monument. As part of that renovation, James Turrell installed a sound and light installation on the Pont du Gard in 2000 (shown here). You can also look at this image, which shows how the light changes over time. The article also reviews some of the exhibits and features at the now fully reopened site. (For information on Turrell's recent installation on a building by the Seine in Paris, see my post on December 11.)

Vincenzo Coronelli, Globe of the Heavens, 1681–1683Olivier Le Naire, Les géants éclipsés du Roi-Soleil (The Sun-King's eclipsed giants), May 31

In 1681, the Cardinal d'Estrées (at the suggestion of Colbert) commissioned a monk at the monastery of the Frari in Venice, by the name of Vincenzo Coronelli, to create two enormous glass globes, each 8.5 meters (28 feet) tall and 4 meters (13 feet) wide and weighing over a ton, including the base. The globes, massive representations of the map of the earth and the map of the stars, were offered as gifts to the King of France, Louis XIV. Why have we never heard of them before, you ask?
The irony of fate: after decades in which no one wanted anything to do with these cumbersome masterpieces, now after an extended time period, two institutions are fighting about them today. The Domaine de Marly, the place where they were shown for the first time, under Louis XIV, and the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BNF), which owns the globes, are leading parallel campaigns, each in the hope of keeping to itself these monuments of the history of science, the arts, and technology. In the meantime, and without a better solution having been found, the two giants have been resting for more than 20 years at the Cité de la Villette in Paris, where they are stored in deplorable conditions.

The idea of Colbert, who followed the project closely, was surely to keep the king's attention focused on the necessary expansion of France, which he hoped to increase with a navy and a cartography worthy of this name. . . . Coronelli thus was charged with compiling on these globes, through multiple texts and illustrations, all of the geographical, anthropological, and cosmological knowledge of the epoch, as well as cataloguing all of the riches and curiosities of the world, which could only call out to be conquered or explored. To encourage the king along this path, the celestial globe was designed to represent the configuration of stars and planets on September 5, 1638, the day on which Louis XIV was born.
Coronelli came to Paris and set up his residence and workshop in the Hôtel d'Estrées (I believe this is the historic building at 79, rue de Grenelle, in the 7th arrondissement, now the residence of the Russian ambassador to France) in Paris for two years while he worked on the project. What he completed are thought to be the largest globes ever constructed.

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