Friday, 19 February 2021

A Master's Window

Driving idly along on one of our Sunday outings, having been to photograph the railway station and wheat silos at La Celle Saint Avant we spotted this marvellous dormer window.

Master carpenter constructed dormer (lucarne capucine), Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

We knew what it was immediately, as we've encountered these highly ornate roof windows before. They are rather uncommon, but there are some wonderful examples in Chateauroux [link] and a few other places. About 300 of them survive in central France and the Loire Valley. 

House with lucarne capucine, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Ones like this, with a square form, are called lucarnes capucines. They are the work of the master craftsmen of the artisan trade guilds in the 19th century. This one was made by a master carpenter-roofer belonging to the Compagnons du Devoir de Liberté. He is demonstrating how skillful he is, as a sort of advertisement. The house it adorns would have been his own home, and young carpenters travelling around France (journeymen) would have understood from this signal that there was a welcome and work for them here.

Master carpenter constructed dormer, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

These special dormers usually carry coded messages to do with the values of the guilds and secret phrases. The arrangement of letters is a code I've seen on several of these windows, but I haven't quite deciphered it yet. I'm fairly sure that the big 'A' will be for 'Arts', and the big 'D' for 'Devoir' (duty/work). 'INCD' within the crossed compasses I can't yet interpret. On the pediment, and tucked in under the complex woodwork are other letters and numbers, not all of which I can read. The central star on the pediment is likely to be a secret guild sign for the Seal of Solomon.

Sadly, this lucarne capucine is not in very good condition and vulnerable to deterioration.


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potty said...

It certainly looks a bit 'Masonic' to me, love all the bells and whistles as an advert.

Colin and Elizabeth said...

Fascinating, I've never noticed one so it must be fairly localised to that area as well?

Autolycus said...

The IN rather recalls the "INRI" label on paintings of the Crucifixion. And Jesus was a carpenter.

Susan said...

Potty -- yes, these guilds are essentially masonic.

C&E -- there are a couple in Chaumussay, some in Tours. They are widely distributed, but easy to overlook.

Autolycus -- yes, I think you are probably in the right area.

bonnie poppe said...

I'm in provence, I have not seen them here, but perhaps I'm not looking ..... How marvellous, thank you.
bonnie near carpentras

Susan said...

Bonnie -- I don't know how common they are in Vaucluse.

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