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Graffiti at Belleperche Abbey


A wonderful discovery in Occitanie, Belleperche Abbey and its corridor filled with graffiti and the love story of Alceste and Clémence...


"Upstairs, the vast corridor of the former guesthouse is home to some of the most interesting graffiti. Many have been knocked, scratched and worn away. Some names were deliberately crossed out. Many of the words and messages are no longer legible. In the middle of the 18th century, when this building was brand new, a "Lasserre" dated his graffiti to February 1756. It was covered by whitewash, but the later writings, from 1769 to 1787, are visible in the plaster, proof that any idea of refurbishment was quickly abandoned. Who were Hubert Lamort in 1770 and Jean-Pierre Fonsorbes in 1777? Perhaps they were monks, like Aussilloux who describes himself as a "chorister at Belleperche". One of the most recent drawings, from the 1970s or 1980s, is a head of Gaston Lagaffe smoking a huge 'pétard' (firecracker), with Bob Marley's name underneath...".


The Belleperche lovers


None of these cries of love could match the intensity of the story of Alceste and Clémence. 1827: Clémence Bringou and Alceste Orliac fell in love and proved it by engraving their names under hearts topped with initials. In 1830, carried away by his feelings but also by the atmosphere of the Revolution that overthrew Charles X, Alceste took a ladder and calligraphed in the middle of the corridor the most beautiful of Belleperche's graffiti, a huge, clear "Vive la Liberté". She grew wings. The two lovebirds once again displayed this mutilated invocation: "May God...". A majestic "Gloire aux Amans" ("Glory to the lovers") dominates a doorway, with hearts ablaze with passion. In 1831, Clémence changed her surname. From "Bringou", no doubt a family nickname, she became "Chatinières", her real name. And then, apparently, disaster struck. In the embrasure of the vast bay window, we read "the freedom of Clémence Chatinières". And next to it, in a corner, this sentence full of spite written obliquely: "Clémence the infidel (sic) paid by an eternal fidelity (sic)".



What happened to Clémence? How did this long romance end? It's up to each of us to make up our own minds*. Because that's what graffiti is all about: an enigma that leaves the reader with no explanation, no clue, just his or her imagination. Love, disappointment, anger, regret, hope... the whole gamut of feelings comes across in these modest inscriptions. And the moral in all this? There is one, engraved on a wall of the staircase dating from the Revolution, in the gardeners' wing. A truism, to be sure, but one that speaks for itself: "To avoid evil, only do good".


Jean-Michel GARRIC - Curator of Belleperche Abbey

* Mr Delord, a history teacher, looked into this mystery at our request: Clémence was quite simply married in 1834... but not to Alceste!

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