Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Stay in a former Medieval LSD desintox center !

When we say our building is "historic" it's not merely because it is old, but because it was part of the ancient hospital Saint Antoine. The handsome hospital chapel next door dates from the thirteenth century. The ground floor of our building is noted for a great stone arch which was probably part of the hospital. (a symmetrical one is said to have straddled the tiny rue St Antoine to the left of the chapel.) You might be interested to know that in those days the people around the Mediterranean where suffering from intoxication by ergot, a fungus that grows on rye ( Well know nowadays under the name of LSD (d-lysergic acid diethylamide) a potent mood-changing chemical discovered in 1938 and still manufactured from lysergic acid, which is found in ergot).

Huge and ugly epidemics of hallucination and other disorders (psychiatric and digestive) where cured during the middle ages in the Antonian's abbeys - nowadays we know it was done most effectively by removing the affected pilgrims from their contaminated source of bread, or "pain maudit", but it only contributed to make the Saint's cult stronger. (see Bosch's Temptation of St Anthony's painting, left.)
In 1403, the hospital welcomed Pope Benedict XIII and hid him when he fled from the french troops, leaving his nearby palace, in the guise of an ordinary monk. The great medieval poet Alain Chartier is also buried here since 1449.
In the mid-XXth century, the city has contemplated destroying the place which was nearly in ruins but finally they restored it in 1972, with the very welcome help of the Institute for American Universities. What remains today are the old church walls, well maintained, for the place has been transformed into an exhibition hall and cultural center. (An other part of St. Antoine church has been renovated into a movie theater for 'off the mainstream' films, Action Republique.)
The studio flat that we rent is on a floor that dates from the XVIIIth century, but actually shares its northern wall with the hospital church. The niche in the wall match the spaces between the pillars. No drugs allowed, of course, but fresh rye bread can be had for breakfast in the nearby boulangerie.