By Rebecca Smith
There may be no symbol that represents French culture as solidly as the fleur-de-lis. It is often seen in art, architecture, décor, and increasingly -- tattoos. The term is composed of fleur (flower), de (of) and lis (lily), stylized after the beautiful species that grows along the Lys River in France. The symbol is a legend in itself - a lasting emblem of royalty, power, honor, grandeur, faith and unity.
It is written that an angel descended from heaven with the Holy Ampulla in the shape of a fleur-de-lis when King Clovis of France was proclaimed. It thus signified the French kings’ direct link to God. In the 11th century cathedrals issued coins with Mary holding it. It was found on the seals of cathedral chapters and supposedly was carried by Joan of Arc as a blessing. In the 12th century, the fleur-de-lis on a noblewoman’s seal proclaimed female virtue and spirituality.
Not surprising then that the fleur-de-lis tattoo’s popularity continues. It is an artistically winning design, whose balance and symmetry reflects a sense of harmony. It fits into many forms and has been used in a myriad of cultures and eras. More importantly, so many meanings are contained in it.
Currently, a fleur-de-lis tattoo is connected to Louisiana. It is an official mark of the state, and is trademarked by the New Orleans Saints. Fans of the city and/or team flash their spirit with a tattoo of it. Peregrine Honig, renowned artist in Kansas City, frequently travels to The Big Easy and remarks, “In New Orleans I see the fleur-de-lis on endless bodies.”
Dr. David Donovan, thriving Psychologist and Arts Supporter in Kansas City, reflects, “My tattoo is very meaningful to me for a variety of personal reasons ... one, I lived in France for 3 years as a child and it was a magical time for my family. Two, I’ve always been considered a bit of an enfant terrible which is a French term for children who are outspoken (and adults who are singularly and boldly creative)…..the fleur-de-lis was another nod to France, and my way of making the whole tattoo more regal looking.”
As is urged on the website, thoughtfultattoos.com, “be sure to adorn your body with its beauty and grace like a royal seal of honor.” The fleur-de-lis reigns supreme.
Oh, how fine it is to know a thing or two. ~ Molière
By Catherine Rush Thompson
While Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (1622-1673), known by his stage name, Molière, was born nearly 400 years ago, his words continue to inspire. Molière’s education at the College de Claremont, beginning at age 14, followed by his study of law at the University of Orleans, may have set the stage for his subsequent work as a social critic. In his early 20’s he started a theatre company called “Illustre Théâtre” (Illustrious Theatre Company), working as both an actor and director. Despite his company’s initial failure, he returned to theater, writing, performing and producing his own plays while touring France. With this experience Molière wrote French comedies that ranged from simple farces to sophisticated satires reflecting his times, a period of political, economic, religious, and social crises.
In her blog titled “Introduction to Molière” Lindsay Price writes: “[Molière] is often relegated to the role of comic, frivolous playwright, perhaps because his plays thrive in their physical action and their snappy dialogue. But this interpretation misses the level of biting social satire that he brought to his work. He wrote about the flaws of humanity, the humanity that he saw all around him each day. He created characters filled with extremes: misers, hypocrites, hypochondriacs, [and] misanthropes. These characters were so driven by their extremes that they crashed through their stories with blinders on, unable to do anything but exude their fatal flaw. There are always characters who oppose these extremes in Molière’s work, expressing the moderate voice.” His characters and social criticism still resonate today.
Molière is widely regarded as one of the greatest writers in the French language, so much so that the French language itself is familiarly called the “language of Molière.” His works have been translated into every major living language and are performed at the Comédie-Française more often than those of any other playwright today. He continues to inspire all with his works, including comedies, farces, tragicomedies, comédie-ballets and more. Molière’s influence includes words based upon his plays, such as:
Kansas City will soon have an expert share more about Molière’s influence from the time of France’s Louis XIV to present day. The Plaza Library is partnering with KC MOlière: 400 in 2022 to bring Dr. Virginie Roche-Tiengo, a Moliere expert, to Kansas City to present “From Louis XIV’s France to the Anglophone World Today: Molière’s Continuing Inspiration." After careful consideration and monitoring of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Kansas City Public Library has TEMPORARILY CLOSED all 10 locations as of 5 p.m. on Sunday, March 15, until further notice. Kansas City, MO, issued a "Stay at Home" order on March 24. In compliance, KC MOlière: 400 in 2022, has cancelled Dr. Roche-Tiengo's lecture. We hope to reschedule on a future date.
Dr. Virginie Roche-Tiengo is Assistant Dean for International and Institutional Relations on the Law faculty of the Université Paris-Sorbonne Nord, where she teaches legal English. She is also head of the Master’s degree in International Relations, Public Policies and Strategy. Following her Ph.D. at the Sorbonne on Lost Unity: The Poetics of Myth in the Theatre of the Irish Playwright Brian Friel, she has published and delivered public lectures on French, American, and Irish drama. The latest international conference she co-organized in Paris, France, in October 2018 was titled Crossing Borders: Contemporary Anglophone Theatre in Europe. The conference aimed to allow academics, translators, publishers and a wide range of theatre practitioners, to confront their experience with Anglophone theatre throughout Europe. Twenty-two papers from eleven European countries (Czech Republic, France, Germany, Great-Britain, Greece, Italy, Malta, Montenegro, Serbia, Spain, and Portugal) were selected and the Play An Irish Story by Kelly Rivière was staged in the MSH (Maison des Sciences de l’Homme) Paris Nord. Virginie Roche-Tiengo is currently working on Law and Theatre as part of a new book project. Her research also focuses on Molière and the Anglophone Theatre.
France in the 17th Century. https://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780195399301/obo-9780195399301-0300.xml
Hartnoll, p. 554. "Author of some of the finest comedies in the history of the theater", and Roy, p. 756. "...one of the theatre's greatest comic artists".
Introduction to Moliere. Theatrefolk: https://www.theatrefolk.com/blog/introduction-to-moliere/
Molière Facts: https://biography.yourdictionary.com/moliere">Molière</a>
Moliere – French Dramatist. Encyclopedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Moliere-French-dramatist
By Catherine Rush Thompson
It is a wonderful seasoning of all enjoyments to think of those we love. ~ Molière
Valentine’s Day offers the perfect opportunity to think of those we love, as suggested by Molière. Interestingly, however, Valentine’s Day was not always been associated with love and romance. Some historians have suggested that Valentine’s Day evolved from early pagan rituals believed to promote health and fertility. Others have linked Valentine’s Day to a Christian feast day honoring the Valentini (men imprisoned for performing religious rites forbidden by the Roman Empire). Some of these men were reportedly executed on February 14th during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius Gothicus (268 to 270 AD - when persecution of Christians was common). It was not until 496 AD that Pope Gelasius I designated February 14th as “La Fête de Saint Valentin” to honor these Christian martyrs. La Fête de Saint Valentin became associated with romantic love when Geoffrey Chaucer, author of The Canterbury Tales, linked the February feast to the mating of birds in his poem, The Parliament of Fowls (written in 1382). Its romantic significance was further suggested by Charles, the Duke of Orléans and nephew of King Charles VI of France, who wrote a loving poem to his wife beginning with “My very gentle Valentine,” while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1415. Valentine's Day currently signifies a cultural, religious, and commercial celebration of romance and romantic love in many regions around the world.
The French have long been considered the most romantic in the world. Kansas Citians can create a unique and romantic Valentine’s Day celebration that incorporates French flair with “wonderful seasoning of all enjoyment.”
Here are some options to consider:
Use French terms of endearment or Les Petit Noms d’Amour. Listen to a free French audio at: https://www.frenchtoday.com/blog/french-vocabulary/les-petits-noms-damour-french-love-nicknames/.
Explore various pairings of French cheese and wine. The Gourmet Cheese Detective lists some excellent pairings of French cheese with suitable wines, noting “pairing French cheeses with the perfect wine is not an art; it's not even a science…it comes down to personal preference.” See their recommendations at: https://www.gourmetcheesedetective.com/Pairing-French-Cheeses.html. You can find wide selections of French wine and French cheese in local grocery and specialty stores.
Enjoy an exceptional French meal at a local restaurant. Check out the following restaurants’ websites for locations, special menus and reservations:
End the evening with free French music from Melody Loop. This link features a range of 48 French melodies that match a variety of musical tastes: https://www.melodyloops.com/music-genres/french/
Best Wishes for a Happy Valentine’s Day!
By Catherine Rush Thompson
French cuisine is considered one of the world’s finest. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) added the French gastronomic meal to its “List of Intangible Cultural Heritages” in 2010, noting it “emphasizes togetherness, the pleasure of taste, and the balance between human beings and the products of nature. Important elements include the careful selection of dishes from a constantly growing repertoire of recipes; the purchase of good, preferably local products whose flavors go well together; the pairing of food with wine; the setting of a beautiful table; and specific actions during consumption, such as smelling and tasting items at the table.” Many are familiar with favorites dishes including crêpes, quiche Lorraine, salade niçoise, soupe à l’oignon, coq au vin, cassoulet, beef bourguignon, souffle, and ratatouille served with breads, wines, and cheeses from various regions of France and they value the French dining experience.
Kansas City has a remarkable array of restaurants providing the French eating experience. While every restaurant does not offer all the favorites, you can have your French appetite satisfied by many local options. Aixois French Bistro, a favorite, is an excellent choice to try for lunch or dinner during Restaurant Week, Kansas City’s premier dining event, running from January 10-19.
Located in the Crestwood Shops near the Trolley Trail, this charming restaurant features authentic French dishes. Emmanuel Langalde, a native of Aix-en-Provence, and his wife, Megan, opened Aixois in 2001. Chef Emmanuel delivers authentic and classic French cuisine “inspired by the techniques and recipes of his native France, offering a distinct menu focused on fresh, organic, seasonal ingredients.”
Current menus feature traditional quiche Lorraine, omellettes, and croissants, but also has one of my favorites, Croque Monsieur, a grilled ham, gruyere and bechamel sandwich. For lunch you can enjoy traditional hors d'oeuvres, including soupe à l'oignon, imported French cheeses, terrine maison (house-made pâté), and escargot à la Bourguigonne (burgundy snails, mushrooms in a garlic herb butter). Main dishes include moules marinières (mussels in a shallot and herb wine broth), oysters and delicious sandwiches that can be accompanied by pomme frites and flavorful salads. Dinner includes many of the lunch offerings plus cuisses de grenouille à la provençale (frogs legs sautéed with garlic herb butter), duck leg confit, more moules dishes, red ruby trout, salmon, foie de veau (veal liver), and onglet de boeuf au poivre (angus steak with a green peppercorn sauce), a favorite of food critics.
Aixois French Bistro also offers a coffee bar, Happy Hour, brunches on Saturday and Sunday, and classic desserts, including créme caramel, créme brûlée, profiteroles and chocolate mousse. Beverages range from Champagne cocktails and beer to a wide selection of French wines. Chef Emmanuel brings the taste of Kansas City into his classic French cuisine by working with area farmers, butchers, and bakers. If your mouth is watering, I suggest you try Aixois French Bistro during Restaurant Week. Aixois’ special 3-course menu January 10-19 is listed at: https://www.kcrestaurantweek.com/aixois-french-bistro#lunch.
By Jonathan Casey, Director of the Archives and Edward Jones Research Center at the National WWI Museum
The National World War I Museum and Memorial has maintained its French connections since its conception and development in the 1920s. These connections are mainly historical and curatorial, as to objects and documents in the Museum’s collections, but also relate to popular culture.
The Liberty Memorial and its museum of “war trophies” came out of America’s involvement in World War I, when the United States joined French and other allied forces in the war against Germany. Even before the United States declared entry into the war in April 1917, Americans served as volunteers in France, driving supply trucks and ambulances, flying fighter planes and caring for wounded soldiers. This international connection grew out of a sense of historical friendship and military alliance dating to America’s War of Independence (1775-1783).
The site of the future Liberty Memorial was dedicated during the American Legion’s 3rd Annual Convention in November 1921. Marshal Ferdinand Foch, a French general and military theorist who served as the Supreme Allied Commander during World War I, was one of the honored foreign military guests present at this dedication. He spoke to the largest audience gathered for a public event in Kansas City to that time, praising the fighting ability of the American soldiers and the cooperation of the American government in achieving victory.
When the Liberty Memorial and WWI Museum opened in November 1926, France was one of several war-time allied nations to donate historical material to the Museum’s collection. The French gift was stonework from Reims Cathedral, a significant historical, cultural, and architectural structure that was nearly destroyed during four years of bombardment. France’s early enthusiasm for the WWI Museum did not end with this inaugural gift, as in 1983 the French government presented it with a restored 75mm field gun, the iconic “soixante-quinze”, that was the kind of gun used in the field artillery battery commanded by Captain Harry S Truman, the future U.S. president. The French 75 is exhibited along with several other examples of artillery in the Museum’s main gallery. See: https://www.theworldwar.org/exhibitions
The American Expeditionary Forces did most of its fighting in France and the exhibits in the WWI Museum’s main gallery and temporary gallery spaces reflect the importance of France’s role in the war’s narrative. World War I did not start on French soil, but the fighting on the Western Front, the last of several fronts in Europe and the Near East, ended at Compiegne, France, in Marshal Foch’s train car on November 11, 1918, that became known as Armistice Day.
The National WWI Museum and Memorial continues to have a working relationship with the spirit of France and French presence in Kansas City. We partner with the Kansas City Chapter of Alliance Française to present public programs, such as lectures and French language films; an example of the latter is an ongoing holiday tradition, screening the movie JOYEUX NOËL. This film is about the 1914 Christmas Truce told from the viewpoints of French, British and German soldiers who put down their arms to celebrate a moment of peace in a time of war. To reserve a seat for a free screening of this film at 2:00pm on Sunday, December 15th at the WWI Museum, go to: http://www.afkc.org/event-3624465.
Note: The cover picture for this essay is a poster from the National World War I Museum and Memorial. The JOYEUX NOËL picture below is from the DVD cover of the movie: https://www.amazon.com/Joyeux-Noel-DVD/dp/B000HWXQH0