The doggone girl is mine

Village Virgin wars.

Two old men agree, pro bono publico, to write a book about the villages where they were born, but they fall out half-way: was the hilltop chapel of Our Lady of Nazareth apportioned to the village of grandad 1 following a territorial distribution, or did it remain part of village 2, minus the Virgin, misappropriated by the village of grandad 1? They agree to disagree, and write the book in two halves, but before publication grandad 2 dies. At the presentation, the widow says a few words, and then grandad 1 stands up and says: You see, I was right all along! Thunder rolls, the clouds part, and the Virgin serves some much-needed drinks.

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  1. There are probably lots of such anecdotes. I forgot to mention this favourite, from Edward Harrison Barker Wanderings by southern waters, eastern Aquitaine (1893), mentioned in Graham Robb The discovery of France (2007):

    A rural postman in a blouse with red collar had been trudging up the hill behind me, and I let him overtake me so that I might fall into conversation with him, for these men are generally more intelligent or better informed than the peasants. I have often walked with them, and never without obtaining either instruction or amusement. When we had reached the highest ground, from which a splendid view was revealed of the Rouergue country.—a crumpled map of bare hills and deep dark gorges—the postman pointed out to me the village of Roquecésaire (Caesar’s Rock), on a hill to the south, and told me a queer story of a battle between its inhabitants and those of an adjacent village. The quarrel, strange to say, arose over a statue of the Virgin, which was erected not long since [1884] upon a commanding position between the two villages. ‘Now, the Holy Virgin,’ said the postman, in no tone of mockery, ‘was obliged to turn her back either to one village or the other, and this was the cause of the fight!’ When first set up, the statue looked towards Roquecésaire, to the great satisfaction of the inhabitants; but the people of the other village, who thought themselves equally pious, held that they had been slighted; and the more they looked at the back of the Virgin turned towards them the angrier they became, and the more determined not to submit to the indignity. At length, unable to keep down their fury any longer, they sallied forth one day, men, women and children, with the intention of turning the statue round. But the people of Roquecésaire were vigilant, and, seeing the hostile crowd coming, went forth to give them battle. The combat raged furiously for hours, and it was watched—so said the postman—with much excitement and interest by the curé of Montclar—the village we were now approaching—who, happening to have a telescope, was able to note the varying fortune of war. At length the Roquecésaire people got the worst of it, and they were driven away from the statue, which was promptly turned round. Although many persons were badly knocked about, nobody died for the cause. The energetic intervention of the spiritual and temporal authorities prevented a renewal of the scandal, and it was thought best, in the interest of peace, to allow the statue to be turned half-way to one village and half to the other.

    Robb notes that Notre Dame de Roquecézière actually faces Saint-Crépin, which definitive placement, according to Louis Fuzier Cultes et pèlerinages de la Sainte Vierge dans le Rouergue (1893), actually followed on her having been knocked off her perch by a lightning strike in 1889.

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