At Vimoutiers...saved by lace, cheese, Margaret Mitchell and Mr Rosey

 

At Vimoutiers...saved by lace, cheese, Margaret Mitchell and Mr Rosey

Devastated…and reconstructed…

Looking at the statue of Marie Harel in the market square, we noticed that it had been donated by “Men and women making cheese in Van Wert, Ohio.”

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There is another statue of Marie Harel, near the church. It is missing a head. This statue dates from 1928 – before World War II. Vimoutiers was flattened by Allied bombardment during the Battle of Normandy. 220 townspeople died. Only the church, built in 1896 on reinforced foundations, remained intact.

The cheese-makers were not the only benefactors to come to the aid of Vimoutiers.

The author of "Gone with the Wind" persuaded the International Pilots Club to raise money for reconstruction of the town. Margaret Mitchell had written one of the greatest books about the American Civil War…about war and its devastation in general. And Reconstruction, too, of course!

Meanwhile, the Red Cross organized a sewing circle in Vimoutiers to help out–of-work mothers in this devastated town. Soon, boxes of the embroidered linen known as “cretonne” arrived in the US for sales organized by the ladies of the Pilots Club.

“Cretonne” was a linen cloth invented in Vimoutiers by a certain Paul Creton, back in 1640. But the industry did not fully develop until in the 1770s, when a “diligence” was set up in Vimoutiers to transport flax thread from Flanders to the weavers of the town. Now, enough cloth could be made to supply the markets of Paris. From 1780, Saint Anne, patron saint of cloth merchants, was celebrated with fervor. You can still see a statue of her in the church.

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In a curious prefiguring of later events, the “diligence” that brought prosperity to Vimonasterians had been funded with American money and know-how – by a certain Monsieur Rosey who had just returned from a profitable trip to that country.

-Elisabeth

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