Friday, October 5, 2012

A Beautiful Funeral

As Edith and I climbed the road up to the Church of the Assumption, it was hard to miss the fact that cars were parked bumper to bumper all the way up and parking was full in the square in front of the church entrance. Bells tolled, and we could see people standing on the porch. We took a seat on a stone bench outside the church yard. A funeral was in progress, and everyone from the village and the surrounding area must have been in attendance. The large church could hold between 200-300 people, and it was standing room only inside. As we sat and listened, we were treated to the most wonderful singing! The entire congregation sang Basque songs in beautiful harmony. The priest gave the homily/eulogy for the departed...a man named Jean-Pierre...also in Basque.Again, beautiful chorale singing and the bells tolled. I know it sounds strange, but attending this funeral as respectful observers was the highlight of our visit to Bidarray! I became immediately intrigued with Basque music.
As the service drew to a close, Edith and I moved to the cafe across the street and ordered a glass of wine. Sitting there, we watched as people filed out of the church. First came the choir, singing as they descended the exterior steps from the balcony. They were followed by a long line of men carrying flowers, and then by the rest of the mourners. The flowers were laid on the previously marked grave site in the church cemetery. Curiously, it appeared that well over three-quarters of the mourners were men. Jean-Pierre's grave was so covered by flowers that the inscription couldn't be read. I would love to know who he was, as he was obviously a beloved member of the community to draw such a big crowd. And why so many men??

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