Call of the Hunt
“Oh listen,” Sandra, our tour guide, excitedly exclaimed, “Can you hear the horns, hurry!” Not exactly sure what she was referring to we dutifully hopped off the bus to see other people rushing to the town's central court yard. There, a group of smartly dressed men were playing the hunters horn to honor St. Hubert, the patron saint of hunters, mathematicians, opticians, and metalworkers. Though his feast day was Tuesday, November 3 for the sake of the audience, the celebration happened on that rather cloudy, nippy Saturday morning of Nov. 7.
St. Hubert (Hubertus) died in 727 C.E. and here in the little town of Bourges, France they no longer hunt foxes, but they remember their patron saint with a feast of sight and sound. The hunter’s horn is a relative of the bugle with no mouthpiece. Therefore it is difficult to play unlike its nearest cousin the French Horn. The men had a great deal of pride in their instruments that were highly polished to reflect the sun, and the care of their uniformed appearance spoke of their passion to keep the ceremony alive.
Bourges was merely a lunch stop on our agenda, but was a pleasant and surprising find. It was the home of the impressive Gothic cathedral, one of the only of its type not to have been touched by war. So though there had been repairs to the structures, since its dedication in 1324, the building remains original to the early Gothic style. It is said that Joan of Arc visited, as did John Calvin centuries later. Though Bourges seemed on this day a rather sleepy little town it was the center of a much of French history through the ages.
The city had a long tradition of art and history. Apart from the cathedral, other sites of importance included the 15th-century Palace of Jacques Cœur and the district of half-timbered houses and fine town-houses. But our time ran by quickly and we bid the sweet sounds of Bourges goodbye.