STONEHENGE COMES TO SAINTES
Saturday 18th May was a lovely day in Salisbury, just perfect for Mayor Making. In contrast, that Saturday was cold and very wet in Saintes and it was also the day for the opening ceremony of the Stonehenge exhibition in the Musée Archéologique. Marilyn Marks and Mervyn Pannett, accompanied by their spouses, were at the ceremony representing the SSTA.
This exhibition has been several years in the making. Whilst Salisbury Museum has sent some of its Stonehenge collection to Saintes, the Musée Archéologique has reciprocated and has sent a selection of its extensive Roman collection to Salisbury, which can be seen at Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum later this year.
Because the weather was so bad the opening ceremony took place in the Le Centre d’Interprétation de l’Architecture et du Patromoine, beside the Musée Archéologique. Unfortunately there were no posters or signs to indicate that this was the opening of the Stonehenge exhibition so the ceremony was conducted surrounded by the wonderful Roman architectural exhibits, which, to a casual observer, would have been rather confusing.
The ceremony was opened by Sylvie Barre, Deputy Mayor for Culture, who spoke about the co-operation between Saintes and Salisbury and the reciprocal exhibition being held in Salisbury. She was followed by Bridget Brennan, Président d’Amitiés Saintes Salisbury, who spoke about the ties between the two cities and the work of the twinning associations, and finally Severine Bompays, Director of Fine Arts Museums in Saintes, who spoke about Stonehenge and the exhibition. The Mayor of Saintes attended the opening to give his support for the project.
Saturday was also a day of several artistic events in Saintes, many badly affected by the weather. As part of this programme we were entertained light heartedly by three actors who played out different roles to describe Stonehenge, its history and its importance, although it has to be said that some of the contents was of dubious accuracy.
The exhibition itself is in a small room to the left of the entrance of the museum. It is very well presented and gives a good overview of Stonehenge and its history. A large number of people attended the opening ceremony which hopefully suggests that there is interest in Stonehenge in Saintes. The walkers from the Saintes ramblers association who visited Stonehenge and its landscape in May 2012 were fascinated by the henge itself and were utterly amazed by the archaeological richness of the landscape. They should provide a core of local interest in Stonehenge and hopefully encourage their friends to visit the exhibition.
The exhibition continues until May 2014.