Cleveland Museum of Art Welcomes St. Nectaire Mayor Alphonse Bellonte and Gilded Bust of St. Baudime

Mayor Bellonte explains the importance of the reliquary to his village

The reliquary bust of St. Baudime was added to the Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics, and Devotion in Medieval Europe exhibition on Monday, Nov. 8.

The media and representatives from the French American Chamber of Commerce, Northeast Ohio Chapter, watched as the nearly life-sized 12th Century bust was uncrated and installed in the Museum’s exhibition. Watch a video highlight of the event.

According to legend, St. Baudime, St. Nectaire and St. Auditeur (rumored to be brothers) were sent to Gaul from Rome by St. Peter and were instructed to evangelize the Auvergne by St. Austremonious, the first bishop of Clermont-Ferrand.

They settled on Mount Cornadore, where their remains were interred, and a church dedicated to St. Nectaire was eventually built on the site.

The Reliquary Bust of St. Baudime, a particularly animated object with expressive black and white eyes and arms raised in suspended gesture, was created in mid twelfth- century France.

The Reliquary Bust of St. Baudime is first recorded in an inventory dated 1462. It was classified as a French Historic Monument in 1897. Because this designation accorded the object the status of a French national treasure, special permission was required for French officials to allow the bust to temporarily leave national territory and travel to the United States.

The Mayor of St. Nectaire travelled with the bust and spent a few days in Cleveland before returning back home Tuesday, Nov. 9. We sat down with Mayor Bellonte to ask him a few questions.

Q: How were you able to bring the Bust of St. Baudime to Cleveland?

A: We found out we could bring it here 15 days ago. It’s been a long process that started with Martina Bagnoli, Walters Museum of Art Curator. She saw the bust in 2005 during an exhibition at the Louvre Museum in Paris and was so impressed she travelled to St. Nectaire in 2008 to see it again and meet with me. She said she would like the bust to be part of the Treasures of Heaven exhibition. Long negotiations ensued. Thanks in part to our passion, Ms. Bagnoli and Griffith Mann, deputy director and chief curator of the Cleveland Museum of Art, we were able to bring the bust here.

Q: What does St. Baudime represent?

A: St. Baudime is like an ambassador. It represents our town of St. Nectaire, our region of Central France called Auvergne, and France. It is traveling the world to meet people and spread the good word – It is on a pilgrimage. It left the Church of St. Nectaire to connect with the world. It is timeless and universal.

Q: What would you like Clevelanders to know about St. Nectaire?

A: St. Nectaire is a beautiful village in the Puy-de-Dôme department in the Auvergne region located in central France. We produce cheese also called St. Nectaire there. The cheese has been made in Auvergne since at least the 17th century.

It’s a famous village in France in part because of the cheese and our Romanesque style church, house of St. Baudime, located atop Mount Cornadore. We are also famous for our thermal springs.

We are part of the Grand Sancy district, famous for its ski resorts. St. Nectaire is a very touristic area.

Q: What is your impression of Cleveland?

We were privileged to be here. People welcomed us. I noticed the natural beauty surrounding the city – lots of forests and Lake Erie – so big it’s almost like an inland sea! It’s like a “Ville Forêt” (transl.: Forest City).

We enjoyed downtown. The city has a lot of various ethnicities, including Italian and Eastern European communities, connecting it to Europe in a way. It is the first U.S. city to elect an African-American Mayor. It’s Rockefeller’s city and the city where the word “rock and roll” was born. I felt like I was in an American movie with tall buildings, beautiful houses, a big museum.

I enjoyed the Cleveland Museum of Art, a cultural place where people enjoy connecting with each other. It’s full of life!

Q: How is St. Baudime going home?

I will likely travel to Baltimore where the exhibition is headed next in Spring 2011 and then bring St. Baudime back home.

Read a French translation of this blog.


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