13th Century TEA Partiers

Not long ago, my husband and I spent the day in Rouen, France, a beautiful, idyllic community known for it’s medieval architecture.  It’s a fascinating place – narrow streets lined with buildings remarkably preserved in their original state. This is where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, the spot fittingly marked by a cross. The main tourist attraction is the beautiful and ornate cathedral, centuries old, still standing despite the weathering of time and the partial destruction by the Allies during World War II.

As our guide walked us through the maze of streets in the ancient part of town, I couldn’t help but notice the intricate architecture used by the inhabitants. I had always assumed that those who lived in the 12th and 13th centuries were a backwards people, too uneducated and ignorant to understand the mathematical and scientific skill it took to construct homes 4 and 5 stories high. A cathedral that soared to the skies I could understand – religion was often the glue that held communities together. Fitting that their places of worship would incorporate all the knowledge of the time – for a price, of course. But, who would have believed that these same simple people would use that kind of knowledge for their own dwellings and places of business?

Curiously, I asked our guide. Why such skill and care taken in constructing the majority of buildings in town? How could people, so ignorant that they used the streets for their sewer, simply pouring the contents of their potty jars right into the street – what would drive them to ingeniously construct these ornately beautiful dwellings?

The answer was quite simple. Taxes. Yes, even the people of medieval times were plagued by the same tax worries that we share to this day. Back then, one was taxed by the area of ground used to construct your dwelling. In order to avoid paying more than their “fair share”, those wily medieval citizens did what any one of us would have done – they built straight up! Driven to avoid what they believed was an unfair burden, they pushed the boundaries of engineering and architecture, creating a stunning community that, to this day, amazes those who have the privilege of seeing it.

The Taxed Enough Already crowd of the Middle Ages would certainly understand the frustration expressed by modern Tea Partiers. Yes, the challenge remains the same, no matter what time period. And, just like those in the past who came up with ingenious ways to avoid the excesses of government, the Tea Party will lead to new innovations. Determining the outcome of the 2010 elections is only the beginning. The story continues!