Un lit clos
uh lee KLO. Click below to hear this.*
A “closed bed”.
I’m sure you’ve seen four-poster beds draped on three sides with sumptuous curtains. You’ve seen mosquito netting enclosures around narrow cots. You’ve seen bedsheets hanging over dining room tables, and children giggling in their “tent” with flashlights waving. But have you ever seen a lit clos?
The word clos is the past participle of an old-fashioned, irregular verb meaning to close. (The modern word, of course, is fermer.)
Here’s a picture of a lit clos:
The armoire is on the left, and the bed on the right.
These were common in rural Brittany, or la Bretagne, from the 17th to the 19th century. In fact, another name for them is un lit breton. It’s basically a wooden box with doors, and it would typically be furnished with a straw mattress, a sheet, and maybe a rough blanket. If possible, it would be situated near the fire.
But why would anyone want to sleep in a box? Wouldn’t it get mighty cramped in there?
Keep in mind that heating a house in those days meant building a fire in the fireplace. The weather in Brittany is typically cold and rainy. Close to the coast, the wind sweeping off the Atlantic can chill you to the bone. The lit clos was an essential piece of furniture, designed to keep people warm at night. Two adults or several children could snuggle up in a lit clos.
In my next post, I’ll tell you where you can see this lit clos, and learn more about life in rural Brittany in the 18th century.
*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file: