There are a handful of cities named Agincourt, but we’re concerned with two—only two. One, in northern France, was the site of a pivotal battle between the English and the French in the Hundred Years War. The other, in northern Iowa, has enjoyed a more placid history since its founding in 1857. It shouldn’t surprise us that they became sister cities in 1907, children of different parents choosing to be family. About twenty years later, another link was forged between them: an exchange between the only two churches dedicated to the obscure 4th century saint named Ahab.
Nineteen twenty-five was a happy year in Azincourt, France (they spell it a bit differently than their English victors did). The First World War was safely behind them; the 1920s lay brightly ahead; and the tiny farming community prepared to celebrate its 750th anniversary. I doubt the French nation took much notice; we did. Who initiated the conversation is unrecorded—whether our Fr Emile Farber or his French counterpart Fr Gaston Cornot—but the two churches named Ahab began to share pleasantries as an overture to the exchange of gifts.
The Fennimore County Fair that year exhibited the collective, collaborative creativity of several Iowa farm ladies who crafted a quilt: the trapunto telling of our scrawny seventy-plus years, compared to ten times that amount of French history. Carefully packed, packaged and shipped to arrive in France on October 25th—anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt—on that day we received in return an exquisite reproduction of the mediæval icon of Saint Ahab and a painting of the church interior where its inspiration hangs. Both can be seen today in Saint Ahab’s chapel, specially designed in 1950 to preserve the saint’s name in the new church of Christ the King.
Eglise St Ahab, Azincourt, France (built 1840; restored 1920)
Something tells me I should ask Howard to rummage in the Plantagenet archives and see how these events were recorded when they were fresh.