Tag Archives: churches

Roussillon

Roussillon was my favorite neighboring town to Lourmarin when I was a child.  It was the most far-out place, and when you went there you inevitably got dirty.  Although I was pretty prissy as a child, the type of dirty you got in Roussillon was all right with me–it wasn’t muddy blasé brown, it was bright orange.  That was a kind of dirty I could get down with.

new cliff

town new

As if the bright orange and red cliffs aren’t enough, all of the buildings in Roussillon are built with the pigmented clay that surrounds the village.  The naturally occurring ochre in the hillsides was mined until the 1930’s.  Mining has since been banned in order to protect the site from destruction.

Being in Provence inspired an obsession with crumbling old walls with plants growing out of them.  Roussillon’s reddish ones are particularly high on my list because of the red/green contrast (these pictures are so much more vibrant in original–the upload to WordPress just ruins the color).

wall

And my favorite door, from 1678.  Well, I’m not sure about the door, but the doorway is from 1678.

roussillon door

If you walk to the highest point in town you find a ceramic-topped circular map of the region, with Roussillon at its center.  You’ll find similar maps in many of the neighboring towns.

new map

close map new

Right before you reach the map at the top of the hill you’ll find the 16th century church surrounded by lavender.

new church

The exterior is fairly simple, but there is intricateness to be found inside.  One of my favorites is the altar.

altar

altar detail

Wheat and grapes have been the primary crops of Provence since the middle ages.

baptismal font

The baptismal font was added in the 17th century.

God

I love the intricate high relief on the ceiling.  Very dramatic.

lighting candles

After the church we walked back through town to the cemetary, which is quite beautiful.

cemetary

masoleum

egyptian jacques

I like calling this guy “Eqyptian Jacques.”

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Bonnieux: 12th Century Church

The old, old church is a hearty eighty-six steps up a steep hill from the village.  Even with our daily five miles, I started to feel winded.  This is no gentle slope.  Did there used to be more dwellings that high up in Bonnieux or was that all part of it?  In the 12th century was this just what you did every Sunday?  Or several times a week for that matter?  And just as Gothic cathedrals’ heights help bring their congregations closer to heaven with their arches and steeples, are these steps supposed to signify a journey towards communion with God?

stairs

Of course in my state of rapture, in reaching the top, in Provençal July heat, and in Christian ruins, I didn’t bother to take any pictures of the church itself.  There’s hardly enough room at the top of the hill to get far enough away from the wall of the church to capture it all in one shot anyway, and the church itself was locked (though it isn’t used as a church, classical music performances are held there occasionally).

church wall

There’s a little bench up there at the top under that big cypress tree that’s obscured by the tree’s shadows.  It’s so quiet up there, and windy too.  In a way it’s soothing to sit on that bench, and in a way it’s very eerie, being so high up, and so dwarfed by everything around you–the church, the trees, the vista, and time itself.

Sitting in the shade and peering through the big dark cypress branches makes you understand Cezanne and the awe he obviously felt a bit better (think Forest 1894 and Landscape Near Aix, the Plain of the Arc River).  I have such a different perspective on Cezanne than I used to.  In college I fought one of my art history professors constantly about him–I just never felt the still lives and thought he was over-credited for his perspective.  Now looking at his landscapes that once seemed so benign to me, I see much more of the turbulence that I feel is the essence of Provence–it isn’t that calm lavender scented-rosé filled country the Brits, or whoever else might think it is–it’s thick and heavy.  Life is really felt here.  As the French say, it’s sauvage–wild.

church cypress1

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church cypress2

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