Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Last of the Winter Walks

Somehow I never published this post but I am glad to have rediscovered it as I believe that we could all use a bit of color today.

The Abbaye de Montmajour lies just on the outskirts of Arles, rising above the fields where Vincent Van Gogh loved to paint. Founded in the 10th century, the abbey has a long history of hardships. It has been blasted by wars, political manoeuvers and plagues. While briefly enjoying a period of success during the 13th century, when it housed sixty resident monks and sponsored parishes as far away as Grenoble, it fell into disarray while under the control of the Maurists monks in the 17th century, who were reportedly known more for their acts of greed than good. In 1786, the Cardinal Louis de Rohan, in keeping with the shoddy behavior that later ruined him during the scandalous "Affair of the Necklace" involving Marie Antoinette, stopped paying for the maintenance of the abbey. When the French Revolution arrived, only nine monks roamed its crumbling halls. The churches of the abbey were sold to local farmers and later turned into an armory by the German army during World War II. Fortunately Prosper Merimée had the insight to add Montmajor to his list of monuments to be preserved in France. Its slow restoration began and continues to this day. 

We see the abbey constantly in our comings and goings, the tower and filigreed remains a beacon that we are close to home. I don't know what possessed Remi to turn onto the tiny dirt path that we had driven by so many times but it led to a wonderful perspective not only on the abbey but Vincent's countryside as well. Despite the deceptive green in the fields, the day was bitterly cold and my skin drew tight across my cheeks, slightly frozen. Soon, even Ben was ready to head home to a spot in front of the fire. 

It was worth all of the brrring to have taken in that last ray of sun crossing the Camargue to bring the abbey to life again, just for a moment, in its glow.


  1. So beautiful - and what an interesting story! Right out of Pillars of the Earth!

  2. What a sad and yet so incredibly beautiful place. Your photographs evoke what I can imagine the atmosphere is like. And the description of cold ~ with "drawn skin" ~ COMPLETELY captures a feeling of chilled crisp air.

    Thank you for your warm comments too!

  3. What's up with all of those shady monks?? Anyway, glad that place is still standing and that you had a nice, chilly visit. And LOVE that pic of leaping Ben!!

  4. Reading your blog is an amazing education-I learn so many things from you. Sounds like it certainly was a day to remember.......and I love the photo of Ben!!

  5. Leaping lizards... no, wait, that's Ben! I love seeing him in action - great shot.

    Interesting history of the abbey - not as romantic as they seem from afar. Much more colorful! Thanks for sharing!


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