Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Risen from the ashes


"You should have seen it twenty years ago," says our fellow visitor as we all gaze across the hills to the Chartreuse de la Verne. "It was in ruins." It is hard to imagine now and yet the history of this monastery has been heavily marked by destruction. Having been consecrated in 1174, it was burned to the ground twice in the 13th century, but also in 1318 and in 1721. It was pillaged by the Lords of Bormes in 1421 as well as by the Protestants during the religious wars. In 1790, it was sequestered under the Revolution. Thieving began at that time and didn't stop until 1959 when a guardian was finally installed, this despite its having been granted Historical Monument status in 1921. It is no surprise that so little was left. 


In 1983, the Order of Bethlehem took up residence in the monastery and a foundation has slowly pulled the stones back into place. Rising out of the Massif des Maures, the chain of mountains that make a final push before falling into the sea, this chartreuse or charter-house is perfectly situated for contemplation, despite being only 30 kilometres away from the bling of St. Tropez.



To arrive at the entryway, we climbed down then up a path lined with chênes liéges, or cork oaks, whose spongy bark is used to stop up our wine bottles. The forest seemed to be listening to our approach.



As we had Ben with us, we took turns exploring the monastery. I roamed the grounds, following the footsteps of a nun who had given me a broad smile. Chestnut trees twisted ahead, their forms a tortured symbol of the lands former state. Fallen treasures from the previous winter strewed the ground like earthy urchins. Ben sniffed happily.



When it was my turn to walk within the quiet walls, I felt a joy wash over me as I watched several nuns decorate the main chapel for Easter. Their heads nodded together and they worked without speaking. We were told that the nunnery welcomes women from all over the world and it is not surprising. What a wonderful place to proclaim faith. Hopefully, this chartreuse will know nothing but solidity in the future.






And as a little ps., one of the last of the videos. My apologies for having to turn your head to watch it. This is of Ben showing off a bit of what I call his "Picasso" move on the path to the monastery. He has done it ever since he was a puppy and sometimes his drawings are rather nice. 

video

27 comments:

  1. Hello Heather:
    What an enchanting place and one so steeped in history. We are so very pleased to learn that it has now been fully restored and that the order of nuns continues to take good care of it all. Long may this be the case.

    We loved seeing Ben in Picasso mode!!

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  2. Thank you my friends and I agree, long may peace reign. And on another entirely different note, as it is the apero both here and in Budapest--I raise my glass towards the East and wish you "Cheers"!

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  3. Thank you for sharing such a lovely place, Heather. It's wonderful to know that such places still exist.

    Ben never fails to melt my heart - his Picasso efforts are no exception. What a sweetie!

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    1. Sue! I have missed you friend. It is really great to hear from you!

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  4. Amazing images! I really appreciate how you fill your readers in on the complex history of each location.

    Well done!

    The Wanderfull Traveler

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  5. A delightful ending to a story which features a heart stone - literally as well as figuratively! Wonderful that it has been lovingly restored.

    That is one most unusual dog you have! His talents are boundless. xx

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    1. Heehee. I imagine Rhumba can be taught something similar, non?

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  6. Here Iam............I have been in CHARLESTON!
    Beautiful photos and more beautiful words........
    BEN the artist..........FABULOUS!

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    1. Oooh, can't wait to hear about your adventures!

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  7. Ben je t'aime.

    And merci Heather for another educational and fascinating field trip!

    Bisous

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  8. Ben "Picasso" is surely very cute. Thank you Heather for an interesting story with happy ending.

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    1. Thanks Nathalie--I have yet to read your last Barcelona post--will do today!

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  9. Hi Heather, I've been following you for a long time now (brought here via Velvet & Linen) and enjoyed the development of your photographic skills. These photos are awesome, possibly more so as I actually opened each one individually and really appreciated the composition and serenity you have conveyed.
    Thank you so much, I really enjoy your view of France.

    Maureen

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    1. Maureen, thank you so very much for your kind compliments! That just made me so happy. I am trying to get better, more specific and have really enjoyed taking photos especially since I have my new camera. And having Remi as a companion helps. :)

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  10. That monastery is beautiful and thank heavens it now has a chance to live peacefully. I love your walks!

    Ok when you said "sorry to turn your head"" I didn't realize you meant it! Ben it so cute! I'm going to have to try and get a little clip of Dylan dog.

    XX
    Debra~

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    1. Everyone would love that! I blatantly stole the idea from Sharon at My French Country Home who posted her Gibson leading a pony by carrying the leadline in his mouth. Adorable. So now it is your turn!

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  11. Hi Heather

    I am giggling having just watch Ben taking his art so seriously. That is hilarious.

    The convent looks beautiful and it is good it is restored and occupied again.

    Thanks for sharing this interesting post

    Helen xx

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    1. He does take it rather seriously Helen. That was a tiny clip as otherwise the files are too weighty for my computer but he can really go to town!

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  12. Heart-shaped rock??? Sister! Love it, and this post and Ben the artiste!

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    1. Sister, that photo was taken for one person and one person only: YOU.

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  13. Wonderful story Heather! A beautiful Monastery. Love the picture of the window!!
    And Ben!! Oh yes he stole my heart!
    xx
    Greet

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    1. Thank you Greet for your sweetness and all of the inspiration that you have been spreading of late!

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  14. Awww, Picasso Ben. How gorgeous he is!

    ~ Clare x

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  15. AWSOME post:) I thank you for sweet words on my blog:)
    If you want some swedish country decor inspiration..you can check out my new post:)
    I wish you a awsome post

    LOVE Maria at inredningsvis

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