The rays of the sun's late glow drew us towards the cloister of the Saint Trophime Cathedral.
The air bubbled with excitement for it was the vernissage or opening for the new exhibition Sur le pas de Saint Césaire.
Fifteen hundred years ago, the Pope offered Caesarius of Arles the first pallium (a long scarf denoting high rank) given to a Western bishop. The exhibition was organized to celebrate this special anniversary and featured not only various relics...
...but also the child-sized sarcophagus in which his remains were hidden for years. Caesarius or Césaire in French was elected bishop in 502 AD and rose to eminence based on an ideology centered on the guiding force of love, austerity and creating lasting bonds of peace--this despite frequent attacks by the Visigoths and Franks during his 39 year tenure. He established the first monastery for women in Gaul and was considered "the leading ecclesiastical statesmen and spiritual force of his age."
Also according to citations in Wikipedia, Césaire dreamed of "an expanding, world-embracing, world-uniting society." It is fascinating, isn't it? Little wonder that his faithful followers did all that was necessary to protect his remains through wars and the Revolution, moving them to different locations each time they were deemed at risk.
His tunic and the pallium were finely restored over a two-year period by Anastasia Ozoline, who is the director of the committee for the exhibition as well as it's scenographer.
It was she who contacted my companion, Remi Benali, to ask if he would be willing to contribute several of his photographs to help illustrate the areas of Arles where Césaire is most present today. There was definitely something of the "meant to be" in the circumstances of his meeting this lovely woman, who glows with goodwill. He happily accepted.
It was a delight to watch the crowds flow through the exhibition, listening to the phenomenal explanations by Jean-Maurice Roquette, whose bounding knowledge and discourse belies little of his 83 years of age...
Eyes darted down then up, quickly taking in the context. Whispers flowed like little rivers.
I felt a surge of pride...
...and I was not the only one!
Many of the prominent local historians and politicians were in attendance (as well as the Queen of Arles and a member of her court). While the official speeches rolled on, we eyed the awaiting buffet laid out in a side wing of the cloister...
...but chose to climb up to the upper walkway to take in great gulps of the cool autumn air.
How fortunate that we have this cloister, which rings with a deep peace as loudly as the bells in the cathedral's tower that rises above it.
We all took turns...
...at falling into the silence of a calm heart.
Another day ended, another moon rising. One to reflect the memory of a fore-founder of peace that crossed these streets so many years ago. May something of his spirit live on...
from September 12th to October 31st
The St. Trophime Cloister, Arles
Have a wonderful weekend everyone. May it take flight!