Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Chapelle Saint-Sixte - Eygaliéres



I have written frequently about my fascination with the layers of history that have been laid down in France. Time periods waggle fingers at each other - the you should have beens - or blush in coy shades of regret or admiration decades, if not centuries, after the fact.


It is one of the many elements of living in this old country that I never tire of nor ever quite grasp either, not entirely, if I am being honest (even when I like to think that I do). Blame it on the American shiny new in me. It has taken ten years of living in Provence - where the length of history's reach is more blatant in the everyday than in Paris - for me to start to soak up the joy of so much existence present along with its past, both stitched together tightly.


But there are most certainly places that give me direct peace in their seamless cohesion.


That is the case each time that I visit the Chapelle Saint-Sixte on the outskirts of the charming village of Eygaliéres.


As one of the most treasured sites in Provence, its ochre-domed porch fronts hundreds of postcards...


...and is the shelter for many a spring wedding photo...or other testaments to sentimental love...


... but the history of its stones reach back to before recorded history. 

The surrounding scenery seems to know, nodding with cypresses reaching heavenward and vines that are twisted dry under the weight of too many seasons.


A stèle or Stonehenge-like marker stone was in place until the 19th century and it is believed that it marked the site of what was originally a pagan temple dedicated to the cult of water. And yes, a source was present here and it was from this temple that the veterans of the Rome's 6th legion chose to build an aqueduct to deliver fresh water to the citizens of Arles - nearly 30 miles away - during the height of the Empire's rule. The nearby village of Eygaliéres would take its name from the Roman word Aqualeria for its wealth of refreshment.


The current chapel is one of the clearest examples of Provençal Romanesque architecture in its simplicity and form. The first mention of it was in 1155 but it was the reference to Easter Tuesday in 1222 that launched the pilgrimage to the chapel from the village (actually a "roumavage" in Provençal which comes from "a voyage to Rome") in order to plead Saint Sixtus to supply water for the following years crops - one that has continued until this day. The elongated porch was added in the 1629 to serve as a guard-post for inspecting travelers during the plagues of that period and a bell was restored to its tower in 2008.


When we took my Mom and her husband Leonard to visit the Chapelle Saint-Sixte last September, I wandered around with camera in hand, still under its spell after all of these years. Both Leonard and I were intrigued by the many traces that time's graces had left, some so small and yet each so significant.  When I returned to the porch, I found Remi and my Mom deep in a theological discussion concerning the overlapping present in the main religions, with my Mom providing her perspective as a Buddhist. They talked all the way back to the car, heads nearly meeting in thought.


And that in itself, made me feel quite content. After a thousand years, a site can still be sensed "holy" by many and a touch of faith is continually inspiring in its largesse. Here is to hoping that time will be patient enough and receptive to our efforts so that such layers, thinner than a thread of silk, will be spinning out harmoniously in as many years to come.

The Chapelle Sainte-Sixte
Route d'Orgon
13810 Eygaliéres
Mass is held on Thursdays at 9:30am in summer

Pour mes lecteurs francophones, la chant de roumavage (en français et provençale):
O grand Sant Sist ................. Ô grand Saint Sixte
Proutèjo noste bèu païs, ...... Protège notre beau pays 
E di malandro ..................... Et des maladies 
Esvarto lou terrible flèu ! ...... Ecarte le terrible fléau ! 
Dins si pelandro trais ........... Dans sa misère 
Au paure un rai de soulèu. ... Apporte au pauvre un rayon de soleil.

****

PS. My beautiful Sister, Robin, who many of you will know of from her wonderful comments here, is celebrating an important birthday today (well, they all are but you know what I mean!). 
Happy Birthday Robin!
I love you so much Sister,
Sistee








29 comments:

  1. This is now on the top of the list of places to visit next time! How have I missed this? Beautiful. And happiest of birthdays to your dear sister!! xoxox

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    1. You know what would make me happy? Is to imagine you singing at this site!

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  2. I've been to Eygalieres several times, how did I manage to miss this? Next time, for sure. Like you, I am fascinated by layers of history. In the US I was very involved in historic preservation, and the "period of significance" chosen for a restoration. Often this is not the original period in which a building was constructed. It would be quite difficult to choose a "period of significance" for a place like this chapel!
    bonnie

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    1. Oh my gosh Bonnie, we could really talk about that at length - certainly for this chapel!

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  3. Happiest of birthdays, dear Robin! Your love for your sister, and hers for you, shines through your comments here and they are always a joy to read.

    Heather, you have expressed my thoughts about the architectural beauty of our adopted country much better than I ever could have. We were discussing this in Angouleme just today. I said I would never tire of the beauty of our surroundings here and I am old enough to know it's true! :-)

    Thank you for another gorgeous post.

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    1. Oh you are super welcome Katherine, I am glad that you liked it! And anyone who would tire of the beauty of Angouleme must be tired of life itself!

      Bon WE and scratchies to Rémy.

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  4. I absolutely love that second photo. It looks like a painting. I understand what you mean about layers. I peel through many of them on an almost daily basis.

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    1. Malte isn't exactly brand spanking new either, now is it Loree? ;)

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  5. What a beautiful place you have taken us to, both in photos and in words across time. Happy Birthday to your dear Sister! A joyous time for you both.

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    1. She had a really great one Judi - I just wish I had been there for it!

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  6. Happy Birthday Robin!
    May your bells of joy and good health ring well throughout your life

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  7. Happy birthday, Robin! Does she have memories at the Kahiki, too?! One of my clients and I were talking about it today!
    It's funny what a relative term "ancient" is. Here that means 150--maybe 200 years. Hard for me to comprehend how ancient ancient is where you are! So beautiful!

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    1. Well then you need to come to visit to see for yourself! You will have a very, very good guide. I can promise you that. And no, I don't mean Ben.

      I will have to ask Robin if she remembers the Kahiki! Although, she is four years older than I am so maybe was already too cool for school...unlike the monumental impression it made on me!

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    2. The Kahiki??? I just googled it, and there is a hazy fog of kitsch coming into my memory...

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  8. Just lovely. I was a classical archaeology major because of the allure of such places. I never made a career of it, but I still feel the pull of the ancient and mystical. How lucky you are to be surrounded by it.

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    1. Carolyn, I read your comment to Remi because I knew that he would enjoy it. I don't know if you are on instagram but if so, he has just started a major archaeological story there and he can be found at @remibenali. I bet you would enjoy it.

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  9. Oh Heather, reading this post has given me a sense of calmness and peace after a particularly hideous day. I felt transported to another world, which was much needed; and in a country that I love dearly. Merci.xxT

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    1. I hope your days have been better since then, dear Tracy! bisous...

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  10. Oooo - love this place! Did we go there? I agree with Loree - I also love that 2nd pic and think it looks like a painting! I also love the "grafitti", and the casual pic of Ben strolling along, oblivious to all of the history you've just been telling us about! (and where do you get all of that history?? uh-may-zing!). Thanks so much for mentioning my birthday and for the well-wishes from you and others here! It was a bigee, but I survived, in part due to so much love that I received! I love you, too, Sistee! : )

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    1. Sister, I am so bummed to say that I don't think that we did!!! I just went to look at the photos from when you were here and we probably would have passed nearby there when we went to pick up D from the airport but must have taken another road - waahwah! But that is ok, just something to put on the list for the next trip!

      As for the history, I knew the basics about this but found a lot too when I was researching the dates. There is SO much history that is documented here. It makes it pretty easy. :)

      And I love you toooooo!

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  11. A DAY LATE..............BUT HERE GOES!!HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEAR ROBIN......HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!I can ONLY IMAGINE WHAT BIRTHDAY IT IS as you LOOK so young in your photo here..................21 perhaps?!!AS I sit here and type THEODORE is curled up on my lap and I have Winston on my feet!THE PIGGY Has gone back to his HOME unfortunately!
    HEATHER,you are surrounded by BEAUTY...............THANK YOU for sharing it with all of us who KNOW ANCIENT AS STEPHEN REMARKED!!I remember when I thought 50 was old!!!IT took THE ITALIAN and a MOVE ACROSS THE BIG POND TO ITALY to realize HOW NEW AMERICA REALLY IS......................XOXOXOXO

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    1. Oh my gosh, Robin will love you for guessing 21! But truly, even though she is four years older than I am, she looks ten years younger!!!! At least!!!!! She doesn't have any grey hair yet, no wrinkles and is still skinny as a minx and yet can eat whatever she wants. She is a true beauty.

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  12. Depth of history is what’s lacking in the states. Certainly in Napa Valley we can’t talk of “joy of so much existence present along with its past, both stitched together,” not in the context of what you had written. For all that I will not complain of what we have, a charm, young and as authentic.

    I enjoy those small graces, “so small and yet each so significant.”

    Thank you Heather for the wonderful text and photographs.

    Happy Birthday Robin.

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    1. I love that young and authentic charm so dearly too, Edgar. I love both!

      So glad you liked this post. Sending extra warm wishes to you in light of the horrific shooting in San B.

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  13. Eygalières, Eyguières and Eyrargues - all towns within kilometres of each other. I always get confused!!

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    1. Hmmm...well, Eygalières is the upscale one where all the French "captains of industry" are with great restos and my fave depot-vente, Eyguiéres is smaller and a lot of the military folk from Salon live there...and Eyrargues...heehee, although of course I have heard of it...I have to admit you had me stumped! I just looked it up and although it is not too terribly far from me, I had no idea! ;)

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