History, history. Draped around my torso and puddling at my feet in the longest gown. When I walk its train stretches behind me and around here in Provence. The hems kiss such Roman stones and Gothic spires in just an every day kind of way. I am grateful for the comfort, the fine company.
So when I discover a true atelier of time's treasures, I can't help but share it with you, most certainly one that is hidden in plain sight. The Musée Lapidaire has been housed in the 17th century chapel of the former Jesuit College since 1933, smack on the main artery of Avignon. But today, perhaps so many people are busy with the contemporary folly of lécher les vitrines of the H&M across the street that they don't bother to part the massive red curtains at the entry.
Well, it is their loss. The Greek, Roman and Paleo-Christian statues, vases, funerary monuents, mosaics and sarcophogi are gorgeously accentuated by the white stone Baroque architecture. And while I am, unsurprisingly, a great admirer of Arles' own anitiquities museum, I must say that the Musée Lapidaire has a mighty fine collection, one that is beautifully presented in such a small space. Surprises abound, most especially over the magnificent Greek vases that were bought in the 18th century from the aristocratic Nani family of Venice. I don't think that I have seen anything like them during my travels so far. I was equally delighted by the Etruscan terra-cotta pieces, including the langorous reclining damsel below. However the museum's oeuvre-pricipale dating from 50 BC, "Le Tarasque de Noves," which depicts a flesh-eating monster (one still popular in Provençal lore today), gave me the giggles.
I bowed my head apologetically and pulled la robe d'histoire tighter around me as I continued on.
Le Musée Lapidaire - Collection Archéologique du Musée Calvet
Chapélle des Jésuites
27, rue de la Republique
Open from 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 6pm, closed Mondays
Hendrik asked if there was anything that was missing at the safari tent. Now admittedly, as a travel writer (I usually say "former travel writer" but I must be feeling hopeful today), this is a question that usually has me rubbing my hands together with Snidley Whiplash glee. Having worked in the luxury hotel industry, I know the ins and outs of the details and can find the faults of "an experience" within roughly seven seconds or so. And yet, I came up blank. I love that tent! And the chapel! And walking through the surrounding forest and cavorting on the mountains towering above!
Ah, but old habits die hard. "Well, there is one thing..." Despite that this recluded spot was far cooler than sizzling Arles, there was still a mighty spike in temperature just at the most essential moment of the day...la sieste. I couldn't escape the sun's glare on the patio and felt like a slow-roasted hen inside. "Would it be possible to have a little seating section down by the riverbed? A hammock maybe?" (admittedly, this was Remi's idea but I handily passed it off as my own). Hendrik thought that a perfectly splendid suggestion.
So perhaps on our next visit--and yes, I am ready when you are--I will nap under a leafy canvas and coax the dogs into the ice-cream thrill of plunging into a mountain stream, for normally there is an actual river and not just a riverbed. There will be so many delicate details to discover, if only I can keep my eyes open long enough to see them...
The best light can be slightly ticklish, don't you agree?
Oh! And I am also guest-posting for beautiful Clare at Looking Glass in Australia while she is off wandering through Peru...
The longevity of awe...and the quietude buried within peace. These were the two thoughts echoing in my mind with the gentleness of passing a feather from one palm to the other while I was sitting in the Chartres Cathedral. We were in town for a wedding, a new beginning but I couldn't stop thinking about the past.
I had sat in these pews years ago. Then, I was buoyed by the weight of the beauty surrounding me but this visit I realized that something far heavier was at play. How must the cathedral have loomed above the fields to the pilgrims that spied its spiers from afar, starting in the 12th century. It was the journey of a lifetime and the stories of its might travelled home with them, blessed. How many days had passed since then, light into dark again, shown and known by being lit from within. Nearly all of the windows were installed by 1240 and they still shine jewel-like, having been spared the ruthless bombing the town saw during World War II in 1939 when each pane of glass was wisely removed as the German troops advanced. These vitruax could inspire belief in God or other, definitely of something higher and better, in anyone. For awhile, I sat and watched each visitor as they would tilt their heads up and become still with the effort of trying to understand. And then I closed my eyes and listened to the whispers of shuffle and flow. I could have been there for years, a sigh on the timeline and a shadow of the efforts that had gone into creating such awe...such peace.
On the tympanum above the Royal entry, some wise bird has built his nest just above the statue of Christ's head, a tilted halo to the holy. He understood, perfectly.
As I have mentioned previously, I am not a Christian but such sacred sites have and continue to inspire me, regardless of the faith housed within. Yes, faith remains and creates a bond, a link to life.
And while this is not a post of popsicles, it does seem appropriate for summer, a time of year when expansion is at its apogee...an expansion in all directions then, backwards and forwards, in and out with steady breath.
Wishing you a peaceful weekend ahead...
...and thank you for all of your kindness of late.