Tag Archives: Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume

3687 – There’s Fabulous Gothic in Provence II

We are still in Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume. This church, like so many Gothic churches, is a celebration of light.

We were there around 1.5 hours before noon, on a bright day at a time of the year when the sun is at its highest.

The 7-14/2.8 is a wonderful lens, but with the blazing light streaming through the high windows, a few flares were unavoidable.

There is also a cloister in Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume. It’s not a part of the church any more, and you reach it through the tourist office.

3686 – There’s Fabulous Gothic in Provence I

Provence is not exactly famous for its Gothic architecture. Southern France in general ain’t.

The reason is, that southern France was once largely independent. It was part of a larger region called Occitania, the land where “yes” was “oc” instead of “oui”, and where the language therefore was called lenga d’òc.

It was the land of highest Troubadour culture, Toulouse was the most glorious court. It was a land at the border to muslim Spain, a land of openness and wisdom, a rich land, envied by its neighbors.

It all went down when the French kings conquered the the south in the late age of the crusades, at a time when the stupid but noble idea of fighting for the freedom of Jerusalem had already been perverted. The war in the Holy Land was lost, christian Constantinople had already been plundered, and at that time every war for money or power was fought under the sign of the cross. It was a little bit like today, when every war for oil is called a war for freedom and against terrorism.

That was the time when Gothic architecture flourished in the north, and it was the same time when the north plundered the south. At that time the south was torn apart and burned to ruins. That’s not a time for building cathedrals. The few that exist were built by victors as signs of their triumph. Albi is a good example, a Gothic church that looks like a fortress, but that’s far to the west. I’ve been there 27 years ago and I’ve got no images to share 🙂

Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume is another good example at the heart of Provence, just a few highway exits east of Aix-en-Provence. Unfortunately I couldn’t take any images from the highway. That sounds like a strange thing to say, but it is really from there that the church looks most interesting. It’s a small town with houses no more than maybe two or three stories high. In the middle, crammed in between, the church rises, and seeing it from the highway, I was completely convinced that it was on a hill. It’s not. It’s just that much higher than its surroundings.

Well, I’ve got no good pictures from outside, but you can always search Google, right?

3685 – Bird’s Wings

A new day, a new town. This is Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume. We are here for the church. There’s kind of a fair or a market in front and north of the church, where we would normally park our car. I’ve found a place behind the church though, and that’s where we are now, looking up at this bird soaring, and at the mighty shadow of its wing.