Tour of Provence June 11-21, 2017
Day 7 – June 17 – afternoon – walking tour of hill top village, St Paul de Vence, and visiting the White Penitent’s Chapel by Folon.
After seeing Henry Matisse’s Chapel of the Rosary (previous post) I thought nothing else that day (after the wonderful lunch) could match what we had already seen. But I was wrong. St Paul de Vence is a hill top village close to Matisse’s chapel. In fact the view from the Chapel is of St Paul de Vence (see bottom of previous post).
We parked next to this little (unknown) chapel with a lovely bougainvillea outside, but the statue was not named (or I didn’t see it and I don’t know sculpture.)
There is a lot to do in St Paul de Vence other than walking the old town and seeing Folon’s Chapel – this is the official town link. This is what is written in the official brochure for the village:
It can be seen as a simple Provencal village – a jumble of old medieval alleys, a tall bell tower, a square with its cafe shaded by Plane trees. Play boules if you will. Stroll around the ramparts and drink in the Mediterranean Sea and the Alps. Stepping out of an art gallery, settle on the rim of a fountain…
And yes, all of those things are what St Paul de Vence are. The men play boules (or Petanque) in the village square. There is a lot of art in the town …
… and a lot of absolutely beautiful art in the shops.
If I had a white walled house to decorate, and I had masses of money, I could do it all in this town. I just had to make do with taking photos!
There is a story about the pavement stones – evidently one Mayor of the town wanted to change the difficult cobblestones to something easier for people to walk on…
so he just did it – and then got into trouble with some historic association – he just paid the fine and left the pavement stones in place – they are really pretty and quite different.
The highlight for me was visiting the White Penitent’s Chapel which was decorated by John-Michel Folon.
Ties of friendship linked him with St Paul de Vence, so when the 17th century chapel needed to be renovated, the Town Council asked Folon to do it – 8 canvases, 4 stained glass windows, 2 sculptures and an 106 sq m mosaic.
The mosaic was made off site and then cut into pieces that could be transported. The whole nave is made of mosaic – see behind the man.
The theme of the chapel decoration is ‘hands’ – Folon said:
Because the Penitents Blancs (a Holy Order ~1581-1920s) cared for others, I am going to create open hands that symbolise the spirit of giving, water to drink, fruit to eat and a rainbow for dreams.
Three of the four stained glass windows in the Chapel which show hands.
Folon died in 2005 before the chapel decoration was started. It was inaugurated in 2008. He said about the Chapel:
Associating my name with a chapel in Saint Paul will be an expression of my love for all those in the village whom I have loved, because it is a life centre. And as Picasso said, art and life are one.
Before any artistic work was started, 3 years were spent repairing the roof, the interior vaults, the electricity and heating.
Marc Chagall, the artist who lived in Saint Paul de Venice from 1966-1985, is buried in the graveyard. He always included the distant view of Saint Paul de Venice in his paintings. This is the same view as Folon used in the mosaic (above).
Chagall’s gravestone (L) and looking from the town ramparts, down over the cemetery towards the Mediterranean (R).
That night we had a meal at the local Bistro – the food was ok (I had delicious gravlax but the soup wasn’t really to my taste) and the lighting was not good enough for photographs. However, the service was terrible so we were a bit disappointed as usually it is a lot better – or Corinne wouldn’t have taken us there.
We had had an amazing Day 7 of the tour – I actually ran out of camera battery for the first and only time on the tour.