Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Saint Paul de Mausole and Glanum.

Sue and I had been to both places previously but there is something special about seeing family enjoying it as much as we did. Glanum is a relatively recent archaeological discovery and after the time that Vincent Van Gogh spent time at St Paul de Mausole. There's a painting that Vincent did at the base of the then covered Glanum. It shows a mountain with two openings. In the foreground are trees, possibly olive trees. If you stand in the same place today, you see the same scene that Vincent saw but now you also see the start of an ancient town with its beginnings as far back as 600BC.

Vincent was living in Arles when Gauguin came to stay with him at the "Yellow House" for a period of eight weeks of painting. After Gauguin left, Vincent felt isolated and didn't really blend with the locals. It has been said he may have been bipolar. He became a patient at his own willing at St Paul and produced some of his best work there.
As you drive to the car park of St Paul, the first thing you notice depending on the time of year and day is the popularity with tourists from around the world. Its a good idea to pick your moment to visit, an early start is advisable.
Walking down the to entrance of Saint Paul you view large reproductions of Vincent's paintings before reaching a stature of his image holding sunflowers in his arm and paint brushes in his hand. The stature shows him as a man of light frame with a gaunt face.

You get a feeling of calmness as you walk into the building which then opens up to a cloister of flowers and rose bushes. We walked the outer of the cloister with the archways before taking a stairway up a level where there is a bedroom said to be Vincent's. His painting of a bedroom at Saint Paul certainly has the same look about it. The only window looks out over the lavender garden and across the hills beyond Saint Remy.

Our visit to Saint Paul de Mausole wasn't rushed, but savoured in the sunshine with the Mistral wind now having exhausted itself and leaving us much more relaxed before moving on to Glanum.

Glanum had caught my imagination on our previous visit to Saint Remy and I thought that I would relax and read a book with Sue as the girls did their own discovery of these ancient ruins. It didn't take me long to change my mind.
To come to the realisation that excavations only began in 1921 and further discoveries continued up to 2007 makes it all the more interesting.

The site before being abandoned had been inhabited by the Gauls, Hellenics and then the Romans.
The Salluvians (Gaulish) initially settled the area with the Greeks from Marseilles bringing their influence to Glanum. The next stage of Glanum evolved as the Romans brought their influences to the now south of France taking in the area of both Provence and the Languedoc. A few years back we visited Narbonne where part of the Roman road from Spain back to Rome can be seen in a small space of less than twenty metres. I mention this because the region in Roman times was known as the province of Narbonnensis. 

As you walk the ruins, you ask yourself how this ancient city lay undiscovered over 17 centuries. How did it become buried - was it silt washing down from higher ground, maybe rock spill. Why were the two monuments from the opposite side of the road quite visible during all those centuries and yet the city the monuments led to stayed dormant.

I think our second visit to both Saint Paul de Mausole and Glanum were more rewarding than the first.

Tomorrow we visit Le Baux.


  1. Glanum got buried in sediment and mud after it was abandoned (Thank you Wikipedia!). I too like to rediscover a site when I bring someone along and watch their astonishment on their face. I am glad the kids are with you and enjoying the South of France too.

    1. Thanks Nadege - off to Carcassone today - big drive.

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