Thursday, July 11, 2013

Saint-Gilles du Gard, Facade, Abbey, Legends, Camel and Hind

Saint-Gilles du Gard. This Benedictine Abbey Church, dating from the 7th Century, commemorates significant people, events, ideas. It incorporates whimsy, tragedy, persecution and history-rewrites:

1) Saint-Gilles displays an elaborate and creative Romanesque facade

 St. Gilles du Gard, France. Facade

The Church was also a battleground between Protestant Reformer Huguenots and the Catholic Church, Reformation era. In many such churches, the Protestants attacked the Roman Church's dependence on images by whacking off or defacing heads, but then failed to replace it with other visual inspirations. 

Many times, animals escape the defacers.

Animals and people both, all march across the facade at St.-Gilles.  See its reproduction, commissioned by Andrew Carnegie himself in 1907, at the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, the Hall of Architecture, see

When I go back there (I grew up in Pittsburgh but this detail escaped me) I need to check out the camel just out of screen in our own photo. See FN 1 for the camel.

2)   St-Gilles du Gard, honoring a 7th Century hermit-saint, Gilles; 

Crypt, Saint Gilles du Gard, France.  St. Gilles

Did he really have a camel as a companion? See FN 1 for camel discussion.

It was also a Benedictine Abbey, now a ruin, beside the Church, but with traces of the kind of grandeur that the Reformers attacked
Abbey ruin, St-Gilles du Gard adjacent to Church

3) St-Gilles is also a stop on the Way of Saint James, for pilgrims passing through on he way to Santiago de Compostela; statue representing a pilgrim, with staff and broad-brimmed hat is in the crypt.  In some ways, this costume more resembles the horse and bull herders (our cowboys, similar) in the Camargue, see Stes. Maries de la Mer -- the white horses, the bulls bred for the fighting, and the roughriders making it all happen. But why would a Camargue bull-horseman be at St-Gilles?

St. Gilles du Gard, France, crypt statue of pilgrim, Way of Saint James

3) in 1208 or so, the site of one of the events leading to the Catholic Albigensian Crusade to kill those who dissented from the dogma, the Cathars, or Albigenses (town of Albi): the killing of the Pope's emissary, the Cistercian Pierre de Castelnau, who had been sent by the Pope to negotiate with the heretics to bring them to their doctrinal and hierarchical senses, and the public penance of the Cathar Raymond VI, Count of Toulouse, followed by the full crusading armies in the Languedoc wiping them out over the next 40 years, until the fall of Montsegur;

5) a refuge for the French Protestant Huguenots in the 1550's, see Wars of Religion timeline at

Good overview site:  see

FN 1   Camel and hind.  The hind legend reappears frequently:  the hermit empathizing with the wounded hind, the lord converting. The camel story is more obscure. By Murphy's law, we left without him in our camera, but we saw him. This is from Wikimedia Commons

File:Saint-Gilles St-Gilles Portal Kamel 122.JPG
  • For more on the camel, click here,; or scroll down at  Then find out that it is a dromedary:  one hump signifies an Arabian or Indian camel known as a dromedary.  If our fellow here had two humps, he would hail from Central Asia.
  • Our guidebook had this information: that the hermit-saint from Athens indeed arrived with a camel Tripoli was known as the land of camels, trade was energetic and wide-ranging on those days, so the creatures were already known, if not usual in these parts. Gilles and his camel appeared devoted to each other.  Upon the death of Gilles, the camel was not provided for, and languished until the town was shamed into taking pity,  it nurtured it until it was well and lived out a natural life. 

The guide said he only wished all the fine old stories could be preserved. The camel: he is not mentioned in the Catholic Golden Legend, see, so it must be "of the people" and not doctrinal. It also is not mentioned in stories of the saint's empathy for animals, particularly the saint pitying a wounded hind shot by the king, so that the king was impressed, is:  see full tale at That site shows the facade of this Abbey Church as is is reproduced piece by piece at the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

St-Gilles du Gard, Who's Who in the Crypt, Statues, Way of St. James

The crypt.  Always venture down.

This Abbey Church was a Benedictine monastery complex, dating from the 7th Century, with patron as the 8th Century Greek hermit (says tradition), Saint Gilles.

Among the memorials, tombs:

In the crypt: 

1.  The old.

1.1  Who is this?  Louis VIII.  King of France.  Is he here? Is this Louis IX, who set off the crusades from Aigues Mortes?

Louis VIII, of what was then ruler of a smaller area known as France, and who brought most of the crusading activity to a conclusion that was victorious for France in 1226, while hinterland manhunts continued until the fall of Montsegur in 1244 or so.
Or is it King Philip Augustus, the earlier king? Is this original, with original paint?  I understand medieval sculptures were often in color. Or does the red symbolize the blood shed.  Arguing against that is the absence of blood on the hands.

I am still working on identifying the painted statue. It is not old in appearance: is it  and then vandalized, or is the paint an approximation of an original, to attract of the tourist trade, or an authentic copy or what?  The crusader cross succests a king.

1.2. A crowned head above a tomb that appears to be a mere priest.  What is this?  More research needed.

1.3  Pope Clement IV.  He had been known as Guy Folcodius 1190 or 1200-1268. 

Pope Clement was born in this town. More important to the history of the area, he actively served Raymond VII in attacking anyone who disagreed with the instituti
onal church, leading to and into the Albigensian Crusades against French Cathar Christians who developed differing rituals, differing beliefs.  There are many sources in this area, see also

Politics of Pope Clement IV.  Pope Clement IV had doings earlier, before his Popehood, with the earlier Albigensian Crusade, but see no reference to that in this fine old church.  Watch the rewrite of history. 

The topic of victors' rewriting of history is exemplified here by the Catholic Church, who make no reference to their engaging entire armies over decades (even millenia) to exterminate their defined heretics.  At St-Gilles, see only the victors, no reference to the bloodshed settling nothing. The force merely led to more bloodshed, and the mindset extends to now.

This is an entire topic by itself, but at least see this -- who Guy Folcodius served:  Raymond VII, at

  • Why raise this issue here, at nice little St-Gilles du Gard? Raise it because the Albigensian Crusade, the Papal Crusade to kill off fellow Christians, Cathars who interpreted the same texts differently from Rome, was launched here as a pretext based on one murder in 1208 and extending until1244 with the fall of Montsegur.
  • Who benefited financially, politically and in dominance?  Who but the recipient of the vast confiscations of estates of the entire Languedoc, the Church. Launch Wikipedia for a start at

Meet the later Pope, who served Raymond VII, who killed the Cathars, who dared to interpret texts and scripture autonomously, in peace and with tolerance.  To the pyres, and so it continues with the legacy of kill off all who disagree.

1.4.  Pilgrim, of an upper class, see costume, sword, stance

Meanwhile, peaceful pilgrimages conduct their pilgrimages through this area and many other place in Europe, to Santiago de Compostela.  \

1.5 Pilgrim of the smallpeople class

This appears to be an ordinary Pilgrim on the Way of St. James, setting out with traditional hat and staff, for the ultimate arrival in Spain at Santiago de Compostela? Arles, about 40 miles north, was a known origination point for those medieval pilgrimages beginning in the 11th Century or so, that continue today. See map at Missing, however, is the traditional scallop shell signifying the pilgrimage status and intended to provide safe passage -- not seen here. Broader discussion at If this is a pilgrim, what is the book?

Pilgrim on Way of Saint James, statue, crypt of St. Gilles du Gard, France

2.  The new, Crypt memorial, St-Gilles du Gard

World War I memorial roster, St-Gilles du Gard.

Now:  where is the memorial to Raymond VII?  Although he was not a crowned king, he had the most blood on his hands.  Is that so?