Friday, August 16, 2013

Avignon - Palace of the Popes. Occupation After the Albigensian Crusades

 The Palace of the Popes.
The Dark Side of the Roman Catholic Occupation after the Albigensian Crusades

The Church Builds Fortresses 

The Vatican moves. By the 1300's, after defeating the Languedoc Cathars in the Church's Albigensian Crusade (1209-1255 or so), the Roman Church found itself as planned with great riches, territory.  It had to move by the 1300's out of the Vatican at Rome, to solidify its new holdings in France after the Albigensian Crusade.  How else to oversee all the new turf, property -- all of the Languedoc by now -- and all the investment and riches from confiscating all the estates of the prosperous but non-dogmatic Languedoc Cathars (Albigensians).  The touristy alternate background for the move is a simple one:  In 1309, a French Pope was elected, Clement V, and he merely decided he wanted to move.  See Financial Times Sept.28-29, 2013 (this an update) at Travel section p.9. How did he finance it, ye Financial Times? On the backs of the Albigensians, wealth confiscated.  Take another look, FT, this time not with a commercial tour group. Is that reasonable?

The Cathars had been defeated, killed individually, and burned in mass pyres because they disagreed with forced dogma, in that crusade, 1209-1255 or so.  See, the Albigensian Crusade. 

Rome found itself too far away to impose rule and monitor use of funds and property; and many local governing groups and nobles in France had fiercely opposed the Crusade against France's own people, who had lived peacefully for centuries, and prospered.  How to beat back the rage. Move the Vatican and force it.

For the Pope, a militant presence was needed in France itself, the seat of the heresy that dared to challenge the institutional interpretation of religious power matters. See the Albigensians at

See how the move of Rome to Avignon meant building a fortress, not a religious presence.  Approach by luck when the light is right at sunset, and click!  How wonderful Oz is.  Seven popes resided here, see, each apparently more corrupt than the one before.  After all, there was all of the South of France, the Languedoc, in practical terms, now in their coffers. Who can blame them?

See the dark side.  Same building.  There were many who blamed.  And the Church responded by building castles, fortresses that it called churches, and religious institution supports.  

Avignon, Palace of the Popes, the morning after

If you arrive in Avignon at sunset, let your son out of the car with his camera, holler -- come back here and I will pick you up!  And hope you can link up.  Dan is travel-smart.  He can retrace his steps, knows what to do, and waits.  Aah.  Victory!

You will indeed get very nice pictures at sunset.  If that is all you see, have you seen enough?

Dogma wars.  Now see, after that tiny crucifix on the wall, picture above, that is to tell you that this is a religious site,  who towers over a similar crucifix scene a little farther down the yard.  Mary!  Huge!  Towers over Jesus and whatever was happening on Calvary.  This was installed in the 19th Century, with new dogma. 

In 1854, the doctrine of Immaculate Conception entered, Pope Pius IX, and that triggered the placement of Mary above Jesus.  

The irony is that the Cathars freely set women in positions of religious authority, and that was anathema to Rome, see this interesting site,    

Has Mary in spirit won after all?

Pont du Gard - The Aqueduct of Nimes Crosses the Gard (Gardon) River

After Avignon, on way to La Couvertoirade

Vers Pont du Gard. Near the Pont du Gard, the Bridge of the Gard (River).  This is an ancient aqueduct over the Gard River (sometimes called the Gardon River) and was constructed by the Romans before the Christian era.  Its length in total, is about 31 miles, roughly - three levels or tiers, and some 160 feet high 

This is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Nimes enjoyed 44,000,000 gallons of water daily from this aqueduct.

Have a swim. And a hike to the underground.  It crosses the gorge here, and then reverts to its mostly underground route from Uzes, a Roman colony then, to Nimes.  This is the highest of the Roman aqueduct bridges.  Its precision: over its 31 miles, it descends slowly by only 17 feet. At the bridge here, it descends by less than an inch.

Now: time for kayaking.  There is a large visitor center here, with displays, food. See

By the 4th Century, it had become more and more clogged, and finally, with lack of upkeep, stopped functioning in the 6th Century.  Then it became a toll bridge.

Beaucaire. Appian Way. After Pont du Gard, on Way to La Couvertoirade

Appian Way, gateway ruin, France, near Pont du Gard

The vast Pont du Gard is not the only echo of Rome here.  There are vestiges of the great Roman Appian Way, roads leading to ancient Rome, remain.  This half-gateway now leads to Mas de Roustan, a nice17th Century property, 3 bedrooms, rent it all. Do a search.  We did not go in.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Arles. No Van Gogh left in Arles. Lots of Rome

You say you have visions of Van Gogh and the sunlight in Arles? Abandon hope. Van Gogh is not here. No Van Gogh left in Arles. But the Romans remain. Stop, amble, have lunch and fun despite the absence of Vincent. You will see more of Van Gogh in the Netherlands, Amsterdam, and elsewhere because there is not even a display here. But there is Daniel.

Dan is there, to the center left.

Act II, Scene II.

Then walk over to the amphitheater.

Here is the size of the Roman amphitheater here, 136x107m, compared to the Colisseum, Rome at 188x156m.  Not bad.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Arles. Luma Foundation Enlivens a Prior Disappointment

Arles. The City of No Van Gogh now may be City of Go Van Gogh. 

An updated 2014 post now relocated back with other Arles. Go to Arles and expect Van Gogh treasures, perhaps a walkabout where his haunts were. None such. Not even a fake but evocative field of sunflowers.  Find Roman ruins, yes, but Roman ruins tend to sameness after several years of travel around the Mediterranean and other Empire places.

Arles may now be emerging from its artistic doldrum.

The Financial Times reports on a new Frank Gehry building, with its characteristic swoops and slides, angles and impossibles, in its article, Arles and the Luma Foundation, see  The Foundation fostered an arts and environmental issue campus on 20 acres of what had been a railroad repair spot. The Gehry focal point will house spaces for seminars, exhibits, and aroused some opposition for its great height in a city of low buildings, and where others need renovation.

Still, a place where Van Gogh paintings can be seen right in Arles, even if on a rotating basis and modest in size of exhibit, is welcome. The intent of the project is to attract the creative.