Saint-Paul de Vence is a village in southeastern France. It is one of the most beautiful villages in Provence. Saint-Paul was founded in the 9th century which makes it one of the oldest medieval towns in the French Riviera.
The exceptional light and quality of life has inspired famous artists, painters, writers and poets. There are many charming shops and art galleries selling unique items in this lovely town.
This is a golden Vino con Vista opportunity. Stop at one of the cafes for lunch and have some chilled Cotes de Provence Rose wine with your “Plat du Jour”. This wine region is between Nice and Aix-en-Provence. Try some Domaine Gavoty or Domaine Richeaume.
Marc Chagall lived in Saint-Paul from 1966 to 1985. You can visit the artist’s grave in the cemetery. Saint-Paul has always promoted art and creativity. Some of the other well known artists who flocked to Saint-Paul include: Matisse, Soutine, Renoir, Miró, Signac and Modigliani. The galleries and shops are filled with artistic displays and inspired merchandise.
The community of artists have sponsored well-known modern and contemporary art museums and galleries including Fondation Maeght, a museum dedicated to 20th century modern and contemporary art. The Foundation is situated in a garden decorated with outdoor sculptures and exhibits works of Joan Miro and Alberto Giacometti. In July 1964, the Fondation Maeght was inaugurated by André Malraux. It was the joint creation of Aimé and Marguerite Maeght. http://www.fondation-maeght.com/
Scrutinize the village map as you enter the town through the Vence Gate (Porte de Vence). Pay attention to the “Historic Monument” markers as you stroll within the ramparts and meander through the charming maze of streets http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1-JDtj6iHA&feature=fvsr.
The love the Provencal style Grande fountain on Rue Grande. Rue Grande is a former Roman Road. The fountain was built by Martin Melchior, a stonemason in the village. It is one of the most famous fountains in France and it has inspired many painters and photographers.
The Collegial Church of the Conversion of St. Paul was erected in the 12th century in early Gothic style and is dominated by its square bell-tower that was reconstructed in 1740. The church occupies the highest point of the village. It houses some treasures including twelfth century gold pieces, reliquaries and a scroll signed by King Henry III. It also contains the relics of St. Clement. The church was originally designed in the style of a basilica, with a semi-circular apse and a single nave. The chevet and the arched beams in the main nave date from the beginning of the 14th century.
The entrance leads to four chapels: St. Clement (a masterpiece of baroque art), St. Mathew, the Chapel of Mary of the Rosary and the Chapel of the Souls in Purgatory with an altar from 1677. The church’s treasures include precious items of silverware, reliquaries and a parchment dating from 1588. In the Chapel of Saint Clement, there is a beautiful painting of St-Catherine of Alexandria in a magnificent red cloak with her sword by Tintoretto.
I was also impressed with the lovely light fixture that reminded me of Gaudi’s Altar of Christ ascending into Heaven in the Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona. I wonder if this was the inspiration for the altar in Barcelona?
Some of the other sacred churches are : (1) Saint-Michel (12th century) located within the cemetery; (2) Sainte-Claire Chapel (16th century) dedicated to the patron saint of Saint-Paul, standing opposite the entrance to the village; (3) Notre-Dame de la Gardette (also called Chapelle Saint-Georges) gets its name from a place that served as a refuge for the inhabitants during the Middle Ages; (4) The Chapel of Saint-Charles and Saint-Claude chapel (17th century); (5) the Chapelle des Pénitents with an amazing three-sided bell-tower, dating from the 17th century is located between the Place de l’Eglise and Rue Cassette. In front of the Chapelle Saint-Charles-Saint-Claude there is a painting by Marc Chagall “Le couple au-desssus de Saint-Paul” which depicts a couple embracing above the town with a bouquet of flowers. In front of the chapel Notre-Dame de la Gardette you will find another Marc Chagall painting “La Table devant le Village” with a table set in front of the town.
A Roman aqueduct can still be seen from the chapel circuit. Supported by brick and limestone arches, the aqueduct channelled water from natural springs to the mills and washhouses. Queen Jeanne, Countess of Provence, gave her permission for the community of Saint-Paul to use the water in 1349.
Dr. EveAnn Lovero writes Travel Guides @ www.vino-con-vista.com