A mystical Place – Notre Dame des Fontaines


Although my friends had spoken about the enchanting and mystical Notre Dame des Fontaines, nothing could  have quite prepared me for this extraordinary little 12th century church tucked away in a small and intimate valley.    It is situated above sacred springs that have been a place of pilgrimage long before Christianity – it invites visitors to enter.

The exterior gives no indication of what is to be found inside.


I was aware that the Church housed frescoes painted during the 15th century by artist/priest Giovani Canavesio, but nothing could have quite prepared me for what I was about to see.

Covering all walls the frescoes depict scenes from the The Passion of Christ.     No words can  describe the depth of feeling that comes from seeing these works.

Since visiting Notre Dame des Fontaines, I have tried to imagine the intensity of passion and dedication  of a man like Giovani Canavesio.

In this quiet beautiful place, far removed from the madding crowds, he has given humanity an example of what it is to be truly committed to a lifetime of service and devotion.

I would love to see a beautifully crafted film based on the life of Giovani Canavesio.

Frescoes inside Notre Dame des Fontaines. 


Sitting on the Italian/French borders in the magnificent Alpes-Maritimes region, it is remarkable that the Church has survived the centuries, including – the two world wars.      Given that we are being reminded today of the propensity for volcanic activity in that part of the world, amazing that it has survived natural disasters.

Looking up at one of the windows outside the church.


It was also a place to reveal a new clue.       The lovely woman giving help and information to visitors, was named Myriam.     Just before we left, I mentioned that I thought she would be a very good subject for a portrait.


When I gave her a hummingbird card, she immediately told me about a man called Pier Rabhi – who runs the Association le Calibre – (Hummingbird Association).    Given that the hummingbird symbolises for me all that is unseen in our world, it seemed only fitting that I would meet this woman in such a mystical place.

Gareth and Myriam looking down onto the springs.


It would take a lifetime of study to learn about the history of the Church and the remarkable frescoes it houses.      There is a book, ‘Painter and Priest’ – by Veronique Piesch – published by the University of Chicago Press – one that I hope to read.

When visiting a museum or place of great interest I can only take in and digest one exhibition at a time….and so after leaving the Church, and stopping briefly in the town of La Brigue, (another very interesting place) we returned to Saorge where we had a lovely lunch.

Outside of La Petite Epicure – on a beautiful autumn day.      One of those lovely relaxing lunches with good company,  food and conversation.      


Meeting cats and dogs is as important to me as meeting human beings, and so I was delighted that this little feline angel joined us at La Petite Epicure:)


Following on from meeting Myriam ….I leave you with these rather ethereal hummingbirds/Colibri.


More about Saorge along with sketches in my next post.

A Bientôt




35 thoughts on “A mystical Place – Notre Dame des Fontaines

  1. First Night Design

    I can quite understand why you were unprepared. Exquisite. And the convivial photographs with all that sun, and your hummingbirds to boot, has brightened a late afternoon where the dark has come far too quickly. Keep smiling. xx

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      So pleased that this brightened your day….I would love to return to this place so that I can spend more time in the Church simply contemplating the beauty and wonder of it all. I keep imagining the young artist/priest at work. Hope you have a wonderful day..I am off to give a workshop. Janet. xx

  2. Timi Townsend

    Oh, those frescoes! Amazing! I will have to look up Giovani Canavesio. It is also amazing how well-preserved the frescoes are, as well as the building they are in. A triumph for history.

    And I love the kitty! And of course the magical calibri–these do seem particularly ethereal, indeed! 🙂

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      The frescoes are so well preserved because the church is kept in darkness….To view the frescoes we used torches, but of course because it was a bright sunny day, there was enough light through the high small windows for me to take photographs. Flashes were not allowed. It is a wonder to see something so very well preserved, and in the middle of the most exquisite landscape…
      Thought you might like the kitty kat. Thank you, Timi – and hope you have a lovely day and week ahead…janet. 🙂

  3. olganm

    What a lovely place indeed! It speaks of spirituality and true inspiration. And it seems you were right about the place speaking to you, the guide, the colibri society… (They are colibrís in Spanish…) Truly magical. Thanks!

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Good morning Olga…yes, definitely magic in the air….and a place I do want to return to….hopefully down the road for an extended period of time. Hope you have a lovely weekend. Janet:)x

  4. gini

    Again, I traveled where I had not even dreamed of. It is quite soulful and peaceful to read . You shine as you paint but even now in your words you capture the essence of the day. You have sharpened your senses and I’m so happy you share. I love you Janet… ❤ g

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Good morning dear Gini…You are so right about sharpening senses….even after having returned for a couple of weeks, I can still savour the very air of the place. It is my hope that in the future I will be able to spend an extended period of time there…meanwhile, I think of you in Maine in a place where your sense are also sharpened every day:) Thank you so much for your beautiful comment….janet. xx

  5. Roxie

    Truly soulful and peace-filled images, as gini said.What always amazes me is how cats’ expressions are universal!
    I love the varied scenery, art and people you’ve captured here!

  6. Jet Eliot

    I thoroughly enjoyed this visit to the church and your mellow smile-filled lunch afterwards, Janet. The inside of the church astounded me too, and I can only imagine how glorious it must be to see in person. Thank you for sharing the beauties of life and the celebration of passion here — always a supreme pleasure.

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Good morning Jet, – this is a place and area I hope to revisit again and again..there is .so much to take in. I have awoken to a gloriously sunny morning in london with a hard frost, which I always enjoy. Sunday is my day to hang loose, watercolour paint, take a walk and catch up with some very good BBC dramas I have missed during the week:) Hope you have a lovely weekend…janet.

  7. Mary

    This was extraordinary and a true beauty bathed in sunlight. The ambiance, art and historical nature of the building as nothing short of remarkable. The connection to hummingbirds, well it symbolizes to me that you were meant to be in this very special place ~ you’ve given me chills Janet.

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Good morning Mary – When Myriam told me about the hummingbird connection, I also had chills:) The whole day was very special…and I sincerely hope to return to the area and to this Chapel again soon. In our mad mad world, it’s wonderful to remember that there are still many remote and beautiful places to remind us of what really counts on this earth. janet:)

  8. inesephoto

    Janet, I haven’t been around for a while, and have a number of fantastic posts to read 🙂 This one put a smile on my face for the rest of the day 🙂 Beautiful sunny photograph, beautiful smiling people, a gorgeous cat and, of course, hummingbirds 🙂 Thank you for sharing positive energy.

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Good morning, So lovely to see you back here….I so enjoyed visiting Saorge and look forward to further visits in the future. A magical place:) Wishing you a beautiful day filled with light and creativity…janet. xx


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