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.