Thursday, June 05, 2008


Arles, France is one of my favorite places in all of France. It is the home of Vincent van Gogh and the Roman Colosseum. It is known for its bull fighting and many books shops. But what draws me to Arles, time and time again is the church of St. Trophime and its attached cloister.
St. Trophime is the location of the 4th century Council of Arles where the date for Easter was set and discussion about the validity of baptism at the hands of apostates was debated. But its also been the place where I began ruminating on the nature of sacred place. In each of our five visits to France we have made a day-long pilgrimage to St. Trophime to allow me the time to wander around with my camera and notebook, mulling on the nature of sacred place; what makes one place more sacred than another? What are the elements that come together to form the sacred?
This was the original discipline for my sabbatical leave in 2000 and turned into a report that morphed into a paper that is now on the verge of becoming a book (I hope). Each night while here, I sit at a table on our balcony facing the hills as the light fades and I write and re-write.
But today’s visit was somewhat sad. The cloister was in deep disarray and disrepair. Age corroded statues were covered with protective paper tape and the center garden of the cloister had been dug up and left like an overused schoolyard. The cloister we visited in Le Puy, though cold and rainy, was far more cared for and beautiful.
But the day was not wasted. We had a marvelous outdoor lunch on some square in the city and then went through a modern art show of Christian Lacroix designer fashions set in a palace formerly used by the Knights of Malta. These weird (I’m not a Designer Runway fan) dresses were set in rooms along with modern and ancient art work. Martha had a blast. I was confused.
Our trip home was to a glorious display of clouds over the Cevennol mountains to the strains of my i-pod set on shuffle. After a pasta dinner we took a walk through the village and I got back to writing till about 10:00 pm.


At 7:53 AM , Blogger Maria Dodson said...

Hi Don,
I've been reading your blog for over a year now and I thought I'd take this opportunity to let you know how much I appreciate it. I would point to this blog as an example to other ministers wanting to use this medium to share who they are and what's going on in thier lives with a larger community. If you are ever in Portland come visit us at Irvington Covenant!
P.S. Your photos of these sacred spaces are quite wonderful! I've spent some time in Europe and visited several churches like these. Your photos seem to capture the feeling of the place.

At 7:57 AM , Blogger Maria Dodson said...

Oops, I meant sacred PLACES! :)


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