An Afternoon in Arles

Vincent van Gogh: Starry Night Over the Rhone ...

Vincent van Gogh: Starry Night Over the Rhone Arles, September 1888 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My friends and I took a short walk around central Arles one afternoon. This beautiful town was founded on the Rhône River around 800 BCE and eventually conquered by the Roman in 123 BCE. The site was a popular vacation place various Roman emperors. As early as 225 CE, it became a location for early Christian communities, and an important Bishopric promoted Christianity through Gaul.

The Arena in Arles, minus 2000 years of grime

Unfortunately, during the Dark and Middle Ages, they also ‘mined’ many of the Roman structures, such as the theater and the baths, for stone to build later churches, so many of the ancient sites are but a shadow of their original selves.

The Arena on the uncleaned side

The arena was hosting a student gathering, so rather than entering we walked around the circumference. Both it and the Theater were closed for cleaning – by blasting with dry ice, I found out later. This method has the benefits of removing only the grime, and not damaging the stone as much as sand-blasting would, to say nothing of the mess to clean up afterwards. The white stone in the photograph is the side that has been finished, while the uncleaned side still looks black (like in my photos of the arena in Nimes.

Judgement Day. The damned are approaching the throne to find their destiny. Will it be Heaven, or Hell?

I think the sign is French for “Attack of the Zombie Angels”

We also went into the church St-Trophime, which is the local “Relics R Us”, the most notable relic being some of the actual bones of the actual first Christian martyr St. Stephen! (His burial site was “discovered” in 415 CE by a priest who received dreams about the location. That happened a lot back then.) We also spotted an Illuminati symbol on one wall. We were ushered out by a priest for a funeral (something that happened to us more than once).

I used my old phone to take this, without light. It was very dark in the church, no doubt to protect the relics. Many of these were labeled, but in rather small print and of course in French. One of these contains bones of St. Stephen, the first martyr, who was stoned to death.

Vincent van Gogh lived in Arles for around a year and painted over 300 paintings, although none of them are actually located in this city. A few of his most famous, such as Starry Night over Rhone, and his cafe scene, were painted here. A fun episode of Doctor Who, “Vincent and the Doctor” is about this time period.

As was the case in most towns, the exchange rate meant restaurants were very expensive, but we refreshed ourselves outside a corner Tabac, with beers and wine.     

Beer break

City fountain, Arles

Always remember to look up when touring a city. Here, a French housewife spies on us.

Categories: Art, History, Travel

Tags: , , , , ,

4 replies

  1. What an interesting post! We went to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, and saw Starry Night in New York last year. Awesome. Hey, Happy New Year!

  2. I enjoyed this post. Very interesting and learned things I didn’t know. Keep it up.

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