Cathédrale Saint-Trophime of Arles (Dennis Aubrey)

Constructed in the late 11th Century, the great Romanesque cathedral of Saint Trophime in Arles has endured the profanations of war, religious disputes, revolutions, and the ravages of time. The church survived relatively untouched during the turmoil of the French Revolution where it was converted to a Temple of Reason. What remains is one of the best preserved examples of Provençal Romanesque architecture, a living breathing church of striking beauty. The cloisters and the church were classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1981.

The Cathédrale Saint-Trophime dominates the Place de la République in the center of downtown Arles. The 12th Century western portal is considered one of the crowning achievements of southern Romanesque art and benefits from a significant restoration in 1988-1996. Illustrating the Last Judgment, the souls are sent on a journey of damnation or salvation. The superb tympanum of Christ in Majesty dominates the center of the ensemble.

Famous western portal, Cathédrale Saint-Trophime, Arles (Photo by Dennis Aubrey)

PJ and I shot Saint Trophime on an early May morning. The church was empty and we could quietly absorb the beauty of the structure. The great barrel vaulted nave and the gorgeous soaring side aisles particularly captivated me.

The nave of Cathédrale Saint-Trophime (Photo by Dennis Aubrey)

Saint Trophime is a fine example of a basilica style church with its nave with side aisles, clerestory windows, and an apse at one end. The cloister on the south side reinforces the Roman origins of this church style.

North side aisle of Cathédrale Saint-Trophime (Photo by PJ McKey)

The interior of Saint Trophime lacks the sculptural decoration that many admire in Romanesque churches, but that may be why we admire it so much. It is possible to concentrate on the purity of the line and the austere transcendence of the architecture itself. Considering that Saint Trophime was the starting point of the Via Tolosana of the Santiago de Compostella pilgrimage, one would have thought that there would have been more ornamention, but perhaps perfection is adornment enough.

The nave and clerestory of the Cathédrale Saint-Trophime (Photo by Dennis Aubrey)

The chancel reminds us that Saint Trophime was a house of worship, the seat of a bishopric, and the place of ritual. Here we see that the rites of the church represented the canon of belief of the religion itself.

Chancel of Cathédrale Saint-Trophime (Photo by PJ McKey)

All that was missing at San Trophime that May morning was the scented cloud of incense and the melodic counterpoint of Gregorian singing, and the imagination even provided those.

South transcept of Cathédrale Saint-Trophime (Photo by PJ McKey)

Location: Click this link to see the location on our custom Google Map.

4 responses to “Cathédrale Saint-Trophime of Arles (Dennis Aubrey)

  1. Magnificent photographs! Imagaine being one of the stone masons or marble artists – your focused work would be admired and revered through the ages of civilization, times of peace and war, peace and war, yet survive mightily onward through time. Hallowed halls of hope, doorways to the divine.

  2. Beautiful shots. Was debating whether to include Saint Trophime in our day visit to Arles this year as we will be on a fairly tight time schedule, but these amazing shots have convinced me 🙂

    • Saint Trophime is superb, Vivien. And Arles is a very small city – Saint Trophime is walking distance from the arena. Also, Les Alyscamps is just south of town outside the city walls and contains the Église Saint-Honorat. Loads of wonderful stuff in the region, great food. From what I’ve seen of your blog, you’ll have a great time. I look forward to seeing the results.

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