The first year that PJ and I went together to France to photograph churches and the vierges romanes, we visited the abbey at Fontenay. PJ immediately fell in love with cloisters and I fell in love with this picture of her sketching.
She has always shown a great affinity for photographing the patterns in cloisters, from times that she used a long lens to compress the columns …
… to her ability to convey the peace and serenity of the enclosed spaces.
Last year we decided to return to Arles to photograph at one of our favorite churches, the Cathédrale Saint Trophime. We have done a creditable job photographing the interior from a trip a few years ago, but we didn’t have time to work in the cloister. We went back last May and PJ shot the cloister while I did a detailed study of the magnificent western façade. Here are a few examples of her work on that sunny Provençal day.
The first shot is from above the cloister where we can see the 12th century clocher in the distance, three stories high and decorated with Lombard bands. As in most churches, the cloisters are found on the south side of the nave, but they are separated from the church by an area that used to be part of the archbishop’s palace. The cloister consists of two Romanesque and two Gothic galleries. PJ’s photos concentrate on the Romanesque galleries, which are more interesting.
The Romanesque galleries have triple sets of slender columns topped with ornately carved historiated capitals depicting Old and New Testament stories. At the corners and in the center of each gallery are piers featuring full size sculptures of saints and bishops with bas-relief friezes between the corner pieces. As might be expected from a cathedral with such a superbly sculpted west façade, the carving in the cloister is also masterful.
The carved column piers also depict biblical and historical events. This selection shows Saint Stephen surrounded by Saint Andrew on the left and Saint Paul on the right carrying a scroll. In the space between Stephen and Paul is a frieze showing the resurrection of Christ.
Another pier ensemble illustrates the story of Jesus meeting the two followers at Emmaus in Luke 24:13-35. In this shot, Jesus is on the left, and his follower is on the right, carrying the signs of pilgrimage, including the scallop shell. We can see the three pairs of columns in the background.
The next shot features one of the pier statues, in this case, Saint Peter, who is actually flanking Saint Trophime in the ensemble. Notice the superbly carved capitals in the background.
Because of the construction going on in the cloister while PJ was working, we were not able to spend the time to photograph the details of all the capitals as we normally would. This gives us, of course, a reason to return to Arles for yet another visit to the Cathédrale Saint Trophime.
Location: Click this link to see the location on our custom Google Map.