I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Monday, 3 November 2008

Don't Tell The Pope!




I was keen to reach Montpellier which was a 2 day walk away. After passing through Gallargues-le-Montueux and Villetelle, I deviated in Vendargues very slightly from the purist path (don't tell the Pope!) by taking first a bus then a tram for a few kilometres through Montpellier's suburbs.

I emerged blinking from the tram - which had been painted all over with flowers. Montpellier lay proudly before me, the golden-white stone of its monuments and buildings gleaming brightly in the strong Languedoc sunshine. It's a very fine city, and I fell in love with it at once. The city where the sun never sleeps, according to the hand-outs in the tourist office.

That evening and all the next morning I explored it thoroughly: the Church of Saint-Roch (1st pic), the Porte du Peyrou (2nd pic), the Saint-Clement Aqueduct (3rd pic), the Cathedral of Saint-Pierre (4th pic). During the Catholic-Protestant wars the Protestants unusually came off rather well in Montpellier, and there's a strong Protestant presence even today (don't tell the Pope!)

From a pilgrim perspective, although lots of Catholic artefacts have been destroyed, various depictions of Saint-Roch, patron saint of pilgrims, remain. (Saint-Roch was born in Montpellier; I've written about him before here.) In the Church of Saint-Roch you can see him in 2 stained glass windows - on one he's with the faithful dog which brought him bread during his self-imposed quarantine as a plague victim. There are also 2 statues - one in polychrome and one in marble. And in the Cathedral of Saint-Pierre he's to be found in a stained glass window, in a painting and as a sculpture.

The pilgrim hostel here was very friendly. In the traditional way it relied on donations only. For our evening meal I prepared in the kitchen a salade niçoise - which, on reflection, may have been a little too bold. A question of coals to Newcastle? Luckily no French pilgrims were there to put me right! I left Montpellier very reluctantly after lunch the next day. What a wonderful, vibrant city...

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