Abandoned or Full of Life (Abandonné ou plein de vie)
Churches are still prevalent in Europe, in their physical presence at the top of the hills and en l'ancienne centre ville. The St Martin bell tower in Soreze was completed in 1512 and, though the church was destroyed during the religious war between the Catholics and Protestants in 1573, the tower was saved as a watchtower and its stone shell is an identifying emblem of Soreze.
As people streamed up the slope to the steps of the Notre Dame de la Paix parish church on this Saturday before Easter bringing bunches of boxwood and olive branches to be blessed for Palm Sunday, you could feel the pull of the old beliefs.
My good friend S is visiting from the UK and I took her down the road to the Abbaye d’En Calcat in Dourgne to hear the chanting of forty white robed monks. We hadn’t anticipated the high endurance Mass, nor the turn out of hundreds of people with more branches in hand.
That hour at the abbey gave rise to strong auditory memories: voices with the sonorous reverberation of well-forged bells, the catholic story of Easter made mysterious again in French, the tintinnabulation of chain against thurible as incense perfumes the air, the coughing of old smokers, the pat pat pat of little boy feet at the back of the church, “La paix soit avec vous.” (Peace be with you.) from the strangers in the pew next to us.
Our afternoon was spent at the first “vide grenier” (literally “empty the attic” - flea market) of the season around the square in the nearby village of Saint Félix Lauragais. After surveying the booths of most of the vendors, I was getting a little hot in the bright sunlight.
I noticed the church was open and stepped in to get a look. The choir and organist were warming up for an evening performance. I sat and soaked in the notes and cool air falling from the gothic stone vault.
It was a weekend blessed with friendship, sun and peaceful sounds.