The Legacy of the French Revolution in Arles

As a student of history, I’ve long been fascinated by the fanaticism of the French Revolution (1789), which challenged every aspect of French society with “the test of reason.” If something wasn’t logical, it was swept away. For example, the calendar — rather than 7-day weeks, with months of 30 or 31 days (not to mention the weird February thing) — was turned into 12 months of 30 days each (divided into three ten-day weeks), with five days left over for service to your country.

Also during the Revolution, churches were turned into “temples of reason.” I’d never actually seen a tangible sign of this. But recently in Arles — checking, fine-tuning, and beefing up my coverage of the town’s sights for our France guidebook — I stepped into St. Trophime Church in search of another dimension. In a side chapel was this faded painting from 1789: a triangle within a sunburst, celebrating reason rather than religion.

It’s so fascinating to actually see the layers of history here. Has anyone seen other examples of this in France?

St. Trophime Church in Arles, France


3 Replies to “The Legacy of the French Revolution in Arles”

  1. Rick and followers:

    Do you think our American Revolution inspired the French Revolution?

    T. T.

  2. As you well know,Rick, Arles is full of layers of history. Have you had the chance to visit the archaeological site just over the bridge in Triquetelle?

  3. Dear Rick.. You might have seen similar triangles in many of the centuries old churches in France. There is a pure golden one in the Kings apartment chapel in Versailles perfect condition.. right above the main alter, you can’t miss it.

    There’s also one in the town of Montreal, in the Aude, just south west of Carcassonne..recently spruced up for the benefit of tourism. The difference between those two and the one you have here (besides it’s having been desecrated) is that it’s missing the Divine Name in four Hebrew letters, smack dab in the middle. Today English speaking people pronounce the name Jehovah.

    Another identifying mark that this fresco most likely contained the name, are the golden rays proceeding from out the triangle, as well as the clouds containing it. All were very common to that era.

    There’s even a scarlet colored “alter cloth”, covering a table in front of and facing the alter, in St. Nazaire Basilica, in La Cite, the old town of Carcassonne. The triangle there, with the radiating rays and the name within, are embroidered meticulously with heavy silver thread.

    You’ll find this insignia, (known as the Tetragrammaton) in Hebrew, English, Norwegian, etcetera, still clearly seen and maintained, in many historic towns, houses and churches all over Europe.

    Hope you’ll be exploring more in the Carcassonne area this time around!

    Happy Travels!

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