Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Hidden beauty

The cloisters beside the Cathedral of Saint Leonce in Fréjus.
When you catch your train at the Nice Railway Station (Gare Nice Ville) on your way to Les Arcs-sur-Argens, you can look forward to a spectacular journey along the coast.

You will travel through Antibes, Juan Les Pins, Cannes after which the coast is bordered by the spectacular and jagged red-earth Esterel mountains.

On the other side you reach St Raphael and just a few kilometres further on, the old Roman town of Fréjus.

Fréjus is the last stop before Les Arcs and close enough for many absorbing day trips from your destination.

The cloisters from the second storey.
As well as the ancient - and recently restored - Roman arena, where they once held bull fights and now hold spectacular music concerts, there is the old town to explore including the Saint Leonce cathedral and medieval cloisters.

The cloisters were built in the 13th century and the ceilings were made of larch wood from the alpine regions as it was said never to rot.

These ceilings were decorated with an amazing array of tiny paintings of mythical beasts and other creatures.

These original medieval designs painted on the ceiling of the ground floor cloisters, have been preserved.
Painted on blue and red backgrounds, the pictures depict various themes including the religious - saints, bishops, angels; daily life - tradesmen, prominent citizens, troubadours; and the bestiary - fantasy creatures such as dragons, hybrid human and animal beings and animals.

Modern representations of the paintings that adorn the ceiling of the cloisters.
There were many such ceilings in the Middle Ages, but very few remain.

In Fréjus, 300 of the original 1200 small paintings can still be identified. A room off the cloisters has a fascinating film and history panels showing how the ceiling was originally built and painted, the types of paints used and its restoration.

I have spoken before about my love of medieval designs, strange beasts and the earth colours used at that time, but just visiting the cloisters for the architecture and sense of peace - away from the bustle of the town centre outside, is well worth it.

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