Sunday, December 5, 2010

Halfway to Heaven

Add to Google Reader or HomepageWe are currently taking care of our friend’s dog while he is in England for the week. As we talked about places to walk with the dog, our neighbor Jane suggested a walk up to a beautiful little chapel located in the Drome – the county (French “department”) next to ours. We loaded up her car and then drove about 20 kilometers from here. As we got close, I could see the chapel St. Jean d’Ollon on top of a very high hill. We parked in the valley and started our climb.
The chapel, from the valley
The picture may not capture how spectacular it looks from the valley below, but the little yellow building to the left of the tree with its fall leaves is the chapel. The day was sunny but cold (when in the shade). We had to cross a small stream twice as we started up the hill. With the rains that we have had, the stream was pretty high, so we did our best to jump from big rock to big rock. The walk itself was fairly easy as the path circled the summit. Plus, Ellen had little Cesar – the very energetic English Cocker Spaniel – to pull her up the hill. 

Once at the top, the sun was warm and the vistas were awesome.

St. Jean d'Ollon
One can go around to the back of the chapel and enter a small room from which you can see the interior of the chapel.

According to information that I found when I looked up the chapel on Google, it was built in the 12th century and then renovated in the 19th century. I am always amazed by the craftsmanship and the feats of engineering of old buildings here. First, who decided that they should build a chapel on the top of the hill? (I am guessing that the person who chose the sight thought it would be nice to have a chapel halfway to heaven.) Second, did this person believe that it would be a good place for the congregation to gather for mass? Third, how did they manage to tote all of the building materials to the site? And, of course, how long did it take to construct the chapel? Pretty amazing.

It is equally amazing how often I use the word “spectacular” to describe the vistas. I have stood in a valley below a limestone cliff gleaming in white and gray and yellow and thought: “This must be the most beautiful spot in Provence.” Then I go another kilometer/turn another corner and think: “No, this must be the most beautiful spot in Provence.” Our friend, Brian talked about enjoying the art of the impressionists – especially those who lived and painted in Provence – but he thought that they must have used a lot of imagination in choosing the colors for their landscapes. Then, he came here and discovered that the colors are real!

Quelle belle région!


  1. Wonderful pictures of the chapel both inside and out. The chapel looks to be in pretty good shape. Do you have any information on its usage today? Or is it a preserved site that is not in general usage?

  2. It appears that the chapel is mostly a destination for hikers. The main doors are locked and the entry through the sacristy is barred with heavy iron bars (through which one can see the sanctuary).

  3. Its amazing that it got built in the first place but then it was renovated too in the 19th century. We will have to take a trip there. Great post.

  4. I must spend some more time in the Drome. That is absolutely gorgeous. You should go back in May/June when the lavender fields are in bloom. I bet the patchwork of purple dotting the landscape would be awesome! Glad you are having such a great time!