Friday, January 13, 2012

Little World Views - Les Oratoires

When wandering around the sweet ville of Aix en Provence (and other villes in this fine region), you might often see a little niche perched high up on a corner or face of a building housing a saint or protector, like the one in this image.

Les Oratoires, or the oratories (from the Latin, to pray), began to pop up at the end of the Middle Ages to serve as places where people could ask God for protection of their families, their homes, their harvests, their country, their town population, their travelers or fellow citizens against illness, plague, accidents, drought, death of animals or natural disasters.  They also served as places where people could offer thanks for healing that had been bestowed.

Back in the day, each disaster was considered to be punishment from God.  When the churches were closed, the people stayed home, but at their window - or nearby - were  les oratoires (illuminated at dusk to offer 7/24 comfort) where the faithful could collect their thoughts and their wishes and send up prayers that they might be protected through whatever challenge they faced.

Aix en Provence heads the list as the town with the most oratoires, coming in at around ninety.  Their numbers flourished during the Baroque period (17th and 18th centuries).  During the French Revolution, many were destroyed and it wasn't until the 19th century that they began being restored and their residents returned to their rightful niches.

Some are technically designated to protect the buildings while others are assigned to protect the population...and so far, I can't tell one from another.  But I like that they are there.

Happy Friday!  13 is a lucky number in France!


*a curtsy to the Aix Office de Tourisme for the information on Les Oratoires.


déjà pseu said...

Beautiful photograph! We're hoping to visit Aix in mid-April, am taking notes.

la fourchette said...

merci! You're headed to Aix!? Keep me posted as to your plans and let me know if you need anything from this side of the pond during the planning stage. Might we consider an apero to compare blog notes (or scarf tips, oh Scarf Guru)?! Could be fun!

donna said...

i really like this particular pic....first because i adore the whole concept of Les Oratoires.....i could stare looking UP for hours, looking for them.....secondly the little bit of gray to blue on the right adds charm and perspective...from a composition point of view this pic has great appeal....the angle , the coloring, just a hint of has it all

déjà pseu said...

Oh, I would LOVE to meet up for an apero! And yes, we need some guidance with the planning; we've never been there before.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful capture, Leslie. The more I see your black and white photos the more I love them! Very nice!

I love the story behind the oratories. Somehow, it makes a person feel safe to think there is someone who is keeping watch over them. This is wonderful piece of history.

Happy Friday the 13th!

Anonymous said...

Madame LER,

RE: "Les Oratoires" having the formulas (mantras) for connecting to the saints and the sages in the divine for protecction, guidance, and healing can be most useful!!!!

BYW, it is 73 F today in La Jolla.

Have a great weekend with Bodhi.

Bubba's Person

la fourchette said...

donna, why thank you, m'dear! what an eye you have. those details are exactly why i'm a drag to hang out with when i'm shooting...ask my sister: paris, steps of montmartre, two hours framing shot after shot for just the right angle/light/shadow. and fortunately for me, i *love* the process as much as the results...i'm also fortunate that my sister loves me enough to accept my little that one.

Kris, awwww...shucks...thank you very much. (insert curtsy here)

I totally agree about that feeling safe with saints and sages at every corner...or almost!

BP, It's always good to have a local connection to the divine - I couldn't agree more! Temps here have dropped! It feels really weird to say that our highs are in the low 50's and that's mild for the season - but there it is. Still seems cold to this California girl...but I'm really kind of digging the seasons these days...miss my ocean but digging the seasons.

bon weekend à tous!

Elizabeth Eiffel said...

I will look up more often in provincial villages now! Thank you for your delightful photo and snippet of history.
Bon weekend.

la fourchette said...

déjà pseu, tried to send you a message but it bounced back...mostly to say 'yippppeee!' email is in the profile. Let me know how I can help as your plan unfolds!

Elizabeth Eiffel, always good to keep looking up...if not for les oratoires, then for the flocks of noisy birds that fly overhead in the evenings in these parts! bien venue! et bon weekend egalement...

laura said...

Beautiful photograph and great explanation! I feel like I learned something new about French culture.

la fourchette said...

laura, thank you, m'dear. I always love learning these little gems about this place. The history and practices here are so rich - it takes time for layers to be revealed...but a very delightful process, to be sure. Hope you are well and enjoying your time across the miles.

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