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Route n°9 : Around Saint Gabriel Chapel
Uncover Tarascon’s hidden treasure just outside town. This route will help you find it and will guide you around rural chapels nestled in the heart of nature.
► Saint Gabriel’s site – Saint Gabriel’s quarter
Free entry to the site but subject to restrictions in the “red area” in summer.
Chapel keys available on request from the Château Royal de Provence.
The chapel, on the ancient site of the Ernaginum, at the crossroads of the Agrippan and Domitian roads, then became a medieval fortress. The 12th century Saint Gabriel’s Chapel and the former 13th century castle are testament to the area’s prestigious past. A masterpiece of southern French Romanesque art, the chapel treats its visitors to a beautifully sculpted and decorated exterior.
The chapel’s façade was inspired by the Early Empire’s style. It dates back to 1180 as we can tell from its circular window with the arch on the west portal of Saint Paul Trois Châteaux Cathedral.
Look up to see an original archivolt surrounding a circular window decorated with leaves and masks and flanked by symbols of the Four Evangelists: John (eagle), Matthew (man), Luke (bull) and Mark (lion), whose layout (with the symbol of John at the top) is reminiscent of the Carolingian period.
The lower part pays homage to Saint Gabriel. A great arch covers the door framed by two columns topped by a triangular pediment and finished with the Paschal Lamb. The triangular pediment rests on two Corinthian chapters decorated with two lines of thorny leaves. On the pediment itself, the sculpted scene depicts the Annunciation of Mary with the archangel Gabriel on the left and Mary and Elizabeth kissing each other on the right. You will find these characters in three arcades.
Depicted above the entrance door on the round-arch tympanum is the scene when Gabriel announces the coming of the Messiah to Daniel. It’s the scene when Daniel is in the lions’ den, thrown to the animals because he adored God and not his king.
The chapel’s interior is very simple and houses a single nave shared between three vaulted bays all finished with a circular apse. Here you can see a funerary inscription in homage to Marcus Frontonus Eupor by his wife Julia Nice, which translates as follows: "To the Manes of Marcus Frontonius Euporus, sevir Augustal – one of the six oldest members of the school of the Colony Julia Augusta of Aix, boatman of Arles patron of the Durances boatmen and of the corporation of bota bag raftsmen of the Ernaginum”. The existence of this inscription proves that this was the base for a corporation of bota bag raftsmen, who transported goods on rafts made to float with filled goatskins.
The chapel’s apse has a pentagonal layout on the outside and the pillars buttress the double internal arches. The building’s proportions make it stand out. You can still see a sundial on the first buttress: it’s a sundial for canonical hours which punctuates the day of the parishioner and the worker (tierce, sexte and none).
The Square Tower
The little lane starting from the chapel’s apse leads to the foot of the medieval tower. Built over two barrel vaulted floors, the tower dates back to the 13th century but the first mention of Saint Gabriel’s castrum was in 1204. The two small towers surrounding it probably defended the bridge which crossed over the moat and the space between the three towers was once occupied by a rampart built at the same time as the Aigues-Mortes fortification.
► Notre Dame de Lansac Chapel – Hamlet of Lansac (no admission to the interior)
Just a few kilometres south of Tarascon is the hamlet of Lansac which may have been founded after Saint Gabriel’s site was deserted. Part of the lands of Baussenques in the Middle Ages, the territory was surrendered to the Templars in 1234 but was never more than a very small town. Its church, originally dedicated to Saint Peter, was dedicated to Notre Dame de l'Assomption in the 12th century: its income was then given to the canons of Arles for their clothing.
Please go to the parish of Saint Martha’s church for any information
Sunday at 8:30 (summer service) or 9:30 (winter service)
For parish news and mass times please visit:http://paroisse-de-tarascon.over-blog.com