The Ancient Cemetery of Tourves

The village of Tourves happens to be one of my favorites in this region. We’ve been there several times during this past year (the last time was for the Bouchon de Tourves which I wrote about last month).

This time around, I went to visit the ancient cemetery. If you don’t know it’s there it’s difficult to find. There are no signs to it and you can’t spot it from the center of town. The first time we went, my family happened upon it quite by accident. You see, when we go to a town for a bit of sight-seeing, I’m famous for just wandering off on any path, dirt road or steps I can find no matter how overgrown or obscure they are. My line is always, “Dude! Look! I wonder were that goes. Let’s find out”. Then off I go. I admit that this has gotten me into some trouble a few times by wondering onto private property or down roads that take us nowhere and then we have to turn around and go back, much to the dismay of Tinki who is not as adventurous as I am.  It’s all worth it, though, for those wonderful, hidden treasures that I have found on many occasions. Then I’m in heaven, no doubt about it.

This day in Tourves was such an occasion since we had gone there just to wander around the town. Not to see anything in particular. The cemetery is located just above a small parking area in the center of town. As you leave the parking area and head towards the center, you have to walk through a small park. Just as you exit the park and are about to enter the town, there is a stairway to the left just at the edge of the park. It looks like it goes nowhere really, like it might be just a way to get to some village houses. Me, being the curious one, ventured to go take a look that day. Right as we reached the top of the stairs the vision of an old church was upon us. I know that I did a tremendous gasped when I saw it because nothing pleases me more than the site of ancient ruins and beautiful, long-forgotten buildings and churches. I relish at the site of them, for that is why I came to France.

I do not know when this church was constructed or how long it had been abandoned. It is not a large church, either, but built very simply. There are no signs to tell you the history of it and there are no plaques stating that it is an historical monument. In fact, there’s nothing to tell the visitors to the town that it even exists at all (which is a total shame in my opinion).

The church and its surrounding land have not been taken care of for some time. The main entrance to the church is locked and there used to be a side entrance which has fallen into ruin. There is a gated area which is locked up, as well, and you can’t pass through. It’s a part of the cemetery you aren’t able to explore.

The part that I was most interested in was the left side area of the church. This was also a cemetery and something out of a Hollywood film. The tombstones had fallen into disrepair. Many were covered with overgrown plants and trees, others had fallen over and broken, and still others stood as they always had, but what was written on them could no longer be made out due to the rain and weather over time wearing all traces away. There were, however, a hand full which you could still make out the names and dates and still others that were made with intricate care and so different from the normal headstones of solid cement one usually sees.

I was in heaven. I don’t know how much time had passed as we walked from headstone to headstone trying to make out any information we could. I was completely fascinated and kept venturing further back onto the grounds for more discoveries. Some of the areas were so overgrown that headstones were lost and we really had to dig around for them. We had to be careful in some areas not to trip on the ones that had fallen over. Still others had been fabricated directly into the side of the church wall or the wall of the surrounding courtyard. These held the most fascination for me since I had never seen anything like that before.

I was at crossroads on whether or not I was sad about the state of this wonderful find, or if I felt is should be this way because the site of it was simply amazing.  If it were to be all cleaned up and proper, it might not hold the same fascination for me.

I longed to go behind the gate that was locked up tight to see the other tombstones, but to no avail. I had to simply be satisfied with the photographs I had taken.

The church sits near a large area of rocks on which a statue has been placed. She overlooks the church and cemetery and is near impossible to climb to. Dude did try and he got up there pretty close, but I was content to have my feet firmly planted. The climb didn’t look to safe.

I could have stayed in this place for hours wondering around and reading and rereading the headstones. It was so peaceful, but we had other sites in the town to see so we took our leave. I assure you the next time I am in Tourves I will revisit this place. Things like this never get old for me. After all, like I said, that’s why I’m here.

If you want to see more photos of The Ancient Cemetery of Tourves they appear on Flickr. To get there just click on the “More Photos” option under Photos on Flickr.

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About backyardprovence

I was finally able to realized my dream of living in France when I moved here in 2010. I love to read,I love history and road trips. I want to be doing anything outside in the fresh air. I want to have an entire room devoted to a personal library.

Posted on September 24, 2011, in Bon Voyage! and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. What I like about living here compared to thé States is the history all around. Éven thé smallest town has its chapel or cemetary.I like the Var and all its small towns like Cotignac or Entrecastaux. Tourves looks nice to visit. Thanks for the photos.

    • Bernard-
      That’s exactly what I love about living here, too. America has such a short history that they don’t have any ancient ruins, chateaux or cool stuff like the Tourves cemetery. I’ve been to both Entrecastaux and Cotignac and they are lovely. There is so much treasure to find here.

  2. I hope you will soon show us a special photo set on the Gorges du Verdon! I like the Haute-Provence even more than the seaside because it is where the Spirit of Provence really is to me.

    • Bernard-
      I love the Haute-Provence, but I have to say I’m very partial to the sea (comes from living in Southern California). I’ve actually been to the Gorges a few times, but that was back in 2004 when I was a student in Aix. My family rented a boat and went out on the lake. It was marvelous! I do have plans to go back, but I am waiting until my friends and family come next spring/summer (they say they are anyway). I want to go out on the lake again and I think it would be a great place to take them. The water is the most gorgeous color imaginable!

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