On Sunday, we took a road trip with no particular place in mind to go. Well, our travels took us to Ste Philomene near Puget-Ville in the Var. I had never heard of this place though it is an historical monument of the Var department. While traveling along the windy roads near Puget-Ville we ended up seeing a sign that simply read Ste. Philomene. We decided to follow it and see where it would take us.
About a mile down the road we came to a small parking area on a hill. Once parked, we descended towards a barrier and followed a sign saying “chapelle”. The dirt path takes you on a little tour of the trees and shrubs which happens to be the start of a botanical hike. Many of the trees and plants are labeled with their French and Latin names. Around 5 to 10 minutes later we came across an open field with a wooden statue of what seems to be a monk. Across the small field there is another sign reading “chapelle” which pointed us in the direction of a few steps and down a cobblestone path.
Once we made it to the bottom of the path, there was another statue of a cross, with Mary and Baby Jesus. Just across from this statue were some steps leading us up to the chapelle. At first it appeared that we weren’t going to be able to enter through the tiny gate, it seemed to have a lock on it, but then we found it to be not locked at all. We entered freely and stepped out onto a grand terrace with a small building just off to the side. The view of the valley was simply amazing from the terrace. The little building was locked up tight but I was still able to get my camera through the gate to snap some shots of the interior.
Leaving the terrace we headed left and down more steps. Here we found the main entrance of the chapelle. Unfortunately we could not enter as the main doors were locked. We made our way around the side of the chapelle and were greeted with views of the bell tower and side door. We also discovered that the second half of the building was now a private residence. What luck for those people living among the restored ruins of an 11th century chapelle!
We also discovered that you must have an appointment to see the interior so next time I am in the area I will be heading off to the office of tourism to make my appointment.
In searching for information on the history of the chapelle I was not able to find much even though it was first constructed in the 11th century. Apparently, it was first called Sancta Maria Descensa when constructed, then the name changed to Saint Jacques and then finally it was renamed in 1840 to Ste Pilomene.
It was originally built of stone and has three naves of equal length. It has a simple Romanesque style and is separated by arches and pillars. The original roof was replaced by the current terrace (the one where the view is extraordinary and on a clear day one can apparently see Toulon!)
The restoration began in 1837 and then was resumed in 1910. Though there have been periods when no work was done, it has been continuously worked on since the 1960’s thanks to volunteers, aid from the Beaux-Art school in Toulon and since 1978 by a society called the Friends of Old Puget.
After taking in the views and searching around the chapelle, we headed back up the cobblestone path and discovered that it leads to the rest of the botanical trail. On this day we decided not to continue the trail, but instead, we would go back with our appointment to visit the interior of the chapelle and do the botanical trail that day.
I would love a chance to speak to the owners of the place. I know I would enjoy hearing how they acquired such a great find and what it has been like to restore their part and be there while the chapelle is being restored. What a wonderful piece of history to be able to have. I definitely am looking forward to my next visit and perhaps I can discover more history about this place.