We’re leaving Roussillon, and traveling about an hour to the southwest, en route to Les Baux de Provence. Les Baux is a medieval village situated on a rocky outcropping in the Alpilles mountains, and is most noted for the castle ruins. Check out their site: http://www.chateau-baux-provence.com/en/baux/
Centuries ago, it was the seat of a powerful feudal establishment that controlled 79 towns and villages in the vicinity. Today, you can wander around and imagine what life was like, defending your castle from all those marauding invaders, who sought to plunder, pillage, and steal your land.
In peak season, Les Baux is a tourist mecca, with day-trippers coming to explore the ruins. If you’re lucky, you may happen upon colorful medieval re-enactments complete with costumed knights jousting on horse back, and medieval maidens in colorful garb.
Despite all the attractions of this medieval Disneyland, the reason I visit Les Baux (and the whole reason I’m writing this post) is to introduce to you the incredible “museum” down at the base of the village of Les Baux.
Carrieres de Lumieres is an absolute “must see” and worth a long detour. It is an unforgettable sensory experience, the likes of which you cannot imagine. http://www.carrieres-lumieres.com/
Leave it to the French to create a museum where the less imaginative of us would only see an abandoned limestone quarry. The “museum” was an active quarry until the mid-1900s, as you can see the worker in this photo scoring the stone in preparation for harvest and removal.
Limestone is bright white, and because of the harvesting techniques used, the remaining flat walls of the quarry have become the perfect natural backdrop for the most unique artistic display I have ever seen. You can see how high the walls are from this photo.
The empty cavern has been turned into a multi-media feast for the senses. Using a series of 50 projectors, thousands of art images are projected on the 20 foot high walls, as well as the ceiling, and floors. A soundtrack is written especially for the each exhibit, and the slide show is professionally synchronized and choreographed to the music.
If you visit in the summer, you leave the blazing sun and bright white light of the Provencal countryside, and enter into a dark, cool, cave. You are enveloped by the darkness, and the cave’s sharp contrast to your senses can be unnerving at first, as your eyes try to adjust to the light. You stumble around a bit, trying to get your bearings, hoping here is a handrail. But then, you hear the strains of the beautiful music, and off in the distance, the huge, colorful images come into view.
As you are drawn down into the heart of the quarry, you start to feel as if you are becoming part of the paintings.
The works of a different artist are featured each year. In 2008, the work of Van Gogh is on display (if you hurry, you can still see the Van Gogh exhibit until Jan. 4, 2009), and next year, Picasso will be the “artist in residence”, beginning March 1, 2009.
For me, it is an extraordinary, life-changing experience, as I look around at the moving, visual feast. The image below is projected on a wall about 20 ft. high. Look closely and you can see the score marks.
Stunning….powerful….masterful….magnificent……and something you must see and experience for yourself. I get goose-bumpy just thinking about it.
Words fail me as I try to describe the experience, so I will point you to an article Jean Wright has written for Beyond France website to describe the masterpiece that is Cathedral d’Images http://www.beyond.fr/sites/cathedralimages.html
This has to be in one of those “Hundred Places to See Before You Die” books. If not, I’ll have to start my own list! C’est magnifique.