It is located in an fascinating region: that of Languedoc-Rousillon, the border Départment between the Mediterranean side of southern France and Spain. Many view this part of France to have been kept economically disadvantaged for a long time, following the internal persecutions of the Albegenisan period.
It is also the city where in 1209 an entire population of Cathars and non-Cathars were put to the swords of Pope Innocent III’s Albigensian ‘Crusaders’, including Simon de Montfort, because of their strength of belief in a living Christ capable of manifesting in an individual’s life, rather than via a Church hierarchy.
Modern Bézier faces its own challenges. It is a multicultural city in a hot place. It lives in an agriculturally dominated landscape, yet has technological ambitions. It is on the main route between Italy, the Côte d’Azure, and the Atlantic ports of south-west France and Basque (Catalan) Spain.
The heart of the city is a place of contrasts. The scene of the 1209 massacre, the impact of the Cathedral of St Nazaire on the visitor is immense… And yet it is a place of obvious humility. Work on the building was begun in the eighth century.
The famous rose window in the west, which sits above the huge organ, and receives then fading light of the sunset, is magnificent.
One of the most moving chapels in the north-west of the nave depicts the baptism of Christ by John the Baptist. It was key moment in the Christ story, and the symbolic acceptance of his mission is beautifully portrayed in the stance and the faces of the two men who knew well what they were doing, on both the spiritual and physical levels of their lives.
The high altar is framed by the main east panel that is beautifully crafted in Baroque déco style and takes up nearly the whole of the Eastern wall of the building. It is too ornate for my taste, but I can acknowledge its finery.
This ‘doorway of mercy’ mirrors that opened by Pope Francis in St Peter’s Bailica and is fashioned around simple and inclusive proportions. The act of ‘going through the door’ invites us to unite the whole of our being in one, inclusive action. The arch represents the combination of three different geometric figures:
The rectangle is an elongated square – our physical nature: the earth, the place we find ourselves.
The four equal angles of the square/rectangle represent the four directions of our horizons.
Above is the arch, part of a circle, the symbol of the heavens, the spiritual world – not high above us, but just ‘above our heads’
You are invited to walk through this magical gateway, and I did, delighted to find these simple esoteric truths portrayed in a church, once again…
Our time at an end, we walked slowly through the ancient streets, happy just to wander and find shade where we could.
©Copyright Stephen Tanham, 2016.