Saint Paul de Vence sits high and aloof from the Côte d’Azur, the French coast along the Mediterranean Sea.
An old medieval wall fortifies the village, recalling Saint Paul’s turbulent history with pirates, barbarians, and countless wars. Tortuous paths meander in senseless directions—it’s a historic labyrinth, Saint Paul, and it hides a secrecy I wish I could see.
I placed my hand on a coarse muted stone. Taking a breath, I try to feel the energy inside, feel the chaos this wall has seen. After the fall of the Roman empire, Saint Paul’s military post crumbled into desecrated vulnerability due to disease and warfare. Upon the arrival of the 9th century, the village re-emerged as regional peasantry groups moved closer for communal survival. According to the Saint Paul Office of Tourism, the city’s name derives from the Castrum Sancti Pauli (the House of Saint-Paul) who ruled the village. The only vestige of Saint Paul that still stands today is his dungeon, for his castle fell long ago.
My aimless wanderings always lead upward. I wanted to reach the pinnacle and absorb the panoramic view. Treading up a dirt path, I stumbled upon the small Saint Claire church, a sanctuary for an artist’s dream. Marc Chagall lingered up there, breathing in light and exhaling life through simple brushstrokes.
Chagall’s piece, Couple on Top of Saint Paul, caught my eye for a few moments. A replication sits inclosed in a case overlooking the hill. The colors seduced me: Venetian red, glowing orange, emerald green, lilac, periwinkle, pearl white, and cobalt blue. The couple floats away into the sky, weightless. They are ready, embarking for an unknown divine, beyond a gravitational pull. It was my last reflection before descending the hill, March 3rd, 2010.