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A little history of St-Jean-de-Malte church in Aix-en-Provence

The façade | Earwiglet / CC-BY-SA
Parish church St-Jean-de-Malte church in Aix-en-Provence

Bérenger's time

Do you know it was the first Gothic church in Provence? Raised between 1272 and 1278 by Raymond-Bérenger IV, count of Provence, for Saint-Jean-of-Malta’s knights.

Besides, we can see in the church those mighty counts of Provence’s graves, the Bérenger. Oh, these are not the primitive tombstones: they were destroyed during the Revolution and replaced in 1828...

Fortunately, counts' bones were hidden and saved from the turmoil! We have Alphonse II recumbent figure: he has long hairs, a crown on his head... he’s the king type!

Next, his son Raymond-Bérenger IV: a warrior, with his coat of mail and shield! He holds a flower, close to his heart... It’s the golden Rose pope Innocent IV gave him in Lyon’s council, in 1245!

The church's rise

The primitive chapel dedicated to saint John-the-Baptist dates back to the 11th century: then the last count of Provence re-raised the current church in 1234 because he wanted to be buried here. The nave was completed in 1264, the 67 metres high bell-tower completed in 1376.

Oh, the tradition says every year, on the day before Saint-John celebration, they hung a ribbon at the top of the bell-tower: the man who could take it down won several golden crowns!

Viany's restorations

In the beginning of the 17th century, prior Jean-Claude-Viany repaired bells, paved the soil, raised new lateral chapels in 1680 (chapels of Purgatory, of Saint-Joseph, of Notre-Dame-du-Bon-Voyage, for instance), built another bell-tower...

He also ordered paintings to decorate chapels. We still can see those paintings! Among those masterpieces, we have a Crucifixion by Delacroix (1820), Saint Augustin’s apotheosis by Michel Serre, the Annunciation by André Boisson (1678), and so on.

To cap it all, he hung to the vault the flag of a Turkish boat, the "Sultana Benghem", taken by chevalier Ricard, a member from Malta order.

Anyway, this flag and all the restoration quite impressed dukes of Berry and Burgundy (king Louis XIV’s grandsons), when they came to Aix! Unfortunately, during the French Revolution, people destroyed every single thing...

About the the author

I'm fond of strolls and History, with juicy and spicy details!