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

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

Bérenger's time

The church was raised outside the city’s walls, maybe that was why they fortified it! Do you know it was the first Gothic church in Provence? Yes, raised between 1272 and 1278 by Raymond-Bérenger IV, count of Provence, for Saint-Jean-of-Malta’s knights (later became Malta order’s knights).

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

Fortunately, counts' bones had been hide and saved from the turmoil! So, here’s Alphonse II: 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! Look! 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: on the foundations, the last count of Provence raised the church in 1234 because he wanted to be bury 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 hang a ribbon at the top of the bell-tower: the man who could take it down won several golden crowns!

But here we are in the 16th century: emperor Charles the Fifth invaded the city! And inhabitants didn’t want he transformed the church into his headquarters... so they decided to demolish the bell-tower! Fortunately, some of them protested and they gave up.

Viany's restorations

After all those centuries, our church was tired! So, in the beginning of the 17th century, prior Jean-Claude-Viany started a big restoration: he 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. Hey, 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 hang to the vault, the flag of a Turkish boat, the "Sultana Benghem", took by the 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! During the French Revolution, people destroyed lots of thing: indeed, the church was full of treasures: relics, precious books... every single thing disappeared!

And also!