Joseph Sec: his strange mausoleum... and the murdered man

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The mausoleum - ©Dumuids / CC-BY-SA The mausoleum - ©Dumuids / CC-BY-SA
Joseph Sec's mausoleum Burial place Homicide French Revolution

Joseph Sec

Joseph was merchant in Aix-en-Provence, an erudite from the Enlightenment, follower of the French Revolution’s ideas. His mausoleum is a ″hymn to the glory and to the law″! He was born in 1715 in a small town from Southern France, and started as a simple wood merchant.

He spent all his life in Aix. And here, he became a rich landowner, making lots of things for his beloved city: he started the construction of the new suburb Notre-Dame in 1770, for instance. Joseph lived in this suburb, so, he had an idea.

To be bury here, when the moment would come! This moment happened on February 1794. His mausoleum had been completed 2 years ago. A very special monument: strange allegories and sentences carved on the stone!

A strange grave

Look, here: a statue of Thémis, goddess of Law and Justice. Here, a saint John the Baptist with a lamb, and a low-relief with Jesus’ baptism. Then, Moses showing the tables of the Law to the allegories of Europe (a woman) and of Africa (a man with broken irons).

Below Africa, a low-relief representing Jesus, Mary and Joseph with this sentence: Sorti d'un cruel esclavage, je n'ai d'autre maître que moi. Mais de ma liberté je ne veux faire usage que pour obéir à la loi., ″I’m no longer a slave, I’m free. But now I only want to obey to the law″.

Below Europe, a low-relief, Tobias burying the dead: Fidèle observateur de ces lois admirables qu'un Dieu lui-même a daigné nous dicter, chaque jour, à mes yeux, elles sont plus aimables et je mourrais plutôt que de m'en écarter..

Translation: ″I’m a loyal follower of this great laws that a mighty God dictated to us. I’d die if one day I’d go off the straight path″. Oh, did you see this? 4 vases, plus the allegory of Law with her helmet, holding a balance: well, this statue was flanked by Louis XVI’s portrait, until 1793! Then, they replaced it by Joseph’s portrait...

The mausoleum’s front is made of Doric and Corinthian pilasters. An inscription says: ″1792. Year IV of the Freedom, building dedicated to this city, follower of the law, by Joseph Sec.″ Come on, let’s go on the garden’s other side: statues, one more time!

Yes, big statues in their niches (characters from the Old Testament): Aaron, Deborah, king Saul, Jahel with his hammer, David fighting Goliath, Noah and his grapes. They come from the chapel of the Jesuits, they were sold in 1793 when the order of Jesuits was annulled. Joseph himself put them in his house’s garden, on the location of his future mausoleum!

The murdered man

You know what? Next to those statues, in this quiet garden, we had a weird work of art. The statue of… the ″assassinate man″! Whoa… It’s a casting made of painted plaster, life-size, made on a real cadaver.

A worker who died on the site of the suburb Notre-Dame, killed during a fight. A nice work, anyway, made by the talented sculptor from Avignon, Jean-Pancrace Chastel! A device even allowed people to hide and show the statue, with a wooden panel!

This device was re-used in the Arbaud museum of Aix (they bought the statue in 1912), where we still can see the statue today. Besides, the legend says that it was Chastel who made the mausoleum for Joseph...

And also!