Vence is the former Roman city founded by the Ligurian (a Celtic people): Vintium. Did you know that you find pieces of that Vintium in the cathedral? Yes, because this one was raised on the foundations of an old pagan temple dedicated to Mars and Cybele.
Roman remains in Our-Lady are still visible, look! For instance, on the outside wall: we have funerary steles slot in the stone, but also a sculpture representing a taurobole. What’s this??
An antic sacrifice of a bull, especially for goddess Cybele’s cult. Besides, the inscription says: Valeria Mariana, Valeria Carmosina and Cassius Paternus, priest and lawyer, celebrated with their own fortune the taurobole, in honour of goddess Maia.″
Come on, let’s get back in time… until the 5th century! A time where saint Véran’s sarcophagus was made. He was bishop of Vence between 446 and 492. His 5th century grave is flank by a strange carved scene: a man and a woman in the middle. On the corner, a newt playing horn. A spirit stands next to a cave: above, a bird eats grapes...
Another saint! In the 12th century lived saint Lambert: and we have his grave, here! Lambert was a monk from the famous Lérins abbey (Provence): he managed the diocese of Vence between 1114 and 1154.
His epitaph carved on the stone says:
DISCAT Q NESCT Q EPS HIC REQESCIT DOTVS LAMBERTVS MVLTA BONTATE REFERTVS QQVE QVATERDENS HVIC SEDI I REFVIT AKNIS NON HVNCERENIT RES BLANDA NEC PIETATIS PARCAT PECCATIS ILLIVS FONS PIETATIS ET LVCESCAT ET LVX PPETVAE REQVIEI.
Which means: ″Here lies the bishop Lambert, a benefactor saint, equal in the happiness like in the adversity.″ His relics were translated in a city of Provence, Bauduen. The rest was put in a 19th century reliquary that we still can see in the cathedral.
Now, let’s go towards the choir, with the gorgeous stalls made by a chap from Grasse, Jacques (or Jacotin) Bellot, in the middle of the 15th century. We have 51 stalls, representing typical characters from king of France Louis XI’s reign: bats, ducks, snakes, dogs, a fairy Mélusine, a lady and her little monkey, a man with his head between his thighs… Pretty delightful!