Our Lady of the Lost Garden

October 31, 2013 § 9 Comments

Notre Dame de Lumière

I bought this postcard at the antique market in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue two months ago. The dealer had his wares sorted into boxes by geographical region, as is the habit of his trade, and I went straight for the one marked ‘Vaucluse’, thinking that whatever I found would make a rather more interesting souvenir of our holiday than one of the dozens of generic postcards of lavender fields on offer in every souvenir shop and café-tabac in the land.

The postcard of a statue of the Virgin standing in a garden had my name written all over it (not literally – and unlike the last postcard I bought, there was no message on the back). It appealed to both my love of the melancholy (obvious) and the surreal – there’s a certain disjuncture between the statue and its surroundings, and if you look at it long enough, the Virgin appears to be levitating several inches above the plinth, as if she’s either gently drifting down from the heavens or is just about to float off.

The caption is barely visible at the bottom of the photograph: ‘N.D. de Lumière – La Vierge du Jardin’. No mention of a town or village. Since the cottage we were staying in was blissfully internet-free, I couldn’t do any research while we were there and, thus, no chance of trying to track down the statue – assuming it still stands.

I’ve since discovered that the only Notre Dame de Lumière in the Vaucluse is in Goult, a village for which I remember seeing signs as we drove from Gordes to Roussillon and again, the following day, on the way from Oppède-le-vieux to Ménerbes. Frustratingly, Goult has not one, but two, Notre Dame de Lumières – the parish church, which was apparently a place of pilgrimage, and a convent which has since been deconsecrated and turned into a luxury hotel (I won’t link to the website, which is just depressing).

Since I made that discovery, I’ve been hoping that the Virgin in the garden belongs to the church, not the convent-turned-hotel. But my attempts at finding contemporary photographs of the church have met with little success. I’ve managed to find one photo of the church interior that appears to show (very blurrily) a gilt statue through a doorway. But it stands in a grotto. And the Virgin on my postcard looks as if she’s made of stone – perhaps with a bit of polychromy but definitely not gilding.

I suppose I’ll never know, without paying a visit to Goult, whether the Virgin – or the garden she stands in – still exists.

Truth be told, I think I’d almost prefer not to.


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