an island of chapels near cannes

on the way to Île Saint-Honorat

I heard the sea spray as our little ferry rocked to and fro last week on the way to Île Saint-Honorat.

One of the Lérins islands close to Cannes, Île Saint-Honorat is dotted with small chapels and a modern monastery.

One resident monk (there are thirty in this Cistercian community) was on the ferry with us, perhaps to officiate the service later that afternoon, or returning to tend the island vineyards.

the boat toward Île Saint-Honorat

There is a grand archway that stands alone near where the ferry docks, and beyond it lay mostly trees and native plants;

Île Saint-Honorat

on paths at Île Saint-Honorat

butterflies flutter everywhere in the tall grasses in a way that feels eternal.

butterfly at Île Saint-Honorat

Leaving the shoreline,

Île Saint-Honorat

and the blue, blue water of the Mediterranean,

Île Saint-Honorat

I ventured into some of the vineyards (please don’t tell the monks),

the vineyards that monks tend on Île Saint-Honorat

and then headed toward the abbey beyond.

Île Saint-Honorat

Somehow, it felt strange to see cacti in this quiet place,

cacti on Île Saint-Honorat

but the island has fended off invaders for centuries, and some paths are pricklier than others;

Île Saint-Honorat

ducking into the wide space under this tree branch,

Île Saint-Honorat

I found a startling view.

Île Saint-Honorat

And then I saw the fortified monastery and took off (it’s probably a lovely swim too) in that direction.

fortification at Île Saint-Honorat

Inside, there are the small openings that let in the breeze,

Île Saint-Honorat

hint at the blue water surrounding,

Île Saint-Honorat

a chapel within, beautifully signed,

Chapelle Sainte Croix on Île Saint-Honorat

and the archways provide shade on the lower levels,

inside the walls at Île Saint-Honorat

but climb the structure’s single spiral staircase for the view from higher archways,

Île Saint-Honorat

and to see the entire island.

Île Saint-Honorat

I watched the shadows below, thinking about what it must be like to live as part of the order here,

Île Saint-Honorat

and to see each afternoon the lavender bend in the wind, filling the air with its peaceful fragrance.

field of swaying lavender

Near the lavender, carefully planted beds flank the path to the abbey,

plants on Île Saint-Honorat

with leaves shading the walkways,

Île Saint-Honorat

Île Saint-Honorat

and I heard the gentle swish of robes before I saw them as time for afternoon service approached. I wandered back toward the ferry, through the archway, past the flowers that seem imbued with meaning.

Île Saint-Honorat

Noticing an ancient little chapel tucked in near the archway, I thought perhaps with views so grand, only a tiny place to kneel is needed, if only to study the contrast.

Île Saint-Honorat

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