an island of chapels near cannes
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.
There is a grand archway that stands alone near where the ferry docks, and beyond it lay mostly trees and native plants;
butterflies flutter everywhere in the tall grasses in a way that feels eternal.
Leaving the shoreline,
and the blue, blue water of the Mediterranean,
I ventured into some of the vineyards (please don’t tell the monks),
and then headed toward the abbey beyond.
Somehow, it felt strange to see cacti in this quiet place,
but the island has fended off invaders for centuries, and some paths are pricklier than others;
ducking into the wide space under this tree branch,
I found a startling view.
And then I saw the fortified monastery and took off (it’s probably a lovely swim too) in that direction.
Inside, there are the small openings that let in the breeze,
hint at the blue water surrounding,
a chapel within, beautifully signed,
and the archways provide shade on the lower levels,
but climb the structure’s single spiral staircase for the view from higher archways,
and to see the entire island.
I watched the shadows below, thinking about what it must be like to live as part of the order here,
and to see each afternoon the lavender bend in the wind, filling the air with its peaceful fragrance.
Near the lavender, carefully planted beds flank the path to the abbey,
with leaves shading the walkways,
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.
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.