For over 3 months we’ve gone past this church at least twice a day to pick up a fresh baguette, go to the market, drop off some glass bottles for recycling, or just to take a walk. There’s not a sign on the front to identify it and the door has always been closed so we’ve often wondered about its history. On Monday we were headed over to the main square when we stopped in our tracks because the door was open. Naturally we had to go inside.
We had expected to see a ruin but as we peered in it became apparent that this 17th century chapel had been turned into an art gallery. Several people, including the neighbor behind us, were busy inside hanging framed pictures. Gilbert came over to greet us and explained that the Friends of the Neighborhood were preparing a photographic exhibit of the surrounding streets and buildings that would allow us to see inside lots of businesses that we’d only seen from the outside.
Now that we’d had access to the building and could identify it as the chapel of St. Gimer it was time to check the city’s website to see what else we could discover. Built between 1603 and 1621, to honor Carcassonne’s early 10th century bishop St. Gimer who, according to tradition, was born on the site. It was the only place of worship in this area at that time and apparently remained so until 1859 when a church bearing his name was completed half a block away. After that the School of Arts used it for drama classes and today it joins several other city-owned buildings devoted to art exhibitions.
Gilbert invited us to return on Friday evening at 6 PM for the opening ceremony and when we did exactly that we found the placed filled with residents of the area. He took us around the exhibit space, photo by photo, pointing out restaurants and shops that we’d gone by but never stopped in to but are much more likely to do so now since we’ve seen cozy fireplaces, vaulted ceilings, and hidden passageways that await. The mayor’s representatives in charge of culture and of heritage were both in attendance as an acknowledgement by the city of the importance of both the chapel and its contents.
And what would an art opening be without a glass of wine? Befitting our location surrounded by multiple vineyards, there were 4 choices of red, white, and rosé, 2 types of sparkling wine, bottles of cider, juice, and water plus an entire table of sliced meats, cheeses, tapenades, and breads.This seemingly little event was significant in our minds because it solved the mystery of what’s behind those closed church doors, it provided enticement for us to go inside even more businesses on our street, and was just one more example of how welcoming our neighbors have been.