Ailsa's travel photo challenge: Secret Place


When I’m in France I go into churches and sit by myself and think and pray.  They’re all good for this, whether a large cathedral or a small village church, because most of them are open during the week.  It’s a privilege I don’t enjoy here in Australia where I live.  Inside these ancient structures it’s surprisingly quiet, even if the church is situated in the heart of a city.  The stone walls block out most noise and it’s very easy to focus without distraction.   Because I experience this particular solitude only in France, it came to mind immediately when Ailsa proposed a ‘secret place’ for her travel photo challenge.  See hers here:

The churches in French villages are particularly peaceful and very often are empty on weekdays.  This photo is of l’Église Saint Mathieu, the church in the beautifully restored mediaeval village of Oingt, north-west of Lyon.  I went there with a couple of friends one day in 2010 and we were the only people around, except for a few staff in the small restaurant and art gallery.

It reminded me of another day a few years before:  I was a student in Lyon, and my brother died but I couldn’t get back to Australia for his funeral.  Another student suggested that if I wanted to get away to somewhere peaceful for a day, I should go to the ancient village of Pérouges, also north of Lyon.  I went on a Wednesday and was all alone for about two hours, walking the cobblestone streets and narrow ways, the ruelles, between buildings.  But the most precious gift that day was half an hour alone in the church, l’Église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine de Pérouges, sitting in the back row of old wooden pews and looking at the stone floor of the aisle, grooved from centuries of footsteps.  It was comforting to know that in the 1400s, people were worshipping and praying to God exactly as I was, looking at the same stone walls and walking down the same aisle.

Eglise Saint Mathieu, Oingt, France