The Alyscamps, the Champs-Élysées in Provençal or the city of the virtuous dead in Greek mythology, are a necropolis dating back to Roman times.
A bit of History...
From Roman times to the Middle Ages, the Alyscamps were a pagan then Christian necropolis located at the south-eastern entrance of the city of Arles on the via Aurelia, outside the city like most Roman necropolises. They included very numerous sarcophagi.
From the end of the 4th century, the Alyscamps and the Trinquetaille cemetery owe their celebrity to the martyrdom of Genest, Saint Arlesian, beheaded in 303.
Over the centuries this place became so famous that many people wished to be buried there, like the bishops of Arles.
Corpses were brought down the Rhone River on small boats to be buried there; a sum of money was attached to pay the Arlesians who buried the deceased.
From the 11th century, this cemetery, known throughout Christianity, was enriched by numerous churches.
A collegiate church was established at Les Alyscamps, but around the year 1035, this "canonica" having fallen into secular hands, Archbishop Raimbaud gave the monks of Saint-Victor de Marseille the ancient church of Saint-Genès as well as all its outbuildings, in exchange for the sum of one pound of incense to be provided on the day of Saint-Trophime.
The necropolis became an obligatory stage of the pilgrimage of Saint-Jacques de Compostelle and the songs of Gestes did not fail to situate there the fights of Charlemagne against the Saracens, to explain the abundance of the tombs. Dante immortalized this place in his poem "Hell".
Closer to us...
From the Renaissance onwards, prelates, lords and kings stole the best-sculpted sarcophagi to enrich their collections.
A boat loaded in this way sank in the Rhône towards the end of the 16th century at Pont-Saint-Esprit.
This district was the object of a first transformation with the digging of the Craponne canal which supplied water to the Crau, between the Durance and the Rhône.
The Alyscamps alley that remains today was laid out by the Minimes monks in the 18th century.
The Saint-Honorat des Alyscamps church was classified as a historical monument in 1840.
In 1848, the Alyscamps were profoundly modified during the construction of the Paris-Lyon-Mediterranean railway line and the related workshops.
The Porcelets chapel and the cemetery were classified in 1862.
In 1888, Van Gogh and Gauguin came to paint in these romantic "Champs Elysées" of Arles.
Avenue Des Alyscamps
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