The Église St-Trophime is a former cathedral and masterpiece of Romanesque art in the Provençal city of Arles, France.
History of St-Trophime
St-Trophime was constructed in the 11th and 12th centuries on the site of an 8th-century church dedicated to Saint Stephen. St. Stephen was the first Christian martyr; St. Trophime was an early bishop of Arles. Frederick Barbarossa was crowned king of Arles here in 1178.
The Église St-Trophime, along with other monuments of Arles, was classified a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. The magnificent portal was restored between 1988 and 1995 with the help of public funds and a large donation from the World Monuments Fund in New York.
What to See at St-Trophime
The Church of Saint Trophime is characteristic of Provençal Romanesque architecture. Overlooking the spacious Place de la République, St-Trophime's very well preserved 12th-century portal is acclaimed as one of the finest achievements of the southern Romanesque style. Recent restorations have made its quality and beauty even more apparent.
The theme of the portal is the Last Judgment, with chained souls being dragged off to Hell on the right side and the righteous being delivered into the hands of the saints on the left. The tympanum depicts Christ in Majesty surrounded by the symbols of the Evangelists. Other narrative reliefs depict events surrounding the Nativity.
Full-length statues of apostles and saints stand guard on either side of the portal, with the two patron saints of Arles, St. Trophime and St. Stephen, in prominent positions next to the main door. From left to right, the figures are: St. Bartholomew; St. James the Greater; St. Trophime; St. John; St. Peter; [main door]; St. Paul; St. Andrew; St. Stephen (in narrative context, showing his stoning and ascent into heaven); St. James the Lesser; and St. Philip.
The dark interior has minimal decoration and is not as interesting as the exterior, but is worth a look for its austere symmetry and artworks (including a 4th-century sarcophagus).
More interesting are the Cloisters of St-Trophime that adjoin the church on the southeast. Entrance is through a separate gateway to the right of the church facade. The cloisters are not as attractive as some others in Provence, but only because they are in need of cleaning and restoration (scheduled to begin in late 2008, just after our visit). Most of the stone is black with industrial grime and most of the capitals are patched with protective tape.
The north and east galleries of the cloister are 12th-century Romanesque, while the south and west galleries are late-14th-century Gothic. Pillars alternate with columns, the capitals of which are decorated with fine sculptures of biblical scenes. The pillars bear figures of apostles and saints and between them are narrative reliefs of Christ and the saints.
The lovely Chapter House, a long hall with a peaked stone vault; displays some Gobelin tapestries and a small lapidarium in an upper gallery. The other rooms adjacent to the cloisters are used for temporary exhibitions.
The stairs leading to the galleries and the rooms above also lead to the terrace-like roof gallery which encircles the cloisters and provides a nice view of the cloisters and tower.
Quick Facts on St-Trophime
|Names:||Église St-Trophime · St-Trophime|
|Categories:||cathedrals; churches; World Heritage Sites|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||43.676470° N, 4.628334° E|
|Address:||Place de la République|
|Hours:||Church: daily 8:30am-6:30pm|
Cloister: Nov-Feb daily 10am-5pm; Mar, Apr, Oct: daily 9am-6pm; May-Sep: 9am-7pm
|Lodging:||View hotels near St-Trophime|
- Personal visit (June 29, 2008).
- Arles in the Middle Ages - Arles Tourism Office
- Roman and Romanesque Monuments of Arles - UNESCO World Heritage List
- Paul Stirton, Blue Guide Provence and the Cote D'Azur, 2nd ed. (London: A&C Black Publishers Limited, 2003), 75-78.
- Saint-Trophime - CyArk Documentation Project
- Cloître Saint-Trophime - French Wikipedia
Map of St-Trophime, Arles
Below is a location map and aerial view of St-Trophime. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.