Saint Michaels Chapel in Épinal
On our way to see Milau Bridge in France, we drove through the small town Épinal and past an amazing cemetery, where we had to make a stop to see it close up. From the road, we could see that it was a Gothic Cemetary, but it looked so much more beautiful than the others we’d driven past and we sure weren’t disappointed.
When we entered the gate we were in awe of what obviously was a lot of very old tombs, but someone was still visiting most of them. Flowers and beautiful decorations were everywhere and even though the tombs were deteriorated and slowly falling apart, there was a lot of love in the cemetery.
There weren’t just tombstones at the cemetery, but also big sarcophagi and small chapels, which told us, that it wasn’t only regular people from the town that were buried there. There had to be quite a bit of rich and influential persons too. The cemetery in Épinal was like nothing we’d ever seen before.
If you believe in ghosts
Let’s just get it out there: I (Eva) “see ghosts”. Not that it’s anything that I’ve been working on learning or am fostering in everyday life, but I do whether I want it or not. This of course gives me a lot of mixed experiences when visiting cemeteries, but this one was out of the ordinary. There was no turmoil at all, but instead a calm that I have not experienced anywhere else. Around the graves, souls sat quietly and peered out at the horizon and it seemed as if they had peace inside. When I sat down with them and looked at the horizon with them, there were no disapproving glances, but just a feeling that I was welcome. It was a fantastic experience.
(If you’re interested in this subject you should check out our video from the Capuchin Catacombs in Sicily. I absolutely got a lot of vibes there!)
The lady from the office
All of a sudden a lady came running towards us and it turned out that she was working at the church office. She wanted to know who we were and why we were there and all of a sudden we felt like we might have overstepped some boundaries or broken some unwritten French rule. We explained to her, that we thought the cemetery was really beautiful, that we were bloggers, and that we just wanted to take a few pictures if it was okay. Her mood shifted, she smiled and told us, that it would be a great opportunity for her to practice her English, so she began to tell us the story about the church and cemetery.
Chapelle st. Michel
The Saint Michael Cemetery is built around Chapelle st. Michel was founded between 1477 and 1479 and is now registered as a historical monument. No wonder! Even though the cemetery is now closed for new burials, the place is still well kept. Some of the tombs are more than 400 years old and when we asked about all the flowers and decorations, she explained that some family members still came and visited their ancestors. Besides that, the maintenance of several tombs was paid centuries in advance. Pretty amazing!
In the beginning, the cemetery was only for monks and other people connected to the church, but as years passed it became a popular place to rest for more prominent and rich people. Just as we predicted due to the beauty of the majority of the tombs. As you see in the pictures, the stunning view is the reason why Chapelle st. Michel became so popular.
After talking about everything from cemeteries in Denmark to living in a motorhome, the sweet lady urged us to have a look inside the church too.
A beautiful classic French church
Going into any small church in Italy, Greece, Spain or France is like stepping into some sort of adventure. You’ll never know what you’ll find. The churches in Denmark pretty much look the same (a “house” and a tower combined) unless you go to the Danish island Bornholm, where the churches are round. But in southern Europe, both layout and decor vary greatly, and often you’ll find amazing candlesticks, gold wall decorations, and beautiful paintings or as in this case, a deceased Jesus surrounded by followers, all carved in wood.
Unfortunately, it’s most often the famous churches that are well visited, even though the small unknown ones are equally beautiful too. That way only a few will get to admire things like the beautiful leaded glass mosaic in this church. If you’re not used to go into the small churches while you’re on vacation, you should absolutely try it.
After admiring the church for a while, we waved goodbye and decided to grab something to eat in the town of Épinal. Although the tourist office highlights a lot of amazing sights, we didn’t go there. Instead, we had some classic French fast food consisting of Parisian toast, Quiche, and Flan for dessert. Although we love Spanish food, we must admit that the French Flan is far better than the Spanish.
After eating we went for a walk in town and it was an exciting mix of old and new neighbourhoods. Some very pretty and some really worn out. Somehow we actually like the worn-out parts a lot, because they’re a sign of a thousand lives that have been lived there and a lot of history that has been written. Often this sparks both speculations and conversation like for instance the apartment in the picture that had obviously been on fire. After the fire, it hadn’t been renovated, but instead, everyone had moved out of the building and even the hairdresser on the ground floor had closed. How could that be? We sometimes wonder if we’re the only ones speculating like that?
One of the most amazing things we saw in Épinal was everything they did for the bees. As you might know, the bees are essential for our survival, but unfortunately, pesticides and the lack of wild nature areas have drastically reduced the population of bees. In Épinal they’re doing some great work to make the bees feel welcome.
First of all, they have a lot of wooden beehives for the bees to live in and besides that wildflowers are growing all over the town. Even on the roofs of the bus stops. Actions like that don’t cost a fortune, but they literally mean the world to the bees and thereby also mankind.
We ended a great and unplanned day with the most beautiful sunset over the river Moselle that runs through Épinal and once again we were assured that choosing to live as full-time travelers is the best thing we’ve ever done for ourselves.
– Text, photos, and photo editing: Eva. Adding and photos: Malthe