On Wednesday, 5th of June 2019, we drive back to Switzerland, with a break in Léoncel in the Vercors mountains.
Approaching the Vercors mountains
After an overnight stay in the practical IBIS hotel of Valencia, we cross the Rhone valley and the Vercors mountains are ahead of us.
The Vercors mountains belong to the Western Pre-Alps. Their highest peak reaches 2341m. The mountains consist of four districts that are separated by cliffs and canyons. These rough mountains were one of the strongholds of French resistance in the Second World War. Now it is a natural reserve that tourists come to for hiking, climbing, cross country skiing and skiing.
Looking back into the Rhone valley around Valence
Our car climbs uphill, hairpin bend by hairpin bend. We look back down to the Rhone valley around Valence…
… hiding behind grass and blue flowers.
Reaching the high lands of the Vercors
We definitively leave the Rhone valley at the Col des Limouches – at 1086m above sea level.
We are now in the Vercors. Meadows around us and in the background more steep mountains.
In these secluded and rough mountains, the Cistercians founded a monastery in the 12th century.
Donkeys and horses welcome us on the meadow in front of the church.
The well-kept garden with yellow lilies leads to the entry gate.
We enter the church.
Inside the church of Léoncel
As it is typical for the Cistercians, the church is sober inside. Five ribbed vaults in the nave. Some adornments on the chapters of the columns. The oculus above the choir symbolizes God. Or, as the panel in the church says, it is to remind us that we adore one single God. The arch that partially hides the oculus, remains from the former one nave church that ended there.
In front there is a modern ambo that has been selected with care. A panel explains that the stone comes from Tavel. Engraved is a curved cross, giving it a dynamic aspect.
An octagonal cupola covers the crossing.
We find some artefacts such as this icon of the Madonna and her Son.
In the church we had noticed the tomb slab of an abbot that froze in the cold winter of the Vercors. Indeed, the Cistercians have selected a rough place for their monastery.
Near the entry I find this religious panel written in French. It is difficult to translate the elegance of the French language.
Let me try nevertheless:
What did you come to see in Léoncel?
A lost place wiped by the wind?
Well, what did you come to see?
Stones placed harmoniously
on top of one another?
But much more than stones!
Will you be able to hear them breathe
conveying the singing and silence of a thousand years?
Will you be able to find the praying and the belief of the men
hidden in each of them?
Will you try to detect which Presence lives in them?
Will you not drink from the source of the Word of God?
If you would like to understand,
it is this Word that the stones testify.
The sun enlightens the pentagonal central apsis, the two smaller apsides and the tower from the south east – it is still morning.
I walk around…
… and uphill.
I say good-bye to this church that has withstood the obstacles of the Vercors mountains for a thousand years.
Driving home with one last lunch stop in Voiron
We continue driving north and have our last lunch stop in Voiron (Département Isère). The Rossignol skis are produced in Voiron, as I learn. We have a light meal – salad with fish – in the Café de l’Europe. The friendly servant says that the manager speaks German and does not like to write menu cards – that is why they do not have any… and indeed, the manager comes from the Black Forest and has lived here in France for many years.
We spend one last night with our friends in Monthey in the Valais – and then, after more than five weeks, we are back at home to unpack, to wash and to meet neighbours and friends.