A winter walk near Villelongue d’Aude. It’s vineyard country, and the vines are stark and bare just now, the countryside colours muted. I’ll only tell two stories about the day, because the photos can do the rest. One is about Sainte Barbe, whose chapel we visited at the end of the day. The other is about how she failed to protect us when we were in the precincts of her chapel.
Sainte Barbe lived round about the 8th century. Her father Dioscore, a local dignitary, seems to have been a somewhat strict and unbending man. He had a tower built to imprison his daughter, to protect her from the advances of handsome young suitors. Once, he went away, and she took advantage of his absence to make a third window in her prison tower, to commemorate the Holy Trinity. Well, that’s the story.
Her father returned, and in a fury, denounced her to the local prefect. Then he tortured her and decapitated her with his own hands. But as he returned home, he got his come-uppance. He was struck by lightning and carbonised.
Barbe was canonised and is ready to protect you, if you ask her, from flames and lightning strikes. Nowadays she’s a patron saint too – of fire-fighters, miners, and bomb disposal experts. And she has this chapel near Villelongue where we made our own pilgrimage.
Well, despite the fine weather the other day, the ground there is still waterlogged. As Anny discovered when she came to try to drive off as we left the chapel. Her wheels stuck. They spun dizzily round. They embedded themselves deeper and deeper into the mud. We all gathered vine clippings to give the mud-slathered wheels better purchase. We pushed. Malcolm got caught by a pulsing stream of mud ejected by the spinning wheels. We pushed some more, and eventually, had success. We grumbled a great deal at Sainte Barbe, because she didn’t help us at all. I think she was a little unfair. If we’d been stuck there much longer, I think we’d have called out the fire brigade, and then, surely, she’d have to have helped.