Things to do in Aix-en-Provence – Visit the Church of Saint John of Malta
If time permits, during your stroll through the Mazarin Quarter or while following in the steps of Cezanne, consider popping in to the Church of Saint John of Malta. This 13th century Gothic church, constructed by the Order of the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem, also known as the Knights of Malta, was previously the burial site for the Counts of Provence. The Maltese Cross, symbol of the Order, can be seen on the church facade, on the fountain in the square out front, and on several decorative features inside.
The 14th century bell tower, with it’s needle-like spire, stands over 200 feet tall (67 meters) and can be seen from blocks away down Rue Cardinale.
The light interior of the church with faded frescos, ribbed vaulting, and stone ceilings with decorative keystones has many more architectural features and artifacts worth noting. These include:
Chapelle de Notre-Dame-du-bon-Voyage – The chapel of Our Lady of the Good Voyage built by Vincent de Forbin Lafare, Grand Prior of Toulouse.
Stained Glass Windows – the colorful windows behind the high altar date to the 19th century and feature the images of several Biblical figures, as well as Raimond Bérenger IV and his daughter Béatrix de Provence, Queen of Naples; the Rose Window, located above the main organ, was created in the 19th century by local glassmaker Louis André and features a Maltese Cross at its center; the Resurrection Windows, created by Henri Guérin, were inaugurated in 1984.
17th Century Wooden Pulpit – decorated with carvings of saints and biblical events, replaced a previous one from the same time period.
La Chapelle Saint-Marthe – the 17th chapel dedicated to Saint Martha houses a statue of Saint Benoît-Labre, who stayed in the church during his pilgrimage to Rome.
Mausoleum of the Counts of Provence – located in the north transept, the mausoleum houses the sarcophagus of Raimond Bérenger, above which is a relief depicting the shield and spear of Alfonso II. To the left is a statue of Bérenger and to the right a statue of his daughter Béatrix.
Remnants of the Tomb of Beatrixof Provence – located in the south transept, the remnants include a bas-relief of the head of John the Baptist and another of two angels presenting infant Jesus with symbols of the Passion.
Chapel of the Holy Sacrament – built in the 15th century and dedicated to the cult of Saint Louis of Anjou and Toulouse, this chapel houses a gilded statue of the Madonna and a polychrome marble altar topped by a 17th century crucifix. Flanking the altar are statues of infant Saint John the Baptist, his arm resting on a lamb, and infant Jesus lying on a cross.
Chapel of Saint Blaise – constructed in the 17th century, this chapel features an 18th century gilded altar decorated with a relief of a lamb on the front panel.
La Vierge aux Calissons – believed to be from the 15th century, this unique statue of the Virgin and Child is paraded through the streets of Aix each year for the annual blessing of the Calissons.
Church Bells – these 3 bells, named Jeanne, Gérard, and Augustine, were created in 2013 to replace three older bells that were melted down in the late-18th century to provide artillery for Napoleon’s army; a fourth bell survived and is currently housed in the bell tower.
The Church of Saint John of Malta holds several works of art, these include:
Christ on the Cross (after Van Dyck) – Eugene Delacroix, 1820
La Sagrada Familia de Gaudi – Vincent Roux, 1990
The Resurrection of Christ – painted by Belgian-born artist Louis Finson, this painting dated 1610 is said to be the oldest known work by this artist in Provence.
La Théologie(Theology) – Michel François d’André-Bardon, 18th century