Monday, 22 February 2010

The burial of Riez

The pilgrims look up at the magnificent temple, full of hope. You tell them how to make sacrifices to Aesclepius, son of Apollo. Later you will let them bathe in the holy waters before spending the night in the temple where serpents move freely, bringing augural dreams.

Set in a wide valley in the southern alps at the junction of two rivers, Reii Appollinaires is known far and wide for its healing powers. Its reputation has made your town rich. But the uplands have been deforested to build the magnificent town and heat its baths, and soil has started to wash off the hills.

No one thought the holy waters might be the town’s undoing. But their steady tide of alluvial silt was lifting the level of the plane, burying the buildings. Your descendants built a cathedral ontop of the temple. Its bishops had great influence. But the tide from the hills was relentless. By the middle ages the town abandoned the site and tried to rebuild on higher ground it was too late, Riez’s glory days were done.

All that remains of your magnificent town today are four slender temple columns and a sleepy village surrounded by fields of lavender.