Michele Hanrath (June 2006)

Lourmarin, a picturesque village in the Luberon, was settled at the end of the 15th C by members of a religious sect called the Vaudois, or the Waldenses, probably followers of Pierre Valdo (or Waldo) who lived just outside Lyon at the end of the 12th C . He believed that one should relinquish ones earthly possessions in order to be granted a better place in heaven. He encouraged the study of the New Testament which was not appreciated by the ruling church of the time. He and his followers were excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church and chased out of Lyon in 1184.

In 1545 after François I signed the “Acte de Révocation de l’Édit de Tolérance” a mass murder of the Vaudois began. Thousands of innocent people were killed in Provence. By 1560 many Vaudois who had taken shelter in the French-Italian Alps started to return to the area. The Vaudois community in Lourmarin were very discrete in their worship, continuing to use the local church until they were able to build a church of their own early in the 1600’s. But in 1663 the temple was destroyed upon orders from Louis XIV when he started his campaign of une foi, un loi, un roi and revoked the Edict of Nantes and attempted to abolish Protestantism in France. Officially in 1789 religious freedom was granted, but again in 1793 they were not allowed to have their own churches.

It was finally in 1805 that permission was granted to buy a piece of land on which to build a church.. The Protestant community of Lourmarin did not have the means to finance the entire construction of their church and the Municipal Council came to their aid and decided in 1811 to pay for the building of the church. The neighboring village of Puyvert and their protestant community contributed the furnishings to the church. In 1817 this austere and neoclassic temple, located between the local château and the village of Lourmarin, was inaugurated. Due to the quality of its architecture and the uniqueness of a Protestant heritage in Provence, this temple was placed on a supplementary list of Monuments historiques in 1991. Protecting this building also helps to keep intact the entire area surrounding the château of Loumarin.

The special points of interest in this rather sober building are the monumental organ dating from 1840 as well as a beautiful coffered ceiling. Upon calling the office de Tourism of Lourmarin I discovered that they no longer organize tours of the building as stated in my booklet, but the church is open for services on Sundays. Every summer the church hosts one of the piano concerts of the International Piano Festival of la Roque d’Anthéron, and attending would be an agreeable way of visiting the church.

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