The Pilgrimage of Via Tolosa
Saint-Trophime is an important pilgrimage church that serves as a starting point for the Via Tolosa, stretching between Arles and Toulouse and, finally, extending to Santiago de Compostela along the Route of St. James. This route remains one of the greatest pilgrimage routes and for over 1000 years individuals have traversed more than 500 miles to reach the Santiago de Compostela in Spain, with its shrine and relics of the apostle James. Traversing this route was also one of the few ways for non-wealthy Christians to earn indulgences (clerical forgiveness) for serious earthly sins. The Romanesque church of Saint-Trophime, located in the ancient Roman/Provencal city of Arles, is still a prominent pilgrimage destination today.
Romanesque and Gothic Architecture
Saint-Trophime is meticulously formal in its attentiveness to classical architectural form and detail, a precision that is exemplified in its aesthetic beauty. This conservative style is appropriate given the lengthy history of Arles, which boasts an extensive collection of standing classical-period monuments from its years as an important Roman center and port on the Rhone River. The church, itself, was considered a cathedral from the 12th-19th centuries and showcases the standard architectural features of Medieval Roman Catholic cathedrals: an apse, transept, nave, bell tower, and Gothic choir. Its interior design is relatively modest, typical among pilgrimage churches of the period.
A Romanesque Masterpiece in the Heart of Provence
Dedicated to Saint Trophimus in 1152, the site of Saint-Trophime has an extensive history of construction, renovation, and politics. In 1801, however, Saint-Trophime was decommissioned as a Cathedral and given the status of a simple parish church when Provence’s bishopric moved to Aix-en-Provence. In 1882, however, Pope Leo XIII declared Saint-Trophime's status to be that of a minor basilica, thus restoring it to a prestige position in recognition of its historical and architectural significance. In 1981, the Romanesque and Roman historic center of Arles was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list, and St. Trophime is considered one of the historic center's most cherished Romanesque structures. As one of Europe's most well-preserved and magnificent Romanesque churches, Saint-Trophime has consistently drawn admirers from all over the world.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the World Monuments Fund (WMF) worked with local and national authorities on a variety of conservation projects, including the analysis, treatment, and cleaning of the façade of Saint-Trophime. To supplement the WMF’s extensive documentation, CyArk and Christofori und Partner digitally documented the cloister of Saint-Trophime in 2009. This digital archive was consulted by preservationists throughout site conservation in 2010, and continues to influence such efforts today.