Saint-Blaise-des-Simples Chapel and botanical garden
Chapel and botanical garden

Saint-Blaise-des-Simples Chapel

Saint-Blaise-des-Simples Chapel is the only vestige of a 12th century leprosy placed under the patronage of Saint-Blaise, a physician who treated the sick with medicinal herbs once called ‘simples’.

By the 18th century the leprosy was in ruins, only the chapel was still standing as it served for religious services (today disused).

Several buttresses reinforce the walls built with the sandstone found in the nearby Forest of Fontainebleau.

The interior is simple, but the walls covered with lime were decorated by the poet and artist Jean Cocteau.

Saint-Blaise-des-Simples Chapel lies in the heart of a small garden of medicinal plants (Jardin des Simples) where you’ll also find the old bell of Milly-la-Forêt covered market.

Saint-Blaise-des-Simples Chapel , the resting place of Jean Cocteau

Jean Cocteau resided in Milly-la-Forêt from 1945 until his death in 1963.

At the request of the municipal council, he decorated the chapel during its restoration in 1959.

He drew medicinal herbs, aconite, belladonna, mint, buttercup, valerian jusquiana, the ‘simples’ Saint Blaise used to treat lepers.

Saint-Blaise-des-Simples Chapel - Grave of Jean Cocteau
Grave of Jean Cocteau

The artist also painted the ‘Resurrection of Christ’, which he symbolized in the form of a cat, and created the patterns for the stained glass windows.

According to his wish, Jean Cocteau rests in the small chapel.

Its burial vault, in one of the side aisles, is covered with a tombstone donated by the senator-mayor of the city of Menton, whose poet was an ‘honorary citizen’.

It’s engraved with this simple epitaph, written by Cocteau: “I stay with you”.

His adopted son, the artist Edouard Dermit, was buried in the same vault in 1995.

The small chapel also has a bust of Cocteau and stained glass windows dedicated to him, presents from the German sculptor Arno Breker.

The chapel was classified as a historical monument in 1982.

La Maison de Cocteau, a superb 18th century residence (a former outbuilding due to the long gone Chateau de Milly), which he acquired in 1947, includes several gardens, an orchard and a wooded park spread over 2 hectares.

Pierre Bergé, a renowned patron of the arts, purchased the property in 2002 and restored it to open the museum dedicated to Jean Cocteau.

Milly-la-Forêt, a village loved by the artistes

The little town, founded in the 3rd century BC, was until the 18th century an important agricultural and commercial centre as it stood along the antic Roman road leading to Lyon.

Saint-Blaise-des-Simples Chapel - Milly la foret covered market's old bell in botanical garden
Milly la foret covered market’s old bell in botanical garden

The development of road and rail infrastructure in the 19th century led to its progressive decline.

That said, it also made it more accessible from Paris.

Nestled on the edge of the Forest of Fontainebleau, it attracted painters in search of peace and nature (Paul Huet and Theodore Rousseau among others).

This craze persisted until the 20th century with Jean Cocteau, but also Christian Dior who even created a jewelry collection which he named ‘Milly-la-Forêt’.

Finally, the little town also served as the setting for the shooting of several films.

Saint-Blaise-des-Simples Chapel and Milly-la-Forêt are 50kms south of Paris and 20kms from the Château de Fontainebleau.

A perfect triple excursion for those who want to escape the crowded Parisian tourist spots!

Department of Essonne – Milly-la-Forêt
Coordinates: Lat 48.399519 – Long 2.474424

How to get there from Paris?
By car: A6 (direction Lyon) – exit n°13 (last exit befor the toll)
By train: RER D (direction Malesherbes) – Get off at station Maisse (6km from Milly) but pre-book a taxi.

Photos via Wikimedia Commons: Chapelle and Jardin des Simples Chapelle and Jardin des Simples –  Grave of Jean CocteauCat – Resurrection –  Covered market Bell

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