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Les Iles du Salut with PHOTOS

A long long way from home

sunny 85 °F
View 2020 Vision - around South America on HopeEakins's travel map.


Les Iles du Salut, the Salvation Islands, are three tiny (total area is less than ¼ square mile) islands off the northern coast of South America. They are so named because missionaries escaped to them when the plague raged. Part of French Guinea, L’Ile Royale, St. Joseph, and L’Ile du Diable (Devil’s Island of Papillon fame) are picturesque and charming, famous because they are the site of a French penal colony through which passed over 70,000 prisoners shipped here from France from1887 to 1938. We walked all around L'Ile Royale. The stone work is lovely, the palms sway in the breezes, and the land is dotted with ruins like “The Penitentiary,” “The Condemned Prisoners’ Quarters” and “The Chapel.”

The east window in the prisoner-built Chapel is particularly interesting (although it was too bright to photograph). These prisoners had no hope of escape (shark filled water, dangerous currents, etc.); punishing labor and disease were part of their lives, and it seems like they had no hope. There is little decoration in the chapel: one stained glass window and a few damaged frescoes. The fresco of Mary holding a dead Jesus has almost disappeared, but a water pitcher and cloth are clearly seen and are clearly there to be used by the mother to wash her dead son. The window over the altar has the same shape as the pitcher, tipped to pour out its contents. Could it be that the prisoners’ only hope was that someone would care enough to tend them after they died?

Posted by HopeEakins 09:05 Archived in French Guiana

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