TWO STREET NAMES – the curious and the more curious

In the centre of Cape Town, off Barrack St, there is a small alley with a curious name.  This alleyway was probably named early in the 19th-century and it is difficult to know if the widow after whom it was named was English-speaking or Afrikaans or something else.  The name is Kromelbow lane.  I wonder:  is a skew elbow being suggested or is the name Kromel with the English word bow attached?  Well, if we find Katzenellenbogen for one of the wings of the Castle, not far away, then this would be possible.

                             More curious

In Antibes, within walking distance from where I stay, is another curious street name – Chemin des Âmes du Purgatoire, the Way of Souls in Purgatory.  Probably not that strange for someone who has been reared in a Catholic country, but for me distinctly curious.  What would be reasoning, the history, for naming a street in this way?

             A modest monument

The answer comes in the history of the early-16th-century battle between Francois I and Charles Quint, against the backdrop of the political chaos of rivalry in the south of France which lasted a few centuries.  The loss of life in this battle was greater than the liberation of the Côte d’Azur in August, 1944.  The outcome of the battle was as outcomes of battles usually are – celebrating leaders and weeping mothers.   The count of Nice wanted to compensate for the losses of the tragedy and to name a chemin, a way, for the dead.  This way leads off the Rue de Grasse, the main route from Antibes to Grasse.  Where the two streets meet, on the corner, we can see the small, even inconspicuous, monument with a prayer engraved:

                                                                       Pray to God for the souls in purgatory

                                                                                  and  they will pray for you

                                 The prayer

Soldiers who died in the battle were probably bound for heaven, according to Catholic theology, but had to be purified in the intermediate stage.

The Protestants in Antibes (Hugenots), probably not a large number of people, found the little monument blasphemous and in the year 1560 they damaged it, breaking down the cross.  But this part of the community gradually shrank and the monument was restored in a later generation.

When I went there, investigating, I found that the cross, not strongly visible, is now made of steel. Behind thick glass there is a painting of Mary in a nun’s habit with the fallen Christ on her lap, a pieta.

                       The Pieta

The date 1702 appears and there is uncertainty if this is the date of reconstruction.  Who was Nicolas?

                    The restoration date?

The modest monument is on the corner of the busy Rue and I wonder how many of the commuters are aware of this piece of their history.  Human suffering, the poet says, always happens in an unnoticed corner.


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

July, 2017



Dictionnaire D’Antibes Juan-Les-Pins.  Pierre Tosan. HEPT, 1998

Wikipedia :  Purgatory

Cecil Jenkins :  France. Running Press, Philadelphia. 2011.

Refer W.H. Auden’s poem “Musée des Beaux Arts”



My photographs.







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