This nonagenarian lives permanently in a cave of the Var where he shares with his regular visitors his daily meditation and asceticism. His credo: fraternity and humor.
Last April, in the foothills of the Esterel mountains, 15 kilometers from Roquebrune-sur-Argens (Var), the discovery of human bones in a cave two meters deep in the middle of the scrubland had briefly revived a criminal enigma: the disappearance of Xavier Dupond-de-Ligonnès, the father suspected of having killed his entire family in Nantes in 2011. The unknown of Bagnols-en-Forêt – unidentified to date – was not the wanted man for four years.
And this last one can not be found. But these mountains, which hid in the eighteenth century the “Robin Hood of Provence” Gaspard de Besse to rob travelers in transit, still houses a hermit, the only officially known.
Brother Antoine , 92 years old, lives in a cavity of the Ocher Rock of Roquebrune-sur-Argens since 1966. He had a “love at first sight” for “this sumptuous cave,” he says. “I was 43 years old and I was living with a certainty, that there is a state of perfect contentment here and now, that in Christianity we call Kingdom of Heaven,” he told VSD, who came to his meeting. In 2016, the old man will celebrate his half-century of troglodyte life.
LESSONS OF LIFE OF BROTHER ANTOINE
Enjoying a breathtaking view of its terrace shaded by branches, Brother Antoine lives in the year in his cave, where he finally rarely remains alone. Hikers regularly sleep in neighboring cavities. “But they must be discreet and especially do not make a fire because they become visible for miles around,” says the resident occupant. Because sleeping in this protected massif is illegal. “If you write an article, reporters will come back,” he suddenly realizes.
I had a TV show with Jean-Luc Delarue in 2000 on “hedonists and ascetics.” Beside swingers, he had talked about loneliness, meditation and prayer. Funny about everything, he came out “happy” with his Parisian experience without thinking that he would soon be invaded by the curious. “There are people coming into my cave, taking pictures and leaving,” he says. His lair had become unbearable. He left the place for three years for another hermitage.
When he came back, the windows were broken, he replaced them with plexiglass. At the entrance, it is today written: “The cave of the brother Antoine is not a tourist curiosity but a place of fraternal meeting”
LESSONS OF LIFE OF BROTHER ANTOINE
Brother Antoine saw that people bring him day by day. Some are passing, others have become regulars for several decades. His cavern is very bare: mattresses, a few books, a gas stove and some cutlery. He lives without money, without bank account. It has no running water but recovers rainwater through two holes in the rock at the top of its cave. Toilets ? “No, no one comes to piss me off,” he laughs. Some candles are used to light his cave at dusk but he uses little, his rhythm being that of the sun.
Brother Antoine does not pay rent, the private owner of the land where his home is located has never asked him. In the forest, around a large rectangular stone, he installed pebbles and left a note: “Here lies …” When you raise the stone that hides the rest, you can read “a big pebble” Humor of Brother Anthony is sometimes particular.
If some religious consider him a heretic, he says he lives “without intermediary” with God. From his real name Louis Chauvel, Brother Antoine lived more than ten years in monastery and carved wooden religious objects. It was through this job that he met a wealthy industrialist who would become his patron. Follows a long series of fourteen trips to India.
Brother Antoine says “never be bored”, rich of a deep inner life. But the religious has another passion. “I write by drive. Some have dogmatic, financial or sexual drives. I’m writing. He has already published eight books that he scribbles by hand.
Rachel Guimbaud, Lyonnaise, 32, is the link between the publisher and the author. She rewrites her text on computer, goes to see it and recovers her manuscripts every month for four years. “It’s always a meeting. He is very lucid about the world in which one lives even if it is sometimes stripper. I come to seek joy in Roquebrune-sur-Argens, “she admits with a big smile. “Brother Antoine takes care of us and we take care of him.”