Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Carefree: Sans-Souci

"In the end, the character of a civilization is encased in its structures."
Frank Gehry

This is Sans-Souci Palace near Milot, Haiti.  Sans-Souci means "carefree."  

We traveled there in March with the students and teachers of Cowman International School.  My parents were visiting at the time, and they journeyed with us as well.

Henri I, or Henri Christophe, the first self-named king of Haiti, commissioned the palace in 1810, and it took nearly four years to complete it.

I'm thinking that the idea he had in mind for his palace was a place where he was free from worries--carefree.  It was a place where he could throw lavish parties and impress guests and visitors from afar.  

But, as I explored the cavernous ruins of rooms, crumbling stone walls and jagged staircases, all I could think was, "no one cared."

Eventually, it seems that no one cared about this king.  He was isolated in his palace, alone with his fears about foreign invaders that never arrived.

Did no one care when he died in his palace--not at the hands of a terrible enemy--but by his own hand?  (He is said to have shot himself in the head with a silver bullet.)

A few days later, he was buried and his widow and her daughters moved away. "Where did they go?" I asked our tour guide.  He didn't know.  No one cared.  The palace was ransacked and pillaged.  His nephew and heir was murdered at the palace by revolutionaries shortly after Henri's death.

And when a huge earthquake shook Northern Haiti in 1842 (devastating Cap Haitien at that time), no one cared that the beautiful Sans-Souci Palace had been damaged.  No one thought to rebuild it; repair it; salvage what was left; preserve this piece of history.
No one cared.

No one has cared ever since.

Wind, water, and time continue to destroy.

Mossy grass grows over stone paths.

Time has softened the features of this bust of Queen Marie-Louise.

Vines drape over forgotten archways and spill out of brick windowsills.

Once-lush gardens and regal fountains are long forgotten--crumbling and buried under weeds.

Relics of deep wells are now filled with soil.

Once upon a time, Henri Christophe's queen swam in this pool.

The palace sits up high in the mountain, overlooking Milot.

Cracking and crumbling walls and doorways.

This was called the "judgment tree."  
I wonder how many sentences and punishments were once fulfilled here?

I tried to imagine ladies in grand gowns bustling up and down these jagged steps.

My time exploring the palace left me feeling a little sad.  

Sad for this decrepit historical site...  Sad for many things that seem uncared for in Haiti.

If I could write Haiti a letter, I'd tell her:
God cares about you.  He cares about the piles of foul sewage and rotting garbage and the constant littering of streets.  He cares about your contaminated water sources.
He cares about your undernourished babies filling up the orphanages.
He cares about your men and women who search tirelessly for ways to provide for their families.  He cares about your scantily-clothed children standing in empty doorways--the ones who aren't in uniforms, headed to school each day.

Haiti, I'm praying for leaders to rise up from within you--leaders who will care for you like God does.  Don't stop working to make positive changes.  Don't give up hope.
God cares.

Philippians 4:19
And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.


  1. Keep Praying Sarah! The effectual fervent prayer of the righteous man availeth much! Pran Kouraj Sharon Mishler

  2. Beautiful pics of the beautiful palace and great reflection too! Most people here care tremendously for this place but many people are also very frustrated and like Roi Christophe and many people everywhere really want and really fear power. I so agree that it's not obvious that people care.


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