Comme des Garçons Avignon fragrance, named after the French seat of the Papal court during the conflict with Rome in the 14th century, evokes grim cathedrals and catacombs with centuries of humidity and tangy frankincense smoke attached to their stony walls. To give the background of the name a short historical perspective, it all arose from a conflict of power.
Following the strife between Philip IV of France and Pope Boniface VIII, and the death of his successor Benedict XI after eight months in office, a rupture was evident between the French crown and the Pope seat in Rome. The conclave elected Clement V, in 1305. Clement, who was a Frenchman, declined to move to Rome, and in 1309, he moved his court to the papal enclave at Avignon, where it remained for the next 67 years enjoying a succession of no less than 7 French popes.
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Incense reigns in Bertrand's work, accounted for in reverse psychology by his strict Catholic upbringing. When church duties collide with corporal punishment, guilt and internal suffering, it might become rather discomfitting. The realm of the senses, smell in particular, retains nevertheless a visceral appeal, enhanced via the perverted pleasure nascent from that which is denied of: ambrette and labdanum in the scent of CDG Avignon recall the sinful body...
For someone like me, raised in the Christian Orthodox faith, I find that the fragrance of Avignon, due to its smoky and denser background with patchouli and moss, bears kinship with my Mediterranean memories of church incense wafting off Byzantine abodes. I may have been spared the rod, but I can identify with the odd sensuality of an austere type of scent which I shouldn't really like, yet which I end up loving all the same.