Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Section

Les Baux-de-Provence - medieval fortress

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Les Baux-de-Provence, a perched fortress

Les Baux-de-Provence is an impressive fortress that dates back to the 10th century and one of Southern France's many perched bastides.

These medieval fortresses built at the edge of dramatic cliffs not only were almost impregnable, but they also commanded entire valleys.

Today redundant, they have turned into picturesque villages that attract thousands of visitors each year.

In Provençal or Langue d'Oc, bau means rocky escarpment.

A well deserved name for Les Baux-de-Provence.

The fortress is indeed nestled on a spectacular 250m high rocky promontory, high above the surrounding Alpilles hills!

The Celts obviously thought that this strategic position site was ideal, as they chose the site to build their oppidum.

The Romans developed and reinforced the stronghold, as it overlooked a section of the Via Aurelia, the road they built in order to link Arles to Aix en Provence.

The mighty fortress became the centre of local power during the Middle-Ages.

The fiercely ambitious princes of Les Baux indeed controlled 79 towns and villages in the region.

They claimed to be the descendants of Balthazar, one of the Three Wise Men.

Amazingly, the 16-pointed silver star, which guided the kings to Bethlehem, is still on Les Baux de Provence municipal flag!

In 1642 the town was granted as a marquessate to the Grimaldi of Monaco; the title of Marquis des Baux has since remained with them.

A picturesque perched village

Modern day Les Baux de Provence boasts a unique atmosphere!

You'll indeed find small courtyards with terraced cafes and a multitude of shops selling local specialties such as wine, olive oil, soap, tablecloths and of course lavender and herbes de Provence.

The 12th century Saint Vincent Church is not only tiny, but it was also carved out of the cliff face.

However, the once majestic fortress of Les Baux-de-Provence is today in ruins, but its impressive vestiges give a good idea of its original size.

Les Baux-de-Provence overlooks Le Crau, the vast plain that stretches at the foot of the cliff and boasts spectacular views of the many olive groves and vineyards.

Locals say that on a clear day they can see the lights of Nîmes in the distance.

Department of Bouches-du-Rhône
Coordinates: Lat 43.743887 - Long 4.795495

Photo Wikimedia Commons: header - Commanding the surrounding countryside - Others images images are copyrighted to SheldonMcBride
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