Roussillon, a village perched on a ridge of ocher

Ocher deposits in Roussillon
Ocher deposits in Roussillon

Roussillon is one of the fifteen French Most Beautiful Villages of Provence!

The village is perched on a ridge of ocher, in the heart of the Lubéron Valley, in the Parc Naturel Régional du Lubéron*.

It indeed wins the award for not only being one of the most beautiful, but also one of the most colourful villages in France!

Colourful Roussillon

Seventeen different shades of ocher, ranging from yellow to orange to pink to red, can be found in deposits around the village.

Ocher deposits in Roussillon
Ocher deposits in Roussillon

Goethite, a mineral that formed when the region was covered by the sea, produced these multi-hued deposits.

Roussillon ocher was extensively quarrying from the end of the 18th century until 1930, as it was used in the textile industry to dye fabric.

The nature trail Sentier des Ocres – Ocher Trail takes you (there’s an entry fee!) to the discovery of these spectacular deposits.

However, beware that your shoes will be covered in red dust, so don’t wear a brand new pair!

The legend of Roussillon

A lovely local legend explains the origins of the multi-hued deposits!

Back in the Middle Ages, a young woman named Séramonde was engaged to Raymond d’Avignon, the lord of Roussillon.

Ocher deposits in Roussillon
Ocher deposits in Roussillon

However, Raymond was more interested in hunting than serenading Séramonde and spent most of his time away with his fellow hunters killing animals.

Not a good idea in the Middle Ages, when romantic troubadours roamed the land!

So, you certainly guessed what happened!

Inevitably, Séramonde fell in love with a musical and dreamy-eyed young troubadour.

And of course, Raymond found out!

Not only did he kill the troubadour, but he also cut out his heart and ordered the cook to prepare it for dinner.

However, when poor Séramonde discovered she had eaten the heart of her lover, she threw herself off the cliffs at Roussillon.

Her blood splattered everywhere and runs forever in the clay, coloring the ocher.

Roussillon today

Ocher house in Roussillon
Beautiful ocher colour

Quarrying of ocher ceased in 1930, mainly because synthetic dyes replaced natural pigments.

However, Roussillon has since lived on tourism; the small village indeed welcomes thousands of visitors each year, mostly during the summer season.

The best times to visit the deposits are early morning or in the evening, or during the less busy spring and autumn months.

The village is stunning as all the houses were built with ocher and therefore boasts colourful doorways, buildings and shutters, flowers and panoramic views.

Musicians are frequently playing in the tiny lane during the holiday season, while shops and cafes abound.

Finally, many painters settled in the village, so there is quite a lively artist community.

Department of Vaucluse
Coordinates: Lat 43.902293 – Long 5.292936

Credits: Photos houses by atelier434 – Source Text by Evelyn Jackson – Edited by and for Travel France Online – *

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