Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Section
Venasque - Plus Beaux Villages de France
Venasque in Vaucluse
Venasque is located in the department of Vaucluse.
Needless to say that with such a location, it has been constantly inhabited since the Paleolithic.
The archaeological excavations, which took place in the numerous rock shelters located along the river Nesque, uncovered a wealth of objects and tools.
They also show that human occupation was at its peak during the Neolithic.
Venasque, the capital of Comtat Venaissin
Venasque, or Vindasca, as it was once known, became one of the most important strongholds of the Memini.
This Celtic tribe had established its capital in Carpentras.
The fortifications of Venasque were improved during the Gallo-Roman period.
Many artefacts from this period were also uncovered.
They include the gravestone of Bohetius, the bishop of Carpentras in the 6th century, which was discovered by the Church of Notre-Dame-de-Vie .
This church district is indeed the original settlement.
The name of the church, and by extension the district's, indeed evolved from vicus (town), which became vic and vie.
The stronghold of Venasque, was then known as Comitatus Vendacensis or Comté de Venasque.
It left its name to the region known as Comtat Venaissin.
The Comté de Venasque became the property of the counts of Toulouse in 1125.
A century later, Raymond VII of Toulouse joined the Albigensian rebellion.
However, he was forced to cede the Comté to the pope after the defeat of his camp in 1219.
The Comtat Venaissin remained the property of the papacy until the French Revolution in 1791, when it was integrated into France.
The fortress therefore became obsolete.
Many inhabitants left and moved down to the plain, where they built new dwellings on their land.
This fertile plain has, since the 17th century, been specialized in the culture of cherries.
The Cerises de Venasque were granted the label Monts de Venasque in 1978.
Their unique flavour and colour earned them the title of Red Diamond of Provence.
However, the area is also renowned for its many vineyards that produce excellent table grapes.
One of the most beautiful French villages
As most Provencal villages, Venasque began to be restored in the 1960s.
This was when French and foreigners started to re-discover their cultural and architectural!
Venasque has retained its authenticity.
Its exceptional medieval architecture even earned it to be ranked among Les Plus Beaux Villages de France.
The village is also protected by a bylaw voted in 1967, which prohibits any external modification of existing buildings.
It also ensures that ruined buildings are restored to their original specifications.
The village’s steep lanes are lined with old Provencal houses and mansions built between the 14th and 17th centuries.
The Esplanade des Tours (Tours Sarrasines) boasts fantastic view of the Dentelles de Montmirail and the Mont Ventoux.
The fortifications and three tours known as Tours Sarrasines are classified Historical Monuments.
Place the Planette boasts prime views of the mountains but also a superb fountain.
The Fontaine Planette was built in 1891, in order to commemorate the centenary of the integration of the Comtat Venaissin to France.
The Baptistère de Venasque is a truly exceptional building that was classified Historical Monument in 1840.
Built in the 6th century, it is one of the oldest religious buildings existing in France.
It also contains ancient columns probably salvaged from Roman temples.
It is located next to the Eglise Notre-Dame-de-Vie.
Department of Vaucluse
Coordinates: Lat 43.995641 - Long 5.146846
Photos via Wikimedia Creative Commons: Cherry trees - Fortifications - Baptistere