High historical place, the village of Leases of Provence, founded in the Middle Ages, modified during the Renaissance, honored by the great Provencal poets such as Mistral, Daudet, Pagnol, painted by Cezanne and Van Gogh, attracts audiences from all over the world. The Baux de Provence site extending over seven hectares is one of the Most Beautiful Sites Protected as Historical Monuments and in 1988 was classified among the Most Beautiful Villages of France.
The history of Baux de Provence
Village perched on the rocks, the name "Baux" originally means plumb, cliff, rocky escarpment. Legend also has it that Balthazar, one of the three wise men, on his way to Bethlehem, stopped there and founded the city. Although traces of habitat have been found dating back to 6000 BC. AD, the name of Les Baux is mentioned for the first time in the 10th century. A military bastion in the Middle Ages, with the double advantage of observing the surroundings and protecting yourself, the city is one of the oldest feudal establishments in Europe.
Belonging to Pons Le Jeune, a noble close to the Archbishop of Arles, the site passed into the hands of Hugues des Baux after having signed the peace charter with the Counts of Provence of the House of Barcelona in 1156. Expanding its domains to the detriment of the Church of Arles to cover seventy-nine towns called Baussenques lands, the Maison des Baux will remain master of its lands for five hundred years.
In the 13th century, the lord of Baux built the keep on the rock, but his home was uncomfortable, cold, the walls being so thick, that he spent more time hunting, playing tournaments and fighting. The descendants improve the living conditions until Alix des Baux, the last princess who had carpets and wall tapestries with historical subjects, discovered on the inventory in 1426 after her disappearance. The barons of the House of the Counts of Provence then took possession of the estates in the 15th century, it was the time of troubadours, of courtly love and the sweetness of life until the Baussenque lands passed under the royal tutelage when Provence was attached to France under Louis XI.
During the Renaissance, Bernardin des Baux then the Constable Anne de Montmorency will transform the castle and build elegant mansions with stone from the nearby quarries. Responsible for the city of Baux in the absence of the Constable, Claude de Manville welcomes Protestant refugees from across the region during the wars of religion. In the 17th century, led by Antoine de Villeneuve, the village once again served as a refuge for the inhabitants of Aix en Provence when the king alienated the Parliament of Provence. Dissatisfied, Richelieu besieged the city and dismantled the fortress in 1633. But in 1642, Louis XIII offered the city to the Hugues de Grimaldi family as marquisate. Nowadays Albert of Monaco is Marquis des Baux, although the city is administratively attached to France.
After the revolution, the marquisate was attached to France and the villagers gradually abandoned the city. It has only four hundred inhabitants at the beginning of the 20th century, whereas they were three thousand in the 13th century, despite the discovery of a bauxite ore in 1821 which will be exploited until its exhaustion at the end of the Twentieth century.
At the end of the Second World War, the city became touristy and in 1966 André Malraux registered the village under the protection of the Ministry of Culture and the Environment.
Visit of the village of Baux de Provence
The village, entirely reserved for pedestrians, has a particular charm with its small squares, its shaded terraces and its narrow, cobbled streets. Before reaching the castle and its plateau which offers you a splendid panorama over the vineyards and the olive groves, you can visit the twenty-two monuments, buildings and listed chapels, among which are:
- the Maison du Roy, built in 1499, backing onto the ramparts, was the seat of seigneurial and royal justice. Nowadays, the building houses the Tourist Office;
- the Hôtel de Manville was built in 1571, in the pure Renaissance style for Claude II de Manville, Captain Viguier of Baux. Admire the window with the inscription Post Tenebras Lux 1571 ("After Darkness, Light") which was a Calvinist motto. The building has been donated to the municipality to install the town hall since 1960;
- Saint Vincent Church, a half-troglodyte 12th century building, Romanesque and Renaissance style, was carved into the rock. Inside, you find the funeral chapel of the de Manville family with a Gothic vault. Outside, on the south side, you can see a turret whose dome is adorned with gargoyles where a flame once burned when a resident of Les Baux died.
- the old chapel of Saint Blaise from the 12th century, founded by the corporation of weavers and carders;
- Hôtel des Porcelets, whose facade is from the 16th century with mullioned windows. Inside is preserved a vaulted room with 17th century painting, the building housing the Yves Brayer museum since 1991, one of the most important contemporary French painters;
- the Chapel of the Penitents, dating from the 17th century, erected by the White Penitents and dedicated to Saint Estelle. The front door is surmounted by a bas-relief depicting two kneeling penitents;
- the Louis Jou foundation: a 16th century building that Louis Jou, master typographer, helped to preserve. A museum was created in his honor with the workshop containing the presses. Louis Jou, Catalan, is best known for having designed and produced a work himself. A metal engraver, he also decorated certain bindings of books coming from his presses.
- the pavilion of Queen Jeanne, near the old washhouse, is in the pure Renaissance style, built by Jeanne de Quiqueran, the wife of Honoré des Martins one of the barons of Les Baux between 1568 and 1581. The pavilion has a magnificent shaded garden, called "Jardin du Comte" or "Verger du Roi".
- the santons museum bringing together Neapolitan figurines from the 17th and 18th century, and figurines in the Provençal tradition of the 19th century. You will discover one hundred and fifteen dressed figurines, eighty three painted and twenty four Neapolitan figurines, a scene with the offering to the shepherds, the Provençal crib as well as a scene of everyday life in the 19th century. The building built on the old ramparts, was bought by Les Baux in 1619, then rebuilt in 1657, the Renaissance vault was extended by a groin vault. The basements retain two dungeons from the 16th century serving as a prison until the revolution. It was used as a guardhouse, school, courthouse and town hall until 1960.
- the Château des Baux and its plateau, although in ruins, plunges us into the Middle Ages, thanks to its keep, its Saracen and Paravelle towers, its stately dovecote and its castle chapel that you can visit. The visit, enhanced by large explanatory panels, brings us back to the daily life of the time and introduces us to the war machines of the Middle Ages.
- Tourist office of the leases of Provence.
- Visit of the castle of Baux de Provence.