Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Lords of Les Baux

After St Paul and Glanum, I took Sue and the Girls up to Les Baux. We'd driven by on our previous visit but was put off by the huge tourist buses. The same thing again when we passed by so we decided that an early morning start would be the way to go.
After an early breakfast we hopped in the little red Hyundai and dashed off over the Alpilles to Les Baux. It sits on a the highest most point of a rocky spur overlooking the valleys on both sides - a most strategic position but it didn't stop it from its eventual demise. It held off many attacks over the centuries but the most successful attempt was due not to violence but to the cutting of supplies to the people of Les Baux. They eventually surrended.
The Citadel was then destroyed by the victors never to be rebuilt so what we saw was the ruins of a complex village fortress built into the craggy cliffs. Quite amazing.

As you enter the lower regions of Les Baux, you see some latter ruins of the village.

This map shows the lower inhabited village with the ruins of the Chateau above.

The Medieval Siege machines.

We thought we might spend an hour at Les Baux but it turned into more than two hours, so fascinating that it was. Portions of the site were only discovered by accident in 1999. How much more might be hidden?
On entering the Les Baux you walk the streets of the current village with souvenir shops and eating places that lead you to the medieval ruins if the Chateau des Baux de Provence.
Being at the highest point of the region, it overlooks the olive groves and vineyards below. In the Moyen age water was not accessible so the people made their own water collection system. Pathways had channel systems underneath. A sophisticated system of small reservoirs or catchment areas caught rain from the sky and these areas can be seen as you walk the rocky slopes. The ruins of a wind mill can be seen sitting just above one of these catchment areas before you walk towards reproductions of the five medieval siege engines. As we walked by a demonstration was in operation with the Trebuchet for a group of school children. The Trebuchet was a machine that could launch stones 200 metres towards fortress walls in an attempt to make an entrance for the enemy to invade. 

Les Baux has many levels, and narrow walk ways leading to rooms cut from the rock faces. You can see sections carved from the walls for storage use and fireplaces. Vaulted ceilings embellish the rock in certain areas within the Lords of Le Baux Chateau.

Those little honeycomb holes in the wall are pigeon lofts. Pigeons were used to send messages as well as the dining table.
If you were a pigeon, you'd want to be a very good messenger. 

Where the stairs descend is one of the water collecting reservoirs.

Just a little history from the Les Baux tourist website:

Les Baux during the Renaissance

The Renaissance was a golden age for the town and the residential buildings in the castle were partially rebuilt. In 1631, however, the fortress was again in the hands of insurgents. The royal decision taken in the previous year to dispose of the "Parlement" in Provence (a consultative and judicial authority), led to a revolt in Aix-en-Provence. It was put down by the Prince de Condé and some of the rebels fled and sought refuge in Les Baux. The town was besieged by Cardinal Richelieu's troops and, when the fighting was over, the fortress was again demolished.

In 1642, the lordship of Les Baux was given by King Louis XIII to Hercule Grimaldi to thank him for his policies in favour of the Crown of France. Hercule passed the title of Marquis des Baux to his descendents and its current holder is Prince Albert of Monaco.

After the revolution, the marquisate was annexed to France. The village of Les Baux was gradually abandoned and had a population of only 400 at the end of the 19th century (there had been 3,000 inhabitants in the 13th century). Les Baux, however, had another date with History. In 1821, a geologist discovered a red rock there rich in alum earth - he called it "bauxite".

Tomorrow we take off for a marathon two day journey to the Languedoc. First stop is Carcassonne then, Minerve with an overnight stop at Narbonne before returning to Saint Remy.


  1. I'm really enjoying the history lessons. Thanks!
    PS great pics too

    1. And you be there soon, making your own memories.

  2. I didn't realise Les Baux was this extensive .... what an amazing place! You must have felt you were walking on History. I loved your post on St Paul's at St Remy ... It brought back memories of an afternoon spent there and your pic taken from the lavender field looking up to Vincent's window is almost identical to the one I took.

    1. Did you post a picture as well - if so I may have seen it. Its also the same shot I took in 2008 when there. We had a wonderful two hours with our hosts at St Remy yesterday. Communication hilarious with phrase books in hand.

  3. Your photos are amazing and I agree with Dianne I did not know how extensive these ruins are. I have just caught up with your other posts as well.

    We are back home, but the garden has taken off while we were away so the next few days will be work in the garden and my blog will have to hold fire for a few days. At least you can contact us easily again. Drive safely Diane

    1. Diane - I just have this crappy little pocket camera so thanks for the compliment. The subject matter helps to make some good images.
      We'll be in contact during next week probably one or two days before being in the area.

  4. I have been catching up with your adventures in France. They are helping to put me in the mood to organise our annual trip across the channel, but at the moment I am not sure when it will be or where we might go.

    1. HI CW - If we can at all help with any advise, please feel free to contact us. Sue is a whizz at organising and researching after five trips to France.

  5. Late '70s I visited Les Baux with my parents [must have been about 16] and it was a bit different :-). No info panels and certainly no hordes of tour buses. Antoinette

  6. N & A,
    It's worth going back but with all things today, we need to look at it with different yes and I have to say that the Audio thingies are very mind image making.


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