Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Take a walk around Le Parage

Following the celebrations for 'le 14 juillet' the final rehearsals begin for Les Medievales des Arcs the biennial festival that celebrates the town's medieval origins. Les Festes du Castrum d'Arcus (literally translated as 'the festivities of the fort of Les Arcs').

Each major son et lumiere performance is based on a different aspect of that history. This year it is called Le Seigneur des Songes, loosely 'The Prince of Dreams'.

The scenery being constructed in the amphitheatre at Les Arcs-sur-Argens.
Already the scenery is being moved into place. We are going to the Saturday night performance. Despite visiting Les Arcs each year since 2008, we have somehow missed this performance, which takes place every odd-numbered year.
Although there were earlier settlements here, Les Arcs-sur-Argens began life as a fortified village with the construction of the castrum - or fort (today called the chateau) on a rocky outcrop above the wide river plain of the Argens, in the 13th century.
A tiny statue of Sainte Roseline built into a niche on a wall.
The fort became the seat of the Villeneuve family, which reigned over Les Arcs for five centuries - the most famous family members being Romee de Villeneuve - advisor to Raimond Berenger V, the Count of Provence; Helion de Villeneuve - the grand master of the Order of the Knights Hospitallier of Jerusalem; and Roseline de Villeneuve - whose miracles earned her Sainthood and whose 750-year-old body still lies in a glass case in the Chapelle Sainte Roseline just outside Les Arcs.
Wandering through Le Parage.
The village in the fort's immediate surrounds, is known as Le Parage. The name comes from that for the original district where the nobles lived, as opposed to the lower lands that were reserved for the peasants. Restored in the 1960s, it has become a tourist attraction for French and international visitors alike.
The chateau and tower of the donjon dominated the landscape - and still do. The village was surrounded by high ramparts, broken by only four gates, The Basse Porte (low gate), the Haute Porte (high gate), the Real Porte (east gate on the side of the Real river) and the Milante Porte (to the west).
The 1662 bell tower photographed from the Jardin des Oliviers.
Located beside the Basse Porte is the clock tower, which gives its name to our street and is topped by an intricate wrought-iron bell tower, added much later in 1662. You will see many of these bell towers in this part of Provence.
Near the top of the village is the Chapelle Saint Pierre, which houses a wonderful scale model of the medieval village as it was in the 14th century, created by Alain Durdu - plus the interior workings of the clock tower. The chapelle also houses art exhibitions and classical music soirees from time-to-time.
The gateway at the chateau where Sainte Roseline's first miracle is believed to have occurred.
Take a walk through Le Parage. It is easy to get lost in the maze of narrow, stepped streets where no cars are permitted. Drink in the history among the austere, stone buildings. Enjoy the expansive view from the top, the fountains, the low relief sculptures set into the walls, the carved or wrought iron doorways, the secret Jardin des Oliviers.
Each small town in Provence houses so much history, much of it in ruins - but thanks to the restoration and habitation of Le Parage, you can experience the working village as it might have once existed.
* Apologies to French speakers for lack of accents on French words.