Les Baux-de-Provence gets its name “baux” from a French word meaning cliff, and gives its name to bauxite, the aluminum ore that was discovered here in 1841. The lords of Les Baux ruled the Provence region during the Middle Ages, building fortresses here beginning in the 9th century. Traces of human habitation date from 6000 BCE, and the Celts built here as early as 2nd century BCE. Claiming to be descended from Balthazar (one of the mythical Three Kings of Christian writings), they didn’t acknowledge the supremacy of the various Popes or the French king, mainly because no one could make them!
They were eventually integrated into Provence, and subsequently into France, in 1491, at which time the keep was demolished by the authorities, afraid of this impregnable fortress. The site became a center for Protestantism, and its revolts led Cardinal Richelieu to order the fortress pulled down, for a second time, in 1632. What remains, for the most part, is what was left after this punishment. Ten years later, King Louis XIII (think of The Three Musketeers)
awarded the area to a loyal follower styled as “Le Marquis des Baux“, whose family name is Grimaldi. You may recognize this family as the current rulers of Monaco.
After the French Revolution, the town, by now numbering only a few hundred people, became part of France.
The lower ‘living city’ has been preserved and restored, and holds shops, museums, chapels, and restaurants. The upper ‘dead city’ contains the remains of the fortress and chateau.
Even though “Le Mistral” was not in full force, we experienced terrific winds at the top of the fortress. It is France’s second most popular tourist site. Europe’s largest trebuchet is on site, and demonstrations are given daily in summer months (which we did not get to see).
I didn’t realize it at the time, but one of Provence’s most well-known makers of Santons has a shop in the lower village; however, we arrived rather late in the day and would not have had time to see the studio.I would have LOVED to visit the shop. We also did not see the entire fortress top, but what we did see was breathtaking. After leaving, we stopped in St.-Remy-de-Provence only long enough to grab eggs and wine for dinner. Below, a few more pictures. Many of these were taken by Laura.
- Sleeping in Provence (twodifferentgirls.com)
- Voyages en Mediterranée (aixcentric.com)
- fluvial (french-word-a-day.typepad.com)
- On the Road in Provence! (absolutelyfaaabulous.com)
- Beautiful Places to Visit in France (taxilondoncab.com)