Famous people in history

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Petrarch found inspiration at the source of the Sorgue in Fontaine de Vaucluse, the Marquis de Sade lived his early childhood in the great halls of the Château Saumane, René Char was born and matured his poetry in L'Isle sur la Sorgue, Frédéric Mistral honoured the Provençal language at Chateauneuf de Gadagne and Pierre Salinger became the most French of Americans at Le Thor. All have written about the ties that unite them to the Sorgue and the Vaucluse, in this corner Provence.


petrarque sorgues

The Italian historian, archaeologist, poet and humanist Francesco Petrarch (Francesco Petrarqua) was born in Arezzo in 1304 and died in Arqua, near Padua in 1374.

It was he who, during his travels, found the“correspondences” of Cicero, previously thought lost. He spent his youth in Carpentras, and became fascinated with the Papal court. He gave up law to return to the minor orders.

While staying with intellectuals in Avignon, he meets Laura de Noves, for whom he had a mad and legendary passion. This impossible love inspired a collection of 366 poems, the “Canzoniere”. He was crowned “King of Poets” in Rome in 1341.

After travelling around Europe he retired for the first time, in 1338, to Vaucluse (the name given to Fontaine de Vaucluse and which in turn gave its name to the modern département) to meditate and write poems.

“I came across a very narrow and friendly but lonely valley called Vaucluse, a few miles from Avignon, where the queen of all the fountains, the Sorgue rises. Seduced by the the location, I carried my books and my person there.”

He remained in Vaucluse for fifteen years.

“No place is better suited to my studies. As a child, I visited Vaucluse. As a young man I went back to this beautiful valley which warmed my heart in her breast exposed to the sun. When the man arrived I had gently passed my best years and the happiest moments of my life there. When old, it is in Vaucluse that I wish to die, in your arms.”

The amount of work he accumulated is impressive. The main body of his poetic and literary works was created here. The oldest drawing of the fountain of the Sorgue was made by him.


The home of Petrarch

The Petrarch Museum Library was built on the left bank of the River Sorgue, on the site of the house where the poet lived from 1337 to 1353. The museum has a collection of portraits of Petrarch and Laura, engravings, a fund of old editions of the works of the poet, and a collection of modern art gathered around the writings of René Char.



Left bank of the Sorgue
Fontaine de Vaucluse
Tel: +33 (0)4 90 20 37 20

Closed on Tuesdays

Normal price: 3.50 €

Half price: € 1.50 - for groups of more than 10 people - aged 12 to 16 years - students - over 60s - Partnership Agreements

Free: under twelve years old - school groups

Pass to the Petrarch Museum Library + Jean Garcin History Museum: 2.80 €



The Marquis de Sade

marquis sade sorgues

Donation Alphonse François de Sade was the heir of the House of Sade, one of the oldest houses in Provence. Between the ages of four and ten his education was entrusted to his uncle, Father Jacques-François de Sade, at the Château Saumane.

By the time Sade was thirty years old he had squandered the dowry of his wife and all his income. He restored the forty-two room Château of La Coste (which had been seriously degraded) and gave free rein to his passion for acting. He built a theatre in Avignon, developed the Lacoste theatre and and hired many actors. He would send invitations to the nobility to attend parties and theatrical performances which he managed himself and of which he was the stage master. These events are sometimes considered to be the first theatre festivals in history.

Long reduced to the status of pornographic writer, the Marquis de Sade is now considered an illustrious figure in the French literary heritage. Behind his erotic and amoral pen hides fierce criticism of the society of the old regime. Raised and educated at the Jesuit college of the Royal Cavalry, Sade spent much of his life in prison, where he died. His manners and his writings - “The Hundred Days of Sodom” or the “School of debauchery,” “Justine or the Misfortunes of Virtue” - were all as much revolutionary as libertine provocations which Napoleonic society felt obliged to suppress. Heir of the Enlightenment, he made the philosophical renaissance of the individual an apology for debauchery, cruelty and the systematic satisfaction of all vices. Projecting the fantasies of man, the Marquis de Sade opened a new realm of thought and influenced many artists, including the Surrealists, with their denunciation of cultural taboos.


The Marquis de Sade made numerous trips to the Châteaux of Lacoste, Mazan and Saumane. He lived in the Château of Lacoste for seven years from 1771. He made numerous trips to the Château of Mazan which, after the Revolution, remained the property of the Sade family until 1850.


Frédéric Mistral

mistral sorgues

Le Château Fontségugne, at Chateauneuf de Gadagne, built around 1860, is on the Cancabèu (Campbeau).

During the revolution, its occupants having quietly moved their belongings to their mansions in Avignon, the château was neither looted nor burned, but dismantled stone by stone. Its doors, windows and locks still adorn the houses of the village. In the nineteenth century, it was owned by the Giera family. Paul Giera was a member of a group of young Provençal expressionist poets who often came to the Château. During one of these meetings, May 21, 1854, Paul Giera, Joseph Roumanille, Theodore Aubanel, Anselme Mathieu, Jean Brunet, Anfos Tavan (a local peasant poet) and Frédéric Mistral founded an institution to restore the Provençal language to honour — the Félibrige. This is a movement whose aim is to protect, maintain and exalt the language, culture, civilization and identity of the region, but also to promote a humanistic ideal and to conserve our society and its natural diversity of expression.

A disagreement on Provençal spelling appears to have been at the origin of the Félibrige.

Châteauneuf de Gadagne became the cradle of the Renaissance of Provençal, working for the defence of the language and the continuation of traditions. Fifty years later, in 1904, Frederic Mistral received one of the first Nobel Prizes in literature, and even today, the Félibrige pursues the objectives defined a century and a half earlier in the Château de Fontségugne.

One of the first documents published by the Félibrige was an almanac, the Amarna Provençau, in 1855, announcing upcoming events and festivals. It also contained a history of Provence, to educate the people of the region and introduce them to Provençal literature.


René Char

rené char sorguesRené Char was born in L'Isle sur la Sorgue in 1907. His adolescence in the town was marked by meetings with what were called “transparents”, vagabonds who lived to the rhythm of the day and seasons, guardians and hawkers of poetry. At 21, he published his first poems, went to Paris at the request of Paul Eluard and became, for a few years, the “tenant” of the surrealist movement. This was a fertile period, rich in friendships with artists and writers with whom he maintained a “sovereign conversation” all his life. In 1937, he protested against the Franco regime. Drafted into the army, he joined a regiment in Nîmes, which profoundly influenced his sensitivities. In 1941, he joined the secret army and the French Forces, to become head of the parachute landing section of the Lower Alps, under the name Captain Alexander. Char continued to write, and his poetic muse is his home land, the Sorgue, the Ventoux and places he knew — Le Thor, Thouzon, Luberon. His books were decorated and illuminated by the paintings of his artist friends - his “substantial allies”.


Pratical information

The Jean Garcin History Museum in Fontaine de Vaucluse: 1939-1945 — the call of freedom

The museum has a collection of a number of clandestine publications, censored by the occupying powers or from abroad, from activists, journals and manuscripts, some by René Char.


Chemin du Gouffre
84800 Fontaine de Vaucluse
Tel: +33 (0)4 90 20 24 00
Site internet


Open every day except Tuesday:

1 April to 31 May: 10 am to noon and 2 to 6 pm - 1 June to 30 September: 10 am to 6 pm

1st to 15 October: 10 am to noon and 2 to 6 pm - 16 to 31 October and Autumn half term: 10 am to noon and 2 to 5 pm

Saturdays and Sundays: 1 to 31 March: 10 am to noon and 2 to 6 pm

1 November to 31 December: 10 am to noon and 2 to 5 pm

Closed: 1 May and 25 December

Thematic workshops and tours for groups all year round by appointment



Pierre Salinger

salinger sorgues

Born in 1925 in San Francisco to a French mother and a father of Prussian origin, Pierre Salinger came to Le Thor where his wife Poppy had just bought a mill, in 1964, with the intention of staying for one year. This mill became the beautiful Bastide Rose that we know today and Pierre Salinger stayed there for twenty years.

Salinger was a gifted child, a concert pianist at the age of 6 years, hero of the Second World War, decorated at twenty, he won a first prize in journalism at 26, and was barely 35 years old when he became the spokesman of President JF Kennedy. During these exceptional years, he found himself at the centre of events of global importance. He became a senator for California, and after the assassination of the President, he decided to retire to the Bastide Rose and leave the world of politics. While exercising his profession as a journalist Pierre Salinger met the great figures of world affairs, including Kruschev, Castro, Onassis, François Mitterrand, Alexander Calder, Grace Kelly, Menachem Begin, Yasser Arafat and many others.

In retrospect on his extraordinary career, the Poppy and Pierre Salinger Foundation created the Pierre Salinger museum in 2006. With writings, photographs and personal items, the collection grows each year and is enriched with temporary exhibitions. In 1963, exactly 50 years ago, two seminal events in American politics had international repercussions: the assassination of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King's “I have a dream” speech. It is on these two themes that Salinger museum reopened in June at the Bastide Rose.




Poppy and Pierre Salinger Foundation
Musée Pierre Salinger
La Bastide Rose
99, chemin des Croupières
84250 Le Thor, France


Every day except Tuesday from 2.30 to 6.30 pm

Entry fees:

Admission: 4 Euros

Children under 10: free

Groups (minimum 10 people): € 3 per person

The ticket gives access to two exhibitions: the Pierre Salinger Museum and the temporary exhibition