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CHATEAU DE THOUZON
Atop the hill at Thouzon stand the remains of an ancient fortified monastery, known locally as the Château de Thouzon. The site consists of two chapels and ancillary buildings protected by a double wall. The oldest parts date back to the eleventh century (a record shows the confirmation of goods by the Bishop of Cavaillon in 1014), with the main part being the remains of a Benedictine priory founded by the monks of the abbey of Saint André Villeneuve les Avignon. Strengthened during the next two centuries, it became an impressive defensive structure with a curtain wall flanked by four towers.
The site was abandoned in the late seventeenth century. It offers a magnificent panorama over the Monts de Vaucluse and Mont Ventoux, which makes it an ideal place for picnics and hiking.
→ Take the hiking trail from the caves of Thouzon for a brisk climb up to the site.
THE CHÂTEAU OF THE BISHOPS OF CAVAILLON AND PETRARQUE
FONTAINE DE VAUCLUSE
The ruins of the ancient Château of the Bishops of Cavaillon still overlook the Fontaine de Vaucluse today. Perched on the huge rocky outcrop that circumscribes the source of the Sorgue, the picture is typically Romanesque. Built in the twelfth century, it was transformed into the summer residence of Philip Cabassole, Bishop of Cavaillon two centuries later. Petrarch, who retired in Fontaine de Vaucluse, became his friend and he often visited the site.
→ Hikes leaving from the Fontaine de Vaucluse Tourist Office
THE CHATEAU DE FONTSEGUGNE, BIRTHPLACE OF THE FÉLIBRIGE
CHATEAUNEUF DE GADAGNE
The château de Fontségugne, built around 1860, on the Cancabèu (Campbeau) plateau.
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. 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.
→ The Felibrige Festival takes place every year in July. For more information visit: http://www.chateauneufdegadagne.fr/
HOME OF THE SADE FAMILY
SAUMANE DE VAUCLUSE
This Château, which today belongs to the local authorities, is managed by the community of municipalities of Sorgues and Monts de Vaucluse. The Château where the future Marquis de Sade lived part of his childhood is undergoing an extensive restoration project. Today protected from the elements, restoration of the gardens and the interior is about to begin. The orangery will become the dining room (in 2014), the coaching room will be a meeting room, and the defensive structures will be highlighted.
The castrum was built in the twelfth century and undoubtedly enclosed all the first houses in Saumane. The Château was continually revised until the seventeenth century, when the construction of the first houses, known as bastides began. The main building of the mansion consists of a simple square block on three levels — the ground floor, first floor and a mezzanine. In the eighteenth century, the manor was built. The Sade family distinguished itself in the church, in diplomacy and letters. Donatien Alphonse François de Sade, better known as the Marquis de Sade, lived most of his childhood here, a period which undoubtedly played a part in forming his imagination.
From 1759 onwards he had several parts of the château redesigned, giving them a useful function such as living room and hall. With the portrait of the Abbot de Sade at Saumane by the Marquis de Lassay (1759), we have some idea of the paintings that decorated the rooms. The Marquis de Lassay also wrote in his Collection: “The Abbot de Sade, on entering the world, had for his worldly possession a Château atop a high eminence. The outsides are irregular: we see so many weather vanes and flags on the roof the house and in the first rooms we find nothing but representations of love, then we enter a large room where the master of the Château receives his company (...)”
The décor of this room is no longer visible due to a botched restoration attempted in the twentieth century. The décor of the living room was thankfully spared. Saumane is one of the few châteaux which maintained its mediaeval aspect up until the sixteenth century. The north side was widened about that time without changing the earlier structures, such that we can see today a mixture of medieval, Renaissance and Baroque styles all in one building.
Guided tours are organized by the Tourist Office and the Château annex has been converted into dormitory hostel accommodation for up to eighteen people. Once a week from July to September, guided tours accompanied by knowledgeable speakers are offered by the Tourist Office.
→ Several hiking trails start at Saumane de Vaucluse